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Hazing and Group Dynamics Kayla McCollam Christopher McGuire Heather Miller May 7, 2012 Liberty University



Hazing is detrimental to groups on many levels. Hazing has been shown to negatively impact both individuals and groups collectively. Hazing can be defined as any act that degrades or humiliates potential members through subtle, harassing or violent methods. Hazing has historical roots in ancient times but can still be seen in modern society today. Modern media has brought increasing attention to the topic of hazing and its effects of individuals and groups. The consequences of hazing are vast and include judicial, social, physical and psychological repercussions. To resist hazing groups must be educated on the many definitions of hazing, historical and current acts of hazing and the consequences that may follow.


Hazing is an act that degrades potential members of a group. Hazing can range in severity but the most common forms are: subtle, harassment and violent. Hazing incidents have been documented throughout history, and are still a widespread occurrence in modern society. Acts of hazing are liable to occur in any group regardless of size or purpose, and it is a major issue that surrounds educational institutions today. Circumstances that surround hazing incidents can vary but are often times intertwined with rituals that have been passed down from another generation. The importance of hazing education is paramount, as studies have indicated that a vast majority of the population has been affected by hazing at some point in their life. Currently, 43 states have anti-hazing legislation that prohibits group members from engaging in hazing activities. An understanding of hazing can be reached through a functional definition, a historical perspective and review of potential consequences. Hazing is a phenomenon that occurs in a variety of group situations. Many scholars, lawmakers and institutions have attempted to define hazing. At its core hazing is the harassment of new or prospective group members. (Cimino, 2011) Broadly, it is the abuse of potential members who wish to be initiated into a group. It important that hazing be separated from initiations or rites of passage however, hazing can surround these acts. Studies have shown that even members of groups have a difficult time deciphering between appropriate and inappropriate behaviors. Hazing is often times misjudged by individuals in western cultures. When surveyed people often describe hazing as a practice that is prevalent in sororities and

HAZING & GROUP DYNAMICS fraternities. In recent years, mass media has brought to light that hazing occurs in a variety of groups including sports teams, bands, and the workplace. Hazing and bullying have both been described as any behaviors from group members that

degrade, humiliate, cause physical harm, or psychological harm to non-members that are attempting to join the group. Potential members have been called non-members, neophytes, pledges, prospects, but there are many other terms groups can use to describe a person who is attempting to join a group. Hazing occurs whenever explicit or implicit demands that a member is required to do prior to becoming a member, an interest group that seeks to educate individuals on hazing has identified three major forms of hazing: subtle, harassment and violent hazing. ("Definition," 1998-2010) These forms of hazing are supported in the literature and provide a functional definition of hazing. Hazing can take many forms but the least identifiable is sometimes referred to as subtle hazing. According to Oliff (2002) subtle hazing is an act that is against acceptable practices in a group; many of these behaviors are non-physical and results in psychological distress rather than physical harm. Some of these practices include ostracism of new members, requiring trivial tasks of non-members, causing sleep depravation and ectera. Subtle hazing is often difficult to define because it is broad and is most often considered voluntary. In group settings, it is more likely that hazing of this nature be accepted due to an individuals willingness to join the group. In social settings empirical research supports the notion that members are willing to endure hazing because of a need to belong in the group. (Keating, Pomerantz, Pommer, Ritt, Miller & McCormick, 2005) The need to belong to in a group increases the likelihood


that a new member will endure this form of hazing especially because it is not always overt. Those who are subjected to this type of hazing are less willing to report these activities because they may be seen as trivial. Additionally, subtle hazing may be hard to communicate to authorities because it is more psychological. Group members are more likely to use subtle hazing because they do not recognize it as a detrimental and consequences for this form of hazing are rare. Just as bullies use psychological methods to intimidate others, group members may use similar tactics to encourage submission from potential members. Studies in bullying have shown that it is less likely for a victim to report non-physical forms of bullying. Those who are attempting to join groups are also less likely to report non-physical forms of hazing. Furthermore, using subtler tactics at first increases the likelihood that potential members will be more compliant when more harassing or violent methods are employed. (Cialdini, 2001) Harassment hazing often follows subtle hazing in groups. Once group members are able to establish a foot-in-the-door through subtler forms of hazing, harassment hazing becomes more likely to be accepted by potential members. (Forsyth, 2010, p.234) Harassment is defined as to create an unpleasant or hostile situation for especially by uninvited and unwelcome verbal or physical conduct. (Merriam-Websters, 2011) Harassment hazing can therefore be defined as uninvited or unwelcomed actions taken against potential groups members that is distressing in a physical or verbal nature. This form of hazing is most often considered unacceptable behavior in groups. TV shows and movies have downplayed the severity of harassment hazing. For example, in the popular show Greek on ABC Family, a nerdy

HAZING & GROUP DYNAMICS potential member was tied to a tree for an entire evening. This is obviously harassment, as the young man did not participate willingly and it resulted in physical harm. Although there is more research today on the negative impacts of hazing, groups still engage in these activities. This form of hazing is more recognizable because it results in obvious physical or emotional harm but is typically non-lifethreatening. Examples of harassment hazing may be using verbal threats, physical threats, physical injury or forced binge drinking. In addition to its obvious negative impacts on individuals, harassment hazing is almost always detrimental to the entire group and does not offer positive gains in cohesion. (Van Raalte, Cornelius, Linder & Brewer, 2007) Harassment hazing is dangerous and can often times escalate into violent hazing. Mike Ruhlman (2001) experience with hazing began immediately after he joined a sports team, however unlike the aforementioned forms of hazing, his experience began violently. He was repeatedly struck with a coat hanger after being ordered to lay on the floor. Although hazing normally begins with more subtle forms

and progresses into harassment, sometimes violent hazing can occur at the beginning of a potential members journey to membership. Violent hazing almost always results in severe physical and emotional harm, in some instances violent hazing can even result in death. (Ruhlman, 2001) Recent incidents have brought violent hazing into the mass media spotlight. In 2011, at Florida A&M University, a member of the marching band died after a violent hazing incident. (Fish, 2012) These incidents vary in there severity however, at the center of both incidents one main theme seems to reoccur: violence. Employers, educational institutions and currents laws often

HAZING & GROUP DYNAMICS prohibit violent acts of hazing. Violent acts of hazing often expose a history of hazing within a group. Victims of violent hazing are more likely to report these incidents

especially if they require hospitalization. Although subtle hazing is often times hard to discern, violent hazing is always apparent in a potential members appearance, emotional state and behavior. states that preventing hazing from escalating to a violent level is critical. Violence on any level can bring severe repercussions for those involved. In the case of both the FAMU student and Ruhlman there aggressors faced criminal charges. (Ruhlman, 2001; Fish, 2011) Hazing incidents go all the way back to Plato's time. These incidents continue to persist through today. "These rituals serve the significant role of indoctrinating new members with the organization's ideals, including, but not limited to, religious values, moral standards, basic principles, and virtues, and notions of brotherhood" (Campo, Poulos, & Sipple, 2005). Hazing is unfortunately a major part of our schools today. Research suggests, "that between 17.4% and 36.2% of middle school, high school, and college athletes self-reported engaging in hazing experiences" (Waldron & Kowalski, 2009). This research is based on those who actually came forward and admitted participating in such activities; however other research found that while only "12% reported being hazed, 80% reported hazing behaviors as a part of their initiation experiences" (Waldron, et al. 2009). There are many incidents over the past years of initiation rituals gone too far. In 1626 a famous writer depicted a scene that included students hazing each other. 1684 led to the expulsion of a Harvard student for hazing activities. Alfred University saw the death of student Chuck Stenzel in 1978 after being transported to a fraternity in the trunk of a car to forcefully indulge in all

HAZING & GROUP DYNAMICS night drinking. Indonesia has an Institute of Public Service that was responsible for 35 deaths between 1997 and 2007. Hazing incidents in California saw the death of a

student at Chico State University in 2005; this death led to a law to eliminate hazing in the state. An extreme hazing practice in Massachusetts ended in felony charges for football players who ruptured the spleen of a freshman player by picking him up by his ankles and throwing him to the ground. (Citation needed). A young man in Russia was forced to squat and was beaten for three hours which resulted in the amputation of his genitalia and legs. University administrators were charged in the death of a young man from New Jersey who passed from alcohol poisoning. In 2011, basketball players from Andover High School were expelled and suspended after forcing someone to eat a semen-soaked cookie. (Retrieved from Two universities dealt with hazing in 2001 "within their marching bands that resulted in probation, suspensions, and criminal charges" (Hollmann, 2002). One university, Florida A&M University, had also had previous run ins with hazing in the marching band department. Recently, according to CNN, 11 people were charged with felony hazing, following the November 2011 death of a band member after being severely beaten on the bus after a football game (Retrieved from History shows a long and saddening road of hazing all over the country. Hazing is not an incident that only happens to other parts of the country; hazing does not discriminate. The circumstances that surround the hazing activities may start for several different reasons, but they all stream from rituals that are passed from one generation to the next. Those who survive hazing go on to continue a vicious cycle that is hard to stop. Research conducted by Waldron and Kowalski shows the dramatically differing


views on hazing. While many individuals denied any involvement in hazing activities their own words prove otherwise. One male high school senior football player stated that, "Hey, basically just you know, beat on us a little but, they-let us carry a dummy but we didn't have pads on or helmets or anything and they-they basically just lined us up and took shots at us" (Waldron, et al. 2009). Hazing is accepted by students because they want to feel like they are a part of the team. "Prior research suggests that those who engage in hazing believe it will increase group cohesiveness, foster organizational respect, discipline, and loyalty" (Campo, et al. 2005). Many other believe there is a fulfillment received from initiations that satisfies a rite of passage need psychologically and sociologically. Hazing, as an initiation process, is a challenge which attracts many college students. Hazing is a crowd follower heaven. Hazing occurs because no one is will to stand up and state the true and sad facts that stem from hazing incidents. Peer pressure is a large encourager for hazing rituals; if everyone else is doing it then the follower will too. In our society the most important thing to students is to fit in, not stand out. Hazing is similar to bullying in which the victim does not want to participate in the relationship, but they do not know how to get out of it either. The major difference is in the victim; hazing is a choice. This is not to say that the victim is asking to be beaten or any other violent circumstance, but they are asking to be a part of the whole. "University hazing is associated with low self esteem. Hazing becomes the norm is nursing and university settings if the behavior is allowed" (Brown & Middaugh, 2009). Groups are an important part of society and can be very different in nature, hence why some believe hazing is okay. Hazing creates in these people a strong sense of belonging and commitment to the

HAZING & GROUP DYNAMICS group. Hazing allows members of the group to feel as though they have earned the right to be in the group and hold respect from the other members. While hazing may bring reassuring thoughts to some, it hold serious


consequences in reality. As research has shown hazing is a ritual that has withstood laws that ban such activities. Newspapers all over the country depict a gruesome tale of the consequences that come with hazing activities. According to "The Hazing Reader" there are deaths each year as a direct or indirect result of hazing. (Nuwer, 2012). While hazing can range from mild to extreme the consequence list remains long. The results of hazing incidents can last moments or an entire lifetime. Examples may include: "assigning demerits with loss of group privileges, using social isolation, silence, or name calling, assigning rookies tasks that other group members are not expected to perform" (Brown & Middaugh, 2009). Others also include "behaviors that cause group members anxiety or discomfort. They encompass verbal abuse, threats, humiliation, degradation, sleep deprivation, sexual simulations, and harassment" (Brown et al. 2009). Violent hazing has "the potential to cause physical, emotional, or psychological harm to the individual being hazed. Examples include insistence of drug or alcohol consumption, assault, branding, water intoxication, public nudity, illegal activities, bondage, or exposure to extreme elements" (Brown et al. 2009). The list of consequences include much more than Brown & Middaugh describe. The individuals who were charged in the Florida Marching Band hazing incident in November 2011 could be facing up to nine years in prison. The families of the hazing victims feel this sentence should be much longer due to the outcome of the ritual; for now justice does not see it that way. Hazing is becoming the new murder students are



getting away with. Unfortunately the victims of hazing practices do not have a voice left to help combat the hazing activists. There are legal, emotional, physical, and social consequences for these acts for all the parties involved. "Hazing causes a loss of trust, confidence, and reputation among fraternity brotherhood. The consequences of being found guilty of hazing in the college setting may be monetary fines, suspension for a minimum of 3 months, expulsion from the university, or jail time" (Brown et al. 2009). Hazing reaches every corner of the world at a heart wrenching rate. There are no legal or social consequence that can be compared to the physical, mental, and emotional damage done by the hazing incidents. Without question, the physical and psychological onslaught brought about by ones peers will have a lasting effect that reaches far beyond any sort of physical scar or distant memory. The consequences of a hazing incident are often times shared by both parties, and they can include low group moral and self esteem, legal action against the attacker, and psychological effects for the attacked. Statistically the number of those who endure hazing is very high, and the number increases as age increases . As many as eight of every ten college athletes surveyed reported that they had been subject to a hazing incident at some point in their college career (Zacharda, 2009). The most unfortunate and discouraging thing about such statistics is that many times the number of reported cases is much lower than the number for cases that take place. Student athletes may not report episodes of hazing because of embarrassment or fear of further repercussion. And, not only does the individual under attack suffer, the whole team suffers. Teams are built around the idea of cohesion and solidarity both on and off the playing field. When individuals are bullied and tormented, the camaraderie necessary to

HAZING & GROUP DYNAMICS support high levels of competition in team sports is decimated ( Zacharda, 2009) The


individual who bears the brunt of a hazing attack will bring to question his or her role in the unit that they are a part of and question their importance as a member of the group. This kind of thought pattern in multiple group members certainly cannot serve to build up morale and confidence within that particular cohesive unit. It can only create disparity and lessen confidence within the group. In a number of cases, hazing will bring about a large degree of media attention due to an exceptionally severe incident that causes public outcry and brings about legal action against the party that caused the incident and the institution where the event took place. Depending on the severity of the attack, the extent of legal ramifications can be both quite broad and quite severe. Through the years, several notable cases have set legal precedent that has been followed strictly by judges who ruled in cases involving severe hazing incidents. The earliest litigation supported the notion that colleges and universities held some degree of authority and responsibility as parental supervisors. That type of legal ruling would hold institutions liable for things like undue physical harm that could have been prevented by a higher degree of supervision. This precedent was known as in loco parentis and was held in high regard until the mid 1970s when the Bradshaw v. Rawlings case took precedent. After Bradshaw v. Rawlings case, colleges were no longer considered in loco parentis, but were free from liability of cases involving their students in instances of physical harm. For decades, colleges successfully used this ruling to defend themselves in liability cases stating that they held no duty to supervise students activities and were not

HAZING & GROUP DYNAMICS responsible for their subsequent actions. This precedent held strong until a landmark hazing case was brought to trial.


In Furek v. University of Delaware an exception for the no duty precedent was set in place. The case involved the hazing of an individual who was pledging a fraternity and suffered first and second degree burns from having oven cleaner poured on him as part of Hell night, which was a mandatory activity for those rushing the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity. The fraternity house was located on property leased from the University of Delaware. Notably, the university had an established policy that strictly prohibited hazing. Due to this policy being set in place, the court ruled against the university in the liability suit saying that, The adoption of a policy against hazing convinced the court that the university thereby exposed itself to liability for hazing related injuries. (Paine, 1994).z As stated by Jacinda Bourcher, an author on the website, The court determined that the universitys pervasive regulation of hazing amounted to an undertaking to protect its students from the dangers of hazing as well as a correlative obligation to exercise appropriate restraint over [fraternity] members conduct (Kaplin and Lee, 1997 ). This case serves as a momentous example set forth by the judicial system in regards to cases that involve hazing. Due to this ruling and others that soon followed, institutions now put forth a considerably greater effort to prevent hazing incidents from taking place, particularly those that involve any sort of physical injury. In each hazing case brought to legal action, the institution is not the only party held responsible for the occurrence. As evidenced in recent media reports, the attacker is held criminally responsible for his or her actions.

HAZING & GROUP DYNAMICS At this point in time, forty-three states have ratified anti-hazing laws. The seven


exceptions are Alaska, Hawaii, Montana, Michigan, New Mexico, and Wyoming. In most states the offense is a misdemeanor and the law only applies to cases where bodily harm has been inflicted, although a small selection of states acknowledge the mental facet as well. Fines for the offense are as low as $100 and as high as $5000. Some states have more severe punishment for instances where hazing results in severe bodily harm or death; hazing, in those states, is considered a felony. States that have statues for felony hazing include Illinois, Idaho, Missouri, Texas, and Virginia (MacLachan,2000). For the victim of such a traumatic event, the psychological implications can be broad and enduring. Several studies have shown that opinions and reactions concerning hazing are varied. Hazing has become such a common occurrence that many times it goes unreported and the feelings and emotional hurt those victims experience go unresolved. In a 2009 study conducted by Christopher Zacharda, interviews and statistics indicated that in a very large majority of cases, an individual who held a position of authority justified hazing. Zacharda indicates that characteristics of a team captain feed into the behavior of the team in relation to hazing that takes place within that cohort. Although in many cases conflicted by the moral implications of their teams behavior, the captain would take part in and support hazing as a means to bring about team unity and cut down on individualism that could hurt the team (Zacharda, 2009). This attempt to remove a persons individuality, according to late psychiatrist Adolf Adler, could be highly detrimental in terms of self-esteem and self-perception. A study by Hoover et al. indicates that 80% of those who were subjected to hazing reported having negative feelings. These feelings include, but are not limited to feeling:



hurt, betrayed, used, lonely, unintelligent, dirty, dishonored, worthless, degraded, hatred, or afraid (Hoover, 2000). It is apparent through reviewing literature that the effects of hazing go beyond physical harm. Victims of hazing suffer psychological consequences that can persist throughout their life. Furthermore, despite the availability of information that supports anti-hazing initiatives, hazing is still a major issue that should be addressed by groups. Hazing even on a non-physical level damages the integrity of groups and fosters an environment of violence. Potential members and group members must be proactive in their stance against hazing. It is possible for groups to avoid harming potential members through educating its members on what hazing is, the history of hazing and its consequences.




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