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What Is Hazing?

There are numerous definitions of hazing from various states, organizations, and fields. For many people this can be very confusing and frustrating as most definitions are written almost exclusively for legal purposes.

Drexel University's Definition of Hazing

Regardless of the individual's willingness to participate, hazing is any action taken or situation created involving new or returning organization/group members as a part of joining, maintaining membership or holding office in that organization that meets any or all of the following:

  • Violates state or federal law
  • Humiliates or degrades and individual or group
  • Intentionally or unintentionally endangers an individual – mentally, physically or emotionally

Drexel's Full Hazing Prevention Policy [PDF]

On a basic level, hazing is any number of things that create an unhealthy transition of new members into an organization. Hazing leads to dysfunction within the organization and is ineffective at creating teamwork, respect, and unity. It is less important to define or label an activity as hazing or not, than it is to remove ineffective and harmful elements from the new member/teammate processes. If a healthy team or organization is being created and the values and purpose of the organization are being upheld, chances are the organization will not have to worry about whether or not an activity is hazing.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself to determine if an activity/transition process might be unhealthy or even hazing:

  • Would I do this out in public? In front of my parents? The university president? For the local news or the school paper?
  • Is this required of all members or just new ones? Are expectations of current members less than those of new members?
  • What happens if it is not completed by a new member or a current member? Are the consequences more severe for the new member?
  • What is the purpose of this activity? Is it in line with the purpose of the group? Is it the most effective way to achieve this outcome?
  • Does this separate the new members from the rest of the group or make them feel less important?
  • Could this be potentially harmful?
  • Would I ask a member of my family, such as a younger brother or sister, to be a part of this?
  • Does this process truly prepare the new member for what they need to know to be a part of the organization?