High school hazing

High school hazing remains common, concludes a University of Maine study.

Nearly half of university students surveyed said they’d been hazed as high school students.  Students who belonged to sports teams, ROTC, bands and performing arts groups were more likely to report hazing.

Much of the hazing was minor:

Hazing-related activities included being required to associate only with the peer group (28 percent), singing or chanting in public (21 percent), verbal abuse (19 percent), sleep deprivation (12 percent), and getting a tattoo or piercing (12 percent), they said.

However, “12 percent of the survey’s respondents participated in a drinking game, and 8 percent drank until getting sick or losing consciousness, they said.”

Hazing is “getting more brutal,” said Elliot Hopkins of the National Federation of State High School Associations. “They’re getting more sexual. And they’re being pushed down into middle schools.”

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Comments

  1. The broader the “definition” of hazing, the less likely it is that the study means anything specific. For instance, look at the Western Michigan University definition of hazing – “Any activity that is required of an individual that may cause mental or physical stress and/or embarrassment when in the process of joining or belonging to any organization.”

    Job interviews cause physical stress. I have never joined any new organization, especially as an employee, without experiencing something that would meet that WMU definition.

    Giving speeches and performing before an audience are stressful and occasionally embarrassing, but you can’t belong to Toastmasters or the Drama Club without sometimes doing it. Is that “hazing”?

    Likewise, the items you pointed out as minor are vague enough that I wonder what percentage of the statistics are actual hazing and what percentage are something else.

    “This marketing success club is a fulltime job, so be here with us every available hour” is clearly not hazing, although it would show up there in the stats.

    “If you want to hang with us, then hang with us, not them” is clearly not hazing, it is defining the bounds of a peer group. I’m not saying it’s exactly healthy, but it’s not hazing either.

    I wonder what percentage of fashion clubs might have a tacit requirement for piercings and other body art?

  2. The definitions Dal gives for hazing (I had to look up the word – it’s ‘initiation ceremonies’ in the UK) sound as loose as those for bullying, where in an effort to include all problematic behaviour they include lots that isn’t.

    Seems very difficult to police in-group behaviours, especially when the ‘victim’ has voluntarily submitted.

  3. Resources from the National Association of School Psychologists on hazing and bullying

    http://nasponline.org/resources/crisis_safety/schoolsafety.aspx

    There’s a national organization, StopHazing.org which also has high school resources.

    http://www.stophazing.org/high_school_hazing/index.htm

  4. Hazing, unfortunately, is an unescapable part of human nature. I’m sure that even in the distant future, new crew members will be hazed during their first week on the U.S.S. Enterprise-E…

    The trick is to make sure that the hazing that DOES go on is harmless and light-hearted, not deadly serious and a threat to one’s safety. Because hazing at all levels of society will always happen, whether out in the light, or behind closed doors in the dark, no matter what the government tries to do about it.

  5. “Seems very difficult to police in-group behaviours, especially when the ‘victim’ has voluntarily submitted.”

    I agree. Even for things like making their pledges drink alcohol, am I to assume that the perpetrators are literally forcing booze down their throats? I can buy that that’s the case for a select few fraternities and organizations (you will always get groups that become grossly carried away), but for most groups, the only sort of force involved is peer pressure. Fraternities are wrong for providing liquor to the underaged, but I always roll my eyes when people act like they are responsible for making students drink. They aren’t. You and only you are responsible for the decision to drink (or otherwise be hazed). If you don’t like it, walk away. Don’t use peer pressure as an excuse, because that’s just another name for being weak-willed.

    Disclaimer: My above paragraph only refers to those events where peer pressure is the *only* use of ‘force’ involved. Like I said, sometimes you will get groups that will resort to other, more insidious force, such as physical harassment and bullying, assault, etc. But if the only thing they’re doing is standing around chanting, “Drink! Drink! Drink!” and kicking you out of the group if you opt out, then you have no one to blame but yourself.

  6. Dal makes a good point about the definition of hazing. It seems to me that hazing ought not to be defined simply as anything connected with joining a group that is stressful. What makes it hazing is gratuitous stress by which the subject demonstrates his or her submission to the group, submission in a primitive , almost animalistic, way. Apparently there is something in human nature that makes this attractive to many people. I, personally, have always found it repugnant, but I guess I’m the odd ball.

    There is one thing in this phenomenon that I find more than a simple matter of personal repugnance. That is the idea of an initiate being required to associate only with the peer group. Doesn’t that intrude very deeply into matters of morality, even civil rights? That doesn’t seem to be hazing so much as bigotry. Doesn’t that violate cultural values and morality that America has been struggling very hard in the last half century to establish through the civil rights movement?

    I am not sympathetic to the argument that if the subjects of hazing are willing participants, then there is nothing we can do about it. However I do recognize that there is a bit of truth to it. What should be done about hazing? I don’t have a very good answer, but surely part of the answer would involve some measures of prevention. Both parents and teachers are in a position to explain something about the phenomenon to young children before they reach adolescence and fall prey to it. A minimal message to middle school children, I would think, would be that any group that tries to tell you who your friends are is not a group you want to join.

  7. Margo/Mom says:

    Brian:

    I think a big part of what can/needs to be done is to stop making excuses, or believing that it’s just a part of human nature. Maybe I have been living on planet who knows what, but growing up in the 60s/70s, when a lot of group behavior looked a bit different and things like fraternities and sororities were officially on the outs, I haven’t had a lot of personal experience with anything that I would consider hazing. I have, however seen it. I was pretty shocked when my family moved when I was in high school from a district that had formal policies against high school fraternities/sororities, and any clubs with initiation rites, to a district where sports was king and hazing of freshman jocks was expected. There was a week in the fall when the new jocks were expected to do things like walk around in strange clothing, eat and drink weird concoctions (some of which involved all the other athletes going throught the lunch line and cleaning out all of the butter pats), perform stupid acts and generally kow-tow to seniors. I didn’t get it and thought the school staff was pretty unenlightened to stand idly by. But it was a small town–not much to do, so many forms of recreation lacked in imagination.

    Since that time, I have seen a resurgence of some frats and stuff on campuses. I still find it very odd. I have also seen news of stuff that got waaaay out of hand out in the ‘burbs. Just doesn’t seem to be normal in my ‘hood. Maybe we’re culturally deprived?

  8. “Fraternities are wrong for providing liquor to the underaged, but I always roll my eyes when people act like they are responsible for making students drink. They aren’t. You and only you are responsible for the decision to drink (or otherwise be hazed). If you don’t like it, walk away.”

    Agreed up to a point. Underage students still have free will and can choose not to drink; they will, however, be ostracized for doing so. And in most states, furnishing alcohol to someone under lawful age, OR hosting an open house party where alcohol is freely available to those under age, may be punished more severely than is underage possession.

  9. Dal,

    Not sure where you got WMU definition of hazing, but this is what I found:

    “Hazing activities are those defined as any act which endangers the mental or physical health or safety of a person, embarrasses, frightens, or degrades a person or which destroys or removes public/private property, for the purpose of initiation, admission into, or affiliation with, or as a condition for continued membership, in a group, organization/team.”

    This definition does not include the word stress, which was central to the ambiguity you mentioned.

    I found that here:

    http://greeks.wmich.edu/hazing.html

  10. Oh no! Singing or chanting in public! The horror!

  11. “And in most states, furnishing alcohol to someone under lawful age, OR hosting an open house party where alcohol is freely available to those under age, may be punished more severely than is underage possession.”

    Oh yeah, I have no issues with the group being punished for providing alcohol. Just with the idea that they are somehow responsible for making the ‘victims’ drink. Well…I guess the victims wouldn’t have been drinking if the alcohol hadn’t been provided, but they’re not *forcing* anybody to imbibe.