Throughout time, people have initiated new members into groups or societies through ceremonies or rituals. Hazing is when these rituals and ceremonies include behaviors that are humiliating, dangerous, or illegal. An Alfred University study defines hazing as "any humiliating or dangerous activity expected of you to join a group, regardless of your willingness to participate."
Hazing on campus includes activities as dangerous as forced alcohol use, physical abuse, kidnapping, and being tied up and abandoned. Both organized and unofficial student groups on campus haze members or potential members. The organizations that report the most member hazing are fraternities, sororities, peer groups, and gangs. For example, Alfred University reported that in 1999, 79 percent of National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) athletes participating in a survey indicated they had experienced some form of hazing, with 51 percent stating they were required to participate in alcohol-related hazing. The study also showed that students joining fraternities or sororities were hazed at a rate of 76 percent, and 22 percent of students participating in music, art, or theater groups were subjected to hazing.
Students who are subjected to hazing report adverse psychological and emotional consequences including depression, discomfort, low self-esteem, and negative feelings including a sense of hurt, betrayal, worthlessness, loneliness, and hatred. Hazing does not solely cause emotional scars, but may be physically dangerous when the initiation rites include substance abuse and illegal or dangerous acts. Despite the dangers associated with hazing, many student victims of hazing don’t report incidents because they don’t know whom to tell, don’t want to “tattle” on their peers, or think that those in positions of power would not understand.
The majority of students want authorities to intervene to stop hazing. Campus officials can combat hazing with the visible and vocal support of the student body. Administrators and safety personnel can enact policies forbidding hazing on campus, investigate and discipline students and groups who commit hazing, and reinforce that hazing is unacceptable and illegal on campus. Campuses can encourage student groups to adopt positive bonding activities, including those that are physically and/or intellectually challenging, and require good behavior or academic standing to join groups to prevent hazing on campus.