Hazing is the process of initiating new recruits into a particular group by way of some challenge or request. These challenges or requests are intended to humiliate or degrade the new recruit. Hazing might include physical or emotional degradation, such as being denied privileges, being forced to perform menial tasks, being called names, and even being coerced or forced into performing of sex acts. Sometimes it involves one night of activity; in other cases, it may last for weeks. Many times, new recruits agree to participate because they want to be included in the group. Their consent, however, does not make the hazing acceptable. The military, fraternities and sororities, and athletic teams are all known to haze new members. However, it is not just these groups that haze individuals, in particular at the high school level.
Many dismiss hazing as trivial and even amusing, but it can actually be quite dangerous. Alcohol is often involved, which escalates the risk associated with this practice. Most schools and colleges ban hazing, but such regulations are difficult to enforce as there is often a “code of silence” whereby no one tells authorities what happened.
A study by researchers at Alfred University found that 48% of high school students who belonged to some group had been hazed. Of these individuals, 43% found the practice to be terribly humiliating. Most were hazed starting at age 15, and those in multiple groups endured multiple incidents of hazing. Although males tended to both haze and be hazed more frequently than females, females also reported such behavior. Those with lower grade-point averages were more likely to be hazed. Although hazing was most common among athletic groups, 24% of those involved with church-related clubs also reported being hazed.
Participants and the general public often defend hazing, saying it is not harmful and is an important tradition to increase group identity and unity. Experts counter that there are other, better ways to create unity among teammates or members in a group.
Although hazing is not often covered in the media, it has gained national attention when the results are particularly disturbing. Such was the case in 1988, when one sophomore was allegedly forced to insert his finger into the anus of another sophomore in front of 20 to 30 onlookers at a football camp for players at Lyndhurst High School in New Jersey. In 1992, teammates held a 15-year-old boy wrestler down while some sodomized him with a mop. He suffered internal bleeding and had to be hospitalized for a week. In 1996, team captain Travis Hawk pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor hazing charge after sodomizing several freshman football players with shampoo bottles at Alexander High School in Ohio. In 1999, one basketball player was expelled and six others suspended from North Branch High School in Michigan after they hit a freshman player in the genitals with a wire hanger, sprayed another with urine from a shampoo bottle, and forced another’s face into the buttocks of an older player. Also in 1999, a football player from McAlester High School in Oklahoma suffered a head injury when he was jumped by a group of team members in the locker room.
Mepham High School in Long Island, New York, drew unwanted national attention when a group of football players sodomized freshman with broomsticks, pine cones, and golf balls. They also sprayed the young players with shaving cream, put powderpuff and gel in their eyes and hair, and ripped the hair from their legs and buttocks with duct tape. The older players had planned the assaults in advance of heading to the team camp where it occurred, bringing all the items they used with them as well as stereos to cover up the noise. The school board eventually cancelled the season and the assailants were charged with aggravated assault, kidnapping, and unlawful restraint.
Not long after the Long Island events, media attention was again drawn to a hazing incident. This time, the event involved females playing in a noff-campus “powder football” game. Thirty-one senior girls were expelled after they kicked, punched, and beat junior girls. Some younger players were doused with urine, paint, fish guts, trash, pig intestines, and feces. In 2008, varsity cheerleaders at Morton Ranch High School in Texas bound and blindfolded junior varsity cheerleaders and then threw them into a swimming pool.
- Atkinson, M. (ed.). (2009). Battleground sports, volume 1. Westport, CT: Praeger.
- Eriksen, H., Rogers, B., & Turner, A. (2008, November 20). Morton Ranch cheerleaders indicted in hazing. Retrieved from http://www.chron.com/neighborhood/katy-news/article/Katy-cheerleaders-could-face-jail-for-hazing-1763858.php
- Finley, P., & Finley, L. (2006). The sports industry’s war on athletes. Westport, CT: Praeger.
- High school hazing. (n.d.). Alfred University Hazing Site: www.alfred.edu/hs_hazing
- Nuwer, H. (2000). High school hazing: When rites become wrongs. New York: Franklin Watts.
- Nuwer, H. (Ed.). (2004). The hazing reader. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.
- Stop Hazing: www.stophazing.org