Myth vs Reality

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Myth: Hazing only “a little bit” is not really that bad.

Reality: While there are more and less severe forms of hazing, even low level hazing crosses the line. 

Even a “little” hazing can have an unintended negative impact on new members. And if the action meets the definition of hazing, the group will get in trouble if caught. Regardless of intent, some group bonding activities designed to be “all in good fun” still may raise some serious safety concerns.” For example, serious accidents have occurred during scavenger hunts. And when members are drunk, they sometimes subject the new members to more than they originally intended.

Myth: Hazing builds unity among new members.

Reality: The effect of hazing on a group can be like the effect of a hurricane on a community: residents feel closer to each other afterward but some may be suffering. Hazing often generates anger and resentment. Plus it teaches that “values” such as deception, coercion, and intimidation are acceptable means for achieving your goals.

Myth: Hazing is okay as long as it is not physically dangerous.

Reality: Mental hazing can be brutal and leave lasting psychological scars. Some hazing victims report that the mental hazing they endured was worse than being physically abused.

Myth: Hazing continues because everyone in the group supports it.

Reality: Many group members may not approve of hazing but go along with the activity because they mistakenly believe everyone else agrees with it. This “reign of error” helps to perpetuate hazing. The strongest supporters of hazing are often the most vocal and dominant members.

Myth: If someone agrees to participate in an activity, it can’t be considered hazing.

Reality: In states that have laws against hazing, consent of the victim can’t be used as a defense. This is because even if someone agrees to participate in a potentially hazardous action, it may not be true consent because of peer pressure, intentional or unintentional threats, and the withholding of information about what will occur.

Myth: Since alumni and current members were hazed it is only fair that the new members go through it too.

Reality: “Tradition” does not justify subjecting new members to abuse. Traditions are created by groups, and groups hold the power to change or eliminate them. It only takes one year to break a hazing tradition. Remember that the founding members of organizations were not hazed.

Myth: Eliminating hazing makes an organization just like any other social club. It will be too easy to become a member.

Reality: Hazing is not necessary for an initiation experience to be challenging and unique. A well-organized, creative program will build group cohesion and foster character development. Any group can haze new members - that’s the easy way out. It takes vision and commitment to run a good, non-hazing program.

Myth: Hazing practices preserve the uniqueness and exclusiveness of the group.

Reality: Since hazing practices are secret, group members often don’t realize that their “unique” practices are typically variations on common themes: extensive memorization with verbal abuse for incorrect answers, sleep deprivation, servitude, kidnappings, drinking rituals, calisthenics, lineups, cleaning up messes, isolation of members, theft, impossible games, sexual embarrassment, inappropriate clothing, absurd scavenger hunts, unpalatable food, and physical violence.

Myth: Other groups on campus will not respect an organization that does not haze.

Reality: A positive, educational program will result in a better all-around organization and the ability to attract the best new members. Being able to recruit the best students will earn the respect of other groups.

Myth: Hazing must be okay if the military does it.

Reality: The U.S. military does not, in fact, condone hazing practices. The military does engage in a unique type of training for dangerous military operations. This training is conducted by professionals to prepare military personnel for putting their lives on the line for their country. According to the Dept. of the Army’s TRADOC Regulation 350-6: “Hazing is strictly prohibited” and is “an offense punishable under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.”