By Hayley Beitman
Staff writer

As states and universities adopt more anti-hazing laws, there is evidence that hazing is a legal issue around the world. The Philippines, for example, has a national anti-hazing law. In the United States, hazing is regulated at state and local levels.

Hazing laws vary by state, so one collective definition does not yet exist. Hazing as defined by Jacinda Boucher, author of Hazing and Higher Education, “encompasses an extensive range of behaviors and activities, ranging from seemingly innocuous activities such as blindfolding and scavenger hunts, to more dangerous and extreme physical punishments, including sleep deprivation and excessive exercise.”

Hank Nuwer, hazing author and public speaker, defines bullying as mean or dangerous behavior meant to exclude someone from a group; His contrasting definition of hazing is bringing someone into a group, even if it is silly or demeaning. The problem according to Nuwer is that hazing can also be bullying in such cases like a football team not wanting a member to join.

Glenn Stutzky, clinical social worker at Michigan State University, defines hazing as group bullying. Everyone’s definition is a little different which makes talking about the same thing difficult.

The idea of going to college leaves many students looking for a sense of belonging. This is a time when senior members of organizations can jump at the opportunity to initiate new members into their group the same way that was done to them. According to Stutzky, the people allowing themselves to be bullied are also in the wrong.

According to one of the largest national hazing surveys coordinated by Dr. Nadine C. Hoover of Alfred University, hazing is a widespread issue. The study, including over 60,000 student athletes from 2,400 colleges and universities, found “over 325,000 athletes at more than 1,000 National Collegiate Athletic Association schools participated in intercollegiate sports during 1998-99. Of these athletes, more than a quarter million experienced some form of hazing to join a college athletic team.”

Hoover adds that of those roughly 250,000 students, “One in five was subjected to unacceptable and potentially illegal hazing. They were kidnapped, beaten or tied up and abandoned. They were also forced to commit crimes, destroying property, making prank phone calls or harassing others.”

A large number of universities have recently and swiftly developed hazing laws due to public pressures. According to Nuwer, 44 states have laws forbidding hazing, with Alaska, Hawaii, Montana, New Mexico, South Dakota, and Wyoming being the exceptions. States that view hazing as a general term, reason that hazing is a perpetual way of life or argue that without physical proof, it is too hard to prove in court.

According to the law firm of Manley Burke, hazing punishments vary state to state, but in most states, hazing is considered a misdemeanor with fines of up to $5,000. The problem states are having is with reporting incidents. Nuwer says that working toward a federal law is critical to solving the bullying problem because the number of incidents reported is crucial.

Massachusetts is working toward enforcing mandatory hazing reporting to fix this problem. States like Florida and New Hampshire have some of the most advanced hazing laws. Florida has three laws to manage hazing at universities and colleges both public and private, while New Hampshire classifies hazing as a misdemeanor.

According to The Greek Shop website ( in Illinois, Idaho, Missouri, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin, fatal hazing or hazing inflicting bodily harm is considered a felony. Some states, including Alabama, Ohio, Oklahoma and Rhode Island, recognize the mental and physical sides of hazing. Stutzky says most injuries are not physical, but mental and emotional. Delaware, Pennsylvania and Tennessee require colleges to have written hazing policies, and many universities are following suit. Florida and Kentucky require written hazing laws with punishments.

The Alfred University study says hazing is most likely to occur on campuses in eastern or southern states. Eastern and western states have the most alcohol-related hazing while southern and western states have the most dangerous hazing. Women are most likely to be involved with alcohol-related hazing. Male athletes who play soccer, lacrosse, swim or dive are most at risk for hazing in general, while football players are most likely to be dangerously or illegally hazed. The Study found athletes and coaches agree on a few ways to prevent hazing; introduce clear anti-hazing messages, expect responsibility from athletes, and offer team bonding supervised by a coach.

It seems a combination of strictness from Greek national offices and high schools is the next step toward preventing hazing. These two crucial places need to focus on hazing prevention from an early stage rather than minimizing individual liability. Nuwer says education is the most important way to combat hazing because if you get bystanders to step in, others will, also.

Join the Conversation


  1. I agree that hazing is group bullying and laws neeed to be put in place that really stamps it out. I don’t know how they’re gonna do it but i pray they implement laws soon that stop people from killing others through hazing.

  2. I know Texas has had pretty straight-forward anti-hazing laws since at least the 90s, when I was in a fraternity, as the university made sure we were well-apprised of them. At least here, I don’t think the problem is in the laws, but the enforcement of them. Because fraternities are secret organizations, the hazing goes on in secret places and university and law enforcement officials often don’t find out about it until a tragedy happens. There seem to be two distinct university approaches to fraternities. At one extreme is kicking all of them off campus, even imposing sanctions against a student who joins one (like Harvard is doing with its Finals clubs). At the other end are schools that think if they keep the fraternities on campus and close, they can control them. I don’t favor penalizing a student for his free association with legal organizations off-campus, but I do believe universities should NOT recognize Greek systems, should not allow them to have houses or take part in activities (homecoming, etc) as a group on campus. Apart from a few exceptions (like Harvard Finals clubs which have enough tradition and social influence to continue without University recognition), fraternities at most colleges will not be able to attract new recruits over the longterm if they can’t be involved in campus life. I saw it at my college, another fraternity chapter, a very prominent one. was kicked off campus after a long string of alcohol and hazing violations, had an “underground” chapter that they gave a non-Greek letter name, and it lasted about a year and a half.

    But even kicking fraternities off campus won’t end hazing. Some of the worst hazing and partying violations that went on when I was in college happened not in greek organizations, but on sports teams. The men’s swimming team was particularly notorious, but nothing got done about it, because they were able to cloak the hazing in “training”, and because sports team parties weren’t governed by all the rules that fraternity parties were. An alcohol or disorderly conduct violation at a fraternity party was seen as a violation by the fraternity as an organization, even sometimes for impromptu parties held by a few members, but in the university’s eyes there was never such thing as a “swim team party”, even if the entire swim team was there, and threw it as a swim team party, the university would only punish individuals, not the team as a whole. Now you’re never going to stop college kids from partying, whether they are jocks or greeks or independents, but you can stop the hazing by doing away with university recognition of the selective, intensive organizations like fraternities and sports teams. For so many reasons, not just hazing, we need to get the sports-industrial complex out of higher education. Especially Division 1-A football. Between CTE and sacrifice of academic standards, college football, which has become the farm league for the NFL, has been bad for higher education in this country, and to a lesser degree (wo the CTE) so has basketball. We need to relegate sports to the club level. I was also on the sailing team in college, and though we competed with other schools, the fact that we were club level, and coed and inclusive (anyone could be a member) there was no hazing.

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