The attempt of the members of a group (often a fraternity or sorority) to humiliate a person in the worst possible way, as a way of making sure the person is unable to think, act, or decide for themselves and will be perfect to mold into yet another copy. Occasionally causes death, but is not considered a problem because all the "cool people" have went through it.

I was in a fraternity in college. A fraternity that not only did not haze, but was founded against the hazing then present at Virginia Military Institute by the hand of another fraternity that hazed until you agreed to join. I was not hazed, nor did I haze during my time there. I'm writing largely to point out the problems with hazing and the mentality that believes that hazing is a necessary part of many groups' initiation rituals.

So, how would you define hazing?
This is the definition I've liked best over the years. I found it my Sigma Nu Candidate Marshall Training Manual and found it again on the web:
Make the following inquiries of each activity to determine whether or not it is hazing.

  1. Is alcohol involved?
  2. Will active/current members of the group refuse to participate with the new members and do exactly what they're being asked to do?
  3. Does the activity risk emotional or physical abuse?
  4. Is there risk of injury or a question of safety?
  5. Do you have any reservation describing the activity to your parents, to a professor or University official?
  6. Would you object to the activity being photographed for the school newspaper or filmed by the local TV news crew?
If the answer to any of these questions is "yes," the activity is probably hazing.
from Death By Hazing Sigma Alpha Epsilon. 1988.

Who hazes?
Fraternities and sororities are two of the groups most often associated with hazing, but hazing is also performed by high school sports teams, high school clubs, and occasionally the military.

Why is hazing bad?

  • Those hazed can come to physical and mental harm
  • Creates resentment
  • Factionalizes the group -- each group of initiates may bind together, but they won't bind with the others.
  • Creates the impression that once one has "made it", the work is over
  • Encourages things being done only when one is forced to do them
  • Encourages conformity, sometimes to the point where you wind up with interchangeable components.
  • Doesn't foster respect
  • Most notably, the Alfred University hazing study turned up feelings about the event in those hazed similar to those that have suffered sexual harassment and even rape.

But if my fraternity/sorority/high school band/etc. doesn't haze, we'll lose cohesiveness and die!
First off, Sigma Nu doesn't haze. Several years ago, Sigma Nu celebrated being a national fraternity for 125 years. When I was an undergraduate, we worked together on things without complaint. If I had been hazed, would an upperclassman have felt comfortable coming to me needing to unburden about a sudden breakup? If I had hazed, would an underclassman have felt comfortable coming to me for advice on starting a relationship? People don't like to expose their weaknesses to those that have hurt them.

Unity comes from doing things together -- not pounding on people. If you can't build unity without beating people into submission, you lack any leadership skills. In fact, you have something in common with the pointy haired boss. I felt tremendous kinship with my brothers due to projects like work weekend, the annual canoe trip, and studying together. Would I have joined had I been hazed? I seriously doubt it.

But they (pledges/initiates/etc.) need to prove that they're worthy!
Let me get this straight. You are willing to extend an offer of possible membership to people whose worthiness you doubt?

Hey, wait. The military needs boot camp to produce good soldiers.
I agree. There is a difficult line there, but there are two important things to note:

  1. The military needs conformity more than any civilian organization that performs hazing needs it. I doubt your average high school show choir, for instance, is going to have to take out a machine gun nest.
  2. There is a difference between military training and boot camp activities and things such as pinning. For instance, many military activities are designed to build endurance needed in a combat environment. However, pinning does not make the person more resistant to being poked with a pin. It doesn't even make them more resistant to torture.

For more information, consult these resources: - StopHazing, - The Alfred University Hazing Study, - Information on anti-hazing laws.

Being a high schooler, and having made it through freshman year without being hazed, it has occured to me that hazing is an entirely useless and idiotic practice. In my opinion, it is nothing but a power trip for the seniors. It's like they're saying "I'm bigger than you and I'll do whatever I damn well please to you, and you'd better like it."

You see, being an athlete, (where hazing most oftenly occurs before the college years of fraternities and sororites) I made it clear that I had no intention of getting hazed. I vehemently opposed hazing. I was not hazed. I still became very close to all of my teammates, and was definitely a part of the team. I've heard all sorts of bogus explanations for hazing, such as "It's a tradition, everyone gets hazed" "It makes the freshmen feel like part of the team" etc. Every one of these excuses is lame. Ask any freshman whether they'd prefer to be hazed or not, (those that haven't been brainwashed into believing that not only is it fun but nescessary to be hazed for them to fit into the high school culture) and they will reply that they DO NOT WANT TO BE HAZED. There is a good reason for hazing to be illegal. Often the boys' teams hazing rituals involve getting the haze-ee plastered, and then humiliating him. This encourages underage drinking. This is very bad for athletes. Other forms of hazing involve making the haze-ees dress up as a member of the opposite sex, or dressing them up in ridiculous manners and painting their faces. This is humiliating for most people.

I wish I could teach freshmen to stand up for themselves, and not take this kind of abuse without fighting. NO one should respect anyone else merely because of their age, or lack thereof. People should be respected for who they are, not what year in high school have acheived. Seniors only haze to justify their hazing experiences, and it is time to stop this process. Report hazing, and if you are a senior, think about what psychological and physical effects you can create in someone. You can humiliate them and make them hate you, or treat them with respect, and maybe form some close friendships.

In 2017, there were an incredibly painful number of senseless and infuriating murders in the United States. On October 1st, 2017, Steven Paddock a semi-retired professional gambler, opened fire on a crowd of people attending a music festival, killing 50 people and injuring 500, in the worst mass shooting in US History. Paddock, a man whose previous problems seem to have been limited to surliness and rootlessness, seemingly had no motive for doing this. A month later, Devin Patrick Kelly, entered a church and killed 26 men, women and children, seemingly as an act of revenge against his ex-wife.

2016 and 2017 were also the years of the Black Lives Matter movement, when activists started questioning the number of unarmed, non-violent young black people who were shot by police because they were behaving "erratically". For many years, as someone who has had some practice in self-defense, I didn't second guess the police in those situations, because in a split second situation, it is hard to know everything that will happen. And any single one of these cases could be viewed as just a mistake in a tense situation, but taken as a whole, it is hard to view the pattern as anything else than law enforcement viewing black people as being both dangerous and worthless.

You might have noticed that none of this is obviously related to hazing. I put this preface in to point out that the United States has had people dying in ways that should seriously make us question the sanity and functionality of our society. There are murders that should leave us bewildered, enraged, numb, terrified and repulsed. And with all these killings, these acts of disregard for human life that make me wonder if I ever want to return to my country, the ones that make me the most angry, the ones that literally make me want to punch the walls at 3 AM, are the murders by hazing of young college students. These infuriate me in a way that no other murders do: bring me a hatred for the perpetrators that I could never feel for a blank man like Steven Paddock. And this is despite the fact that murders by hazing are relatively few, are "accidental", and have victims that are at least partially responsible for their deaths.
Time Magazine has this list of the four people who were murdered in hazing rituals this year. There are clear commonalities: all four were under 21, the legal drinking age. Three of the deaths were related to alcohol, while the fourth death "probably" involved alcohol. Two of the alcohol related deaths were due to overdose, with the BAC well over .400, while in another, it was related to an injury while under the extreme influence of alcohol. Three of them were in the presence of groups of people, none of whom did anything to help the victims, and in some cases seems to have deliberately covered up what was happening. All of them took place at party schools, where drinking and fraternities play an important part of activities. All of them were met with an official response from the college administration of shutting down or suspending the fraternity system. All of them have led to criminal investigations and criminal charges, although to what extent prosecutors will be able to prove legal culpability is a big question. Most seem to have come from middle class backgrounds. Also, I would guess that probably everyone involved: the victims, the murderers, the universities, the families, would have known that something could happen. That fraternities haze and that alcohol involved is not exactly a secret. And yet this is often treated less than seriously, until someone dies or is seriously injured.

And this is why I am so angry. This is also why I use the word "murder", even though some people might say this was accidental or at most manslaughter. If you point and fire a revolver at someone's chest, and they die, that is murder: that you weren't sure that this chamber had a round in it is not much of a legal or moral defense. If you force or coerce someone into drinking an entire fifth of vodka, that is a murder weapon as surely as a gun is a murder weapon. Its not just something that you can do to prove your bravado or camaderie. It is not just a fun way to show that you are no longer at home. Its not a way to show you are beyond normal rules. And it is not "Haha, its just a prank, bro, don't be a faggot".

And this is where these few killings tie back to the much larger violence in the United States: because so much of this violence is based on a shifting scale of reality and unreality. Many of the African-Americans who have been killed by police have been doing it because some minor action was construed as violent, or a normal object, such as a pen, was seen as "a weapon". For African-American youths, or adults, every possible action is a serious threat to those around them, a sign of impending violence. For middle class youths, its all just a game. A game that they think they can exit at any time. Its this double standard of realism, that some people can be punished by death for the slightest imagined infraction, while others are allowed to behave in dangerous, anti-social behavior with a wink and a nod, that has made me so angry. Neither the physical consequences of actions nor the moral agency of them are things people can take a vacation from. As I said about sexual harassment, a society that has two sets of rules and you have to guess which ones you are playing by is in for problems. Hazing is a process where people are demeaned, tortured and sometimes murdered by groups of people who should know better, and treating it like a joke is not acceptable.

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