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Hazing Mythology & Prevention. Joe Gervais, M.Ed. University of Vermont. National Study of Student Hazing 2008. 47 % of students come to college having experienced hazing. 55 % of college students involved in clubs, teams, and organizations experience hazing.

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hazing mythology prevention

Hazing Mythology & Prevention

Joe Gervais, M.Ed.

University of Vermont

national study of student hazing 2008
National Study of Student Hazing 2008
  • 47% of students come to college having experienced hazing.
  • 55% of college students involved in clubs, teams, and organizations experience hazing.
  • 90% of students who have experienced hazing behavior in college do not consider themselves to have been hazed.
national study of student hazing 20081
National Study of Student Hazing 2008
  • More students perceive positive rather than negative outcomes of hazing.
  • In 95% of the cases where students identified their experience as hazing, they did not report the events to campus officials.
  • In more than half of the hazing incidents, a member of the offending group posts pictures on a public web space.
  • Myth—A popular belief or assumption embodying the ideals and institutions of a society or segment of society (i.e. athletic teams, Greek letter organizations).
  • What are some popular beliefs and assumptions about hazing?
prevalent hazing beliefs
Prevalent Hazing Beliefs
  • Hazing is no more than innocent pranks.
  • As long as there is no malicious intent, a little hazing is OK and can be a good thing.
Myth is also…an unfounded or false notion.

Beliefs and assumptions about hazing, that it will bring a group together and promote improved functioning, are not well founded or true. Just the opposite…



hazing defined uvm policy
Hazing Defined[UVM Policy]

Hazing means any act committed by a person, whether individually or in concert with others, against a student in connection with pledging, being initiated into, affiliating with, holding office in, or maintaining membership in any organization …; and that is intended, or should reasonably be expected, to have the effect of humiliating, intimidating, or demeaning the student or endangering the mental or physical health of a student.

hazing defined uvm policy continued
Hazing Defined[UVM Policy continued]
  • Hazing also includes soliciting, directing, aiding, or otherwise participating actively or passively in such acts.
  • Hazing occurs regardless of the consent or willingness of a person to participate in the activity.
  • Hazing may occur on or off campus.
hazing defined www stophazing org
Hazing Defined[www.stophazing.org]

Any activity expected of someone joining or participating in a group that humiliates, degrades, abuses, or endangers them regardless of a person’s willingness to participate.

common sense hazing test
Common Sense Hazing Test
  • Is this a team or group activity that members are encouraged or expected to attend and where illegal activity is taking place?
  • Does the activity risk emotional or physical harm?
  • Is there any risk of injury or a question of safety?
  • Would you object to the activity being photographed for the school paper, local news, and/or posted on the internet?
why does hazing happen
Why Does Hazing Happen?

Psychological Considerations:

  • Intense desire/need to belong.
  • Cognitive dissonance. Can’t change behavior, so change attitude.
  • Emotional displacement. Denial of emotional consequences. Take it out on the next class!
moral disengagement a bandura stanford u
MORAL DISENGAGEMENT(A. Bandura, Stanford U.)

Gradual disengagement of moral self-sanction. Behavior normally viewed as immoral, even reprehensible, becomes more benign, acceptable, or worthy in a particular social setting.

Example: military training.

ways we disengage morally
Ways we disengage morally:
  • Moraljustification—make it socially worthy (e.g. creating “bonds,” building “unity”)
  • Euphemisticlabeling—sanitized language of non-responsibility (e.g. “team building,” “initiation”)
mechanisms of moral disengagement
Mechanisms of moral disengagement
  • Displacement of responsibility

“We’re just carrying on tradition!”

  • Diffusion of responsibility—groupthink Avoidance of individual responsibility and/or accountability.
  • Disregard/distortion of consequences

We’re good at hiding pain, emotional or otherwise. “It wasn’t that bad.”

mechanisms of moral disengagement1
Mechanisms of moral disengagement
  • Dehumanization

Masks, costumes, etc.

Dehumanizing language (rook, grunt)

Perceptions of rookies as “less-than”

  • Attribution of blame

Blame the victim! “If only he kept his mouth shut.”

Humiliates & degrades

Tears down individuals

Creates division

Shame & secrecy

Is a power trip


Promotes respect & dignity

Supports & empowers

Creates teamwork

Pride & integrity

Is a shared positive experience



Team Building

why stop hazing
Why Stop Hazing?
  • Practical—Hazing myths don’t operate as people believe they do.
  • Moral—Do you really want to be responsible for physical and/or emotional harm to your teammate (brother)?
  • Leadership—No matter what your beliefs about hazing, policy & law prohibit the practice. Are the (questionable!) benefits worth the risk?



Alfred Study on Intercollegiate Athletics (1999)


Alfred Study on High School Groups (2000)




Allan, E.J. (2002). Hazing and the making of men.http://www.stophazing.org/makingofmen.htm

Bandura, A. (2002). Selective moral disengagement in the exercise of moral agency. Journal of Moral Education, 31, 2.

Janssen, J. (2003). The team captain’s leadership manual.

Milburn, M. (2002). “The Psychological Underpinnings of Hazing.” Presented at “Hazing in Schools and Youth Groups” conference, Chelsea, MA. June 15, 2002.