What is Hazing?

Hazing is defined as:

Any action or situation with or without consent which recklessly, intentionally or unintentionally endangers the mental or physical health or safety of a student, or creates risk of injury, or causes discomfort, embarrassment, harassment or ridicule or which willfully destroys or removes public or private property for the purpose of initiation or admission into or affiliation with, or as a condition for continued membership in a chapter or colony of an National Panhellenic Conference member fraternity.

Common Scenarios That May Constitute Hazing

Activity Is it Hazing? Why?
Memorization of sister’s names and sorority pledge Depends New members should be given this information. However, there can be no repercussions for not knowing the information.
Scavenger Hunt Yes Penn State’s Panhellenic Council has chosen to classify scavenger hunts as hazing unless prior written permission is obtained. Scavenger hunts can often start out harmless, but turn into hazing. For example, new member may be forced to take pictures with fraternity men which could make them uncomfortable. Or they could be forced to run and complete it in an unreasonable amount of time, which would also be considered hazing.
Family Dinners No
Calling new members back to the suite at 2am Yes New members often have courses early in the morning, and even if you call them back to do something that is an acceptable activity, you are still depriving them of sleep and possibly scaring them by calling them out of bed at that hour.
Forcing new members to wear clown suits or other ridiculous outfits to class or in front of others Yes While you may think this is all in good fun, it is oftentimes humiliating for new members who feel forced to comply.
Preventing new members from showering Yes This is disgusting, and goes against hygiene. It can be publicly humiliating if new members begin to smell, but it can also be unhealthy for new members.
Encouraging new members to wear their new member pins Depends It is wonderful to encourage new members to wear their pins, but if you punish them for forgetting to do so, you are hazing them.
Line ups Yes Line-ups are hazing. You should not be pointing out flaws in your new members.
New members sleeping in the suite Against University Policy No one is allowed to sleep in your suite. It is housing’s policy. As a rule of thumb, have your new members out of your suite by midnight. If you do not have prior written permission to keep them later than that it will be considered hazing, regardless of the activity.
New members finishing bottles of alcohol Yes You should not incorporate alcohol into your new member program. It is dangerous and can put their lives at risk.

How can I determine if an activity is hazing? 
(Information from StopHazing.org. See end for copyright.)

Make the following inquiries of each activity to determine whether or not it is hazing:

  • Is alcohol involved?
  • Will active/current members of the group refuse to participate with the new members and do exactly what they’re being asked to do?
  • Does the activity risk emotional or physical abuse?
  • Is there risk of injury or a question of safety?
  • Do you have any reservation describing the activity to your parents, to a professor or University official?
  • 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.
Adapted from Death By Hazing Sigma Alpha Epsilon. 1988.

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