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Hazing of French military pilot at 1,000 hours flight time

Hazing is the practice of rituals and other activities involving harassment, abuse or humiliation used as a way of initiating a person into a group. Hazing is seen in many different types of social groups, including gangs, sports teams, schools, military units, and fraternities and sororities. Hazing is often prohibited by law and may comprise either physical or psychological abuse. It may also include nudity and/or sexually based offences.


In Australian English, hazing is called bastardisation.

In some languages, terms with a christening theme or etymology are preferred (e.g. "baptême" in French, "doop" in Dutch — mostly used in Flanders) or variations on a theme of naïveté and the rite of passage such as a derivation from a term for freshman (e.g. "bizutage" in French, "ontgroening" (de-green[horn]ing) in Dutch —mostly used in the Netherlands—, "novatada" in Spanish, from "novato," meaning newcomer) or a combination of both, such as in the Finnish "mopokaste" (literally "moped baptism," "moped" being the nickname for freshmen, stemming from the concept that they would be forced to drive the children bicycle or tri-cycle). In Latvian, the word "iesvētības", which literally means "in-blessings," is used, also standing for religious rites of passage, especially confirmation. In Swedish, the term used is "nollning", literally "zeroing." In Portugal, the term "praxe", which literally means "practice" or "habit," is used for freshmen initiation. In Brazil, it's called "trote" and is usually practiced at universities by older students ("veteranos") against freshmen ("calouros") in the first week of their first semester. In the Italian military, instead, the term used was "nonnismo", from "nonno" (literally "grandfather"), a jargon term used for the soldiers who had already served for most of their draft period. A similar equivalent term exists in the Russian military, where a hazing phenomenon knowing as Dedovshchina exists, meaning roughly "grandfather" or the slang term "gramps" (referring to the senior corps of soldiers in their final year of conscription). At education establishments in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, this practice involves existing students baiting new students and is called ragging. In Polish schools, hazing is known as "kocenie" (literally catting, coming from the noun "kot" - "cat". It often features cat-related activities, like competitive milk drinking. Other popular tasks include measuring a long distance (i.e. hallways) with matches.

Often most or all of the endurance or the more serious ordeal is concentrated in a single session, which may be called hell night, or prolonged to a hell week, sometimes again at the pledge's birthday (e.g. by birthday spanking), but some traditions keep terrorizing pledges over a long period, resembling fagging.

In Israel, the practice is called "zubur" (an Arabic-derived Hebrew slang word roughly equivalent to 'willie') and exists primarily in Israeli Defense Force combat units and the Israel Air Force. Unlike hazing in many other places, "zubur" is typically used to mark the achievement of important milestones (in an ironic 'don't get too big for your britches' way), such as after a pilot's first solo flight.[citation needed]


Tied and blindfolded freshmen from Universidad de Talca, Chile

According to one of the largest US National Surveys regarding hazing including over 60,000 student athletes from 2,400 colleges and universities:[1]

"Over 325,000 athletes at more than 1,000 National Collegiate Athletic Association schools in the US participated in intercollegiate sports during 1998-99. Of these athletes:

• More than a quarter of a million experienced some form of hazing to join a college athletic team.
• 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.
• Half were required to participate in drinking contests or alcohol-related hazing.
• Two in five consumed alcohol on recruitment visits even before enrolling.
• Two-thirds were subjected to humiliating hazing, such as being yelled or sworn at, forced to wear embarrassing clothing (if any clothing at all) or forced to deprive themselves of sleep, food or personal hygiene.

• One in five participated exclusively in positive initiations, such as team trips or ropes courses."

The survey found that 79% of college athletes experienced some form of hazing to join their team, yet 60% of the student-athletes respondents indicated that they would not report incidents of hazing.[1]>

Some chapters of Greek letter organizations have developed complex hazing rituals that range from demeaning tasks to embarrassing ceremonies. These practices are most common in, but not limited to, North American schools.[citation needed] Other groups within university life that have hazing rituals include competition teams, fan clubs, social groups, secret societies and even certain service clubs.[citation needed] While hazing is less common in high schools, some secondary education institutions have developed hazing rituals.[citation needed]

The armed forces have long had hazing rituals, which often involve violence and punishments. The United States military defines hazing as unnecessarily exposing a fellow soldier to an act which is cruel, abusive, oppressive, or harmful. In the modern western military, which combines discipline with welfare priorities, initiation practices can cause controversy. There is a tradition in many military – especially elite – corps of subjecting the newly trained ranks to a hell night-like "joining run," a macho preparation of men in the prime of their lives for the ordeals of warfare, going beyond what most civilians (and even many service personnel) would find acceptable; it usually combines humiliation (such as nudity) with physical endurance.[citation needed]

Police forces, especially those with a paramilitary tradition, or sub-units of police forces such as tactical teams, may also have hazing rituals.[citation needed] Rescue services, such as lifeguards[2][3] or air-sea rescue teams may have hazing rituals.[citation needed]

The "Scenes of Hazing," as portrayed in an early student yearbook of the Massachusetts Agricultural College. Circa 1879.


The practice of ritual abuse among social groups is not clearly understood. This is partly due to the secretive nature of the activities, especially within collegiate fraternities and sororities, and in part a result of long-term acceptance of hazing. Thus, it has been difficult for researchers to agree on the underlying social and psychological mechanisms that perpetuate hazing. In military circles hazing is sometimes assumed to test recruits under situations of stress and hostility. Although in no way a recreation of combat, hazing does put people into stressful situations that they are unable to control, which allegedly should weed out those weaker members prior to being put in situations where failure to perform will cost lives. A portion of the military training course known as Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) simulates as closely as is feasible the physical and psychological conditions of a POW camp.

The problem with this approach, according to opponents, is that the stress and hostility comes from inside the group, and not from outside as in actual combat situation, creating suspicion and distrust towards the superiors and comrades-in-arms.[citation needed] Willing participants may be motivated by a desire to prove to senior soldiers their stability in future combat situations, making the unit more secure, but blatantly brutal hazing can in fact produce negative results, making the units more prone to break, desert or mutiny than those without hazing traditions, as observed in the Russian army in Chechnya, where units with the strongest traditions of dedovschina were the first to break and desert under enemy fire.[4] At worst, hazing may lead into fragging incidents.[citation needed]

Colleges and Universities sometimes avoid publicizing hazing incidents for fear of damaging institutional reputations or incurring financial liability to victims.[5]

In a 1999 study, a survey of 3,293 collegiate athletes, coaches, athletic directors and deans found a variety of approaches to prevent hazing, including strong disciplinary and corrective measures for known cases, implementation of athletic, behavioral, and academic standards guiding recruitment; provisions for alternative bonding and recognition events for teams to prevent hazing; and law enforcement involvement in monitoring, investigating, and prosecuting hazing incidents.[1] Hoover's research suggested half of all college athletes are involved in alcohol-related hazing incidents, while one in five are involved in potentially illegal hazing incidents. Only another one in five was involved in what Hoover described as positive initiation events, such as taking team trips or running obstacle courses.

"Athletes most at risk for any kind of hazing for college sports were men; non-Greek members; and either swimmers, divers, soccer players, or lacrosse players. The campuses where hazing was most likely to occur were primarily in eastern or southern states with no anti-hazing laws. The campuses were rural, residential, and had Greek systems," Hoover wrote.[1] (Hoover uses the term "Greek" to refer to U.S.-style fraternities and sororities.) Non-fraternity members were most at risk of hazing, Hoover reported. Football players are most at risk of potentially dangerous or illegal hazing, the study found.[1] In the May issue of the American Journal of Emergency Medicine, Michelle Finkel, reported that hazing injuries are often not recognized for their true cause in emergency medical centers. The doctor said hazing victims sometimes hide the real cause of injuries out of shame or to protect those who caused the harm. In protecting their abusers, hazing victims can be compared with victims of domestic violence, Finkel wrote.[6]

Finkel cites hazing incidents including "beating or kicking to the point of traumatic injury or death, burning or branding, excessive calisthenics, being forced to eat unpleasant substances, and psychological or sexual abuse of both males and females." Reported coerced sexual activity is sometimes considered "horseplay" rather than rape, she wrote.[6] Finkel quoted from Hank Nuwer's book "Wrongs of Passage" which counted 56 hazing deaths between 1970 and 1999.[7]

In November 2005, controversy arose over a video showing Royal Marines fighting naked and intoxicated as part of a hazing ritual. The fight culminated with one soldier receiving a kick to the face, rendering him unconscious.[8] The victim, according to the BBC, said "It's just Marine humour".[9] The Marine who leaked the video said "The guy laid out was inches from being dead." Under further investigation, the Marines had just returned from a six-month tour of Iraq, and were in their "cooling down" period, in which they spend two weeks at a naval base before they are allowed back into society. The man who suffered the kick to the head did not press charges.[citation needed]

In 2008, a national hazing study was conducted by Dr Elizabeth Allan and Dr Mary Madden from the University of Maine. This investigation is the most comprehensive study of hazing to date and includes survey responses from more than 11,000 undergraduate students at 53 colleges and universities in different regions of the U.S. and interviews with more than 300 students and staff at 18 of these campuses. Through the vision and efforts of many, this study fills a major gap in the research and extends the breadth and depth of knowledge and understanding about hazing. Ten initial findings are described in the report, Hazing in View: College Students at Risk. These include:

  1. More than half of college students involved in clubs, teams, and organizations experience hazing.
  2. Nearly half (47%) of students have experienced hazing prior to coming to college.
  3. Alcohol consumption, humiliation, isolation, sleep deprivation, and sex acts are hazing practices common across student groups.[10]

Notable examples[edit]

The practice of hazing at West Point entered the national spotlight following his death. Congressional hearings investigated his death and the pattern of systemic hazing of freshmen and serious efforts were made to reform the system and end hazing at West Point.[15][16][17]


Hazing activities can involve forms of ridicule and humiliation within the group or in public while others are akin to pranks. Spanking is done mainly in the form of paddling among fraternities, sororities and similar clubs, sometimes over a lap, a knee, furniture or a pillow, but mostly with the victim "assuming the position," i.e., simply bending over forward.[citation needed] A variation of this (also as punishment) is trading licks. This practice is also used in the military.[citation needed] Alternative modes (including bare-buttock paddling, strapping and switching, as well as mock forms of antiquated forms of physical punishments such as stocks, walking the plank and running the gauntlet) have been reported.[citation needed]

Native American okipa ceremony as witnessed by George Catlin, circa 1835

The hazee may be humiliated by being hosed or by sprinkler, buckets or hoses; covered with dirt or with (sometimes rotten) food, even urinated upon. Olive or baby oil may be used to "show off" the bare skin, for wrestling or just slipperiness, e.g., to complicate pole climbing. Cleaning may be limited to a dive into water, hosing down or even paddling the worst off. They may have to do tedious cleaning including swabbing the decks, cleaning the toilets with a toothbrush. In fraternities, pledges often must clean up a mess intentionally made by brothers which can include fecal matter, urine, and dead animals.[citation needed]

Servitude such as waiting on others (as at fraternity parties) or various other forms of housework, often with tests of obedience. In some cases, the hazee may be made to eat raw eggs, peppers, hot sauce, or drink too much alcohol. Some hazing even includes eating or drinking vile things such as bugs or rotting food.[citation needed]

The hazee may have to wear an imposed piece of clothing, outfit, item or something else worn by the victim in a way that would bring negative attention to the wearer. Examples include a uniform (e.g. toga); a leash and/or collar (also associated with bondage); infantile and other humiliating dress and attire.[40][41]

Markings may also be made on clothing or bare skin. They are painted, written, tattooed or shaved on, sometimes collectively forming a message (one letter, syllable or word on each pledge) or may receive tarring and feathering (or rather a mock version using some glue) or branding.[citation needed]

Submission to senior members of the group is common. Abject "etiquette" required of pledges or subordinates may include prostration, kneeling, literal groveling, and kissing body parts.[citation needed]

Branding as fraternity initiation

Other physical feats may be required, such as calisthenics and other physical tests, such as mud wrestling, forming a human pyramid, or climbing a greased pole. Exposure to the elements may be required, such as swimming or diving in cold water or snow.[citation needed]

Orientation tests may be held, such as abandoning pledges without transport. Dares include jumping from some height, stealing from police or rival teams and obedience.[citation needed] Blood pinning among military aviators (and many other elite groups) to celebrate becoming new pilots by piercing their chests with the sharp pins of aviator wings.[citation needed]

On his first crossing the equator in military and commercial navigation, each "pollywog" is subjected to a series of tests usually including running and/or crawling a gauntlet of abuse and various scenes supposedly situated at King Neptune's court. A pledge auction is a variation on the slave auction, where people bid on the paraded pledges.[citation needed]

Hazing also occurs for apprentices in some trades. In printing, it consists of applying bronze blue to the apprentice's penis and testicles, a color made by mixing black printers ink and dark blue printers ink, which takes a long time to wash off. Similarly, mechanics get their groins smeared with old dirty grease.[citation needed]

Psychology, purpose, and effects[edit]

Hazing supposedly serves a deliberate purpose, of building solidarity. Psychologist Robert Cialdini uses the framework of consistency and commitment to explain the phenomenon of hazing, and the vigor and zeal to which practitioners of hazing persist in and defend these activities even when they are made illegal.[42] Cialdini cites a 1959 study in which the researchers observed that "persons who go through a great deal of trouble or pain to attain something tend to value it more highly than persons who attain the same thing with a minimum of effort."[43] The 1959 study shaped the development of cognitive dissonance theory by Leon Festinger.[44]

Beyond a legal approach, eliminating or lessening the dangers of hazing requires an understanding and application of psychological and sociological factors. This is especially critical when many view hazing as an effective way to teach respect and develop discipline and loyalty within the group, and believe that hazing is a necessary component of initiation rites.[45]

Dissonance can produce feelings of group attraction or social identity among initiates after the hazing experience because they want to justify the effort used. Rewards during initiations or hazing rituals matter in that initiates who feel more rewarded express stronger group identity.[46] As well as increasing group attraction, hazing can produce conformity among new members.[47] Hazing could also increase feelings of affiliation because of the stressful nature of the hazing experience.[48]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Hoover, Dr. Nadine C. "National Survey of Sports Teams". Alfred University. Retrieved 27 May 2013. 
  2. ^ "Lifeguards fired for hazing new squad members". Racine, WI: The Journal Times. July 18, 1997. Retrieved 2013-06-03. 
  3. ^ Page, Eric S. (Aug 11, 2010). "City Probes Alleged Nude Lifeguard Hazing Incident". NBC San Diego. Retrieved 2013-06-03. .
  4. ^ Renaud, Sean (2010), A View from Chechnya: An Assessment of Russian Counterinsurgency During the two Chechen Wars and Future Implications (PDF), Palmerston North, NZ: Massey University, p. 78 
  5. ^ Sweet, Stephen (2001). College and Society: An Introduction to Sociological Imagination. Allyn and Bacon. pp. 19–37. ISBN 978-0205305568. 
  6. ^ a b Finkel, Michelle A., MD (May 2002). "Traumatic Injuries Caused By Hazing Practices" (PDF). American Journal Of Emergency Medicine 20 (3). Retrieved 27 May 2013. 
  7. ^ Nuwer, Hank (2001). Wrongs of Passage. Indiana University Press. ISBN 9780253214980. 
  8. ^ Davies, Catriona (2005-11-28). "Police investigate video of beaten marine". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 2009-01-30. 
  9. ^ Smith, Richard (2005-12-09). "Exclusive: I was that rookie KO'D by marines". Mirror News (London). Retrieved 2013-05-28. 
  10. ^ Allan, Elizabeth; Mary Madden (11 March 2008). "Hazing in View: College Students at Risk" (PDF). University of Maine, College of Education and Human Development. Retrieved 21 May 2010. 
  11. ^ http://askthepast.blogspot.com/2013/08/how-to-treat-freshmen-1495.html
  12. ^ Sibley, John Langdon (1885), Biographical Sketches of Graduates of Harvard University, Volume 3 1678–1689., p. 303 
  13. ^ "WEST POINT.; "Hazing" at the Academy--An Evil That Should be Entirely Rooted Out-- A Plea for the Strangers". The New York Times. 7 June 1873. 
  14. ^ "Father of the victim testifies that his wrote it was hard to be a Christian at West Point". San Francisco Call. December 18, 1900. 
  15. ^ "Bullies and Cowards: The West Point Hazing Scandal 1898–1901". Greenwood Press. Retrieved 31 January 2009. 
  16. ^ Ambrose, Stephen (1966). Duty, Honor, Country. A History of West Point. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 277. ISBN 0-8018-6293-0. 
  17. ^ Hill, Michael (November 18, 1990). "West Point Orders About-Face on 108-Year Tradition of Hazing Cadets". Los Angeles Times. 
  18. ^ a b "Many are badly injured, some of victims disfigured, cases of hazing at girls schools". The Topeka Daily Capital. January 14, 1906. p. 1. 
  19. ^ "Nowadays We'd Call It 'Waterboarding'". Stanford Magazine. Stanford University. Retrieved 11 August 2014. 
  20. ^ "Students to cease tubbing: hazing practice abolished following death of freshman". The Ogden Standard-Examiner. January 10, 1925. p. 3. 
  21. ^ "Hazing death investigation is demanded". Spokane Daily Chronicle. September 18, 1959. 
  22. ^ Nuwer, Hank (January 29, 2004). The Hazing Reader. Indiana University Press. p. XXVI. ISBN 0253343704. 
  23. ^ http://www.nytimes.com/1999/04/07/opinion/liberties-president-frat-boy.html
  24. ^ Rangel, Jesus (May 4, 1888). "15 Indicted in Rutgers Hazing Death". New York Times. 
  25. ^ "Hazing death brings call for ending fraternities". The Anniston Star. November 24, 1974. p. 3. 
  26. ^ Senewiratne, Dr. Brian. "Ragging – My Experience". The Sunday Leader (Ratmalana, Sri Lanka). Retrieved December 17, 2013. 
  27. ^ Weerakkody, Kalinga (January 11, 2003). "Campus hall stormed: academics held hostage". 
  28. ^ "Hazed and Accused". Crime Library. Retrieved 7 August 2014. 
  29. ^ Hidayati, Nurul. "Inu Kencana, Whistleblower from IPDN". detiknews. 
  30. ^ Deplorable Conditions of the Sri Lankan Universities
  31. ^ Ebbert, Stephanie, Globe Staff. "Nine players suspended in football hazing injury". The Boston Globe\date= September 17, 2004. Retrieved 27 May 2013. 
  32. ^ "High school athletes face charges in hazing incident". Deseret News (Salt Lake City, UT). Associated Press. September 24, 2004. Retrieved 27 May 2013. 
  33. ^ Korry, Elaine (November 14, 2005). "A fraternity hazing gone wrong". NPR. 
  34. ^ "California Hazing Law". Schoolviolencelaw.com. Retrieved 14 August 2014. 
  35. ^ Finn, Peter (January 30, 2006). "Violent Bullying of Russian Conscripts Exposed". Washington Post Foreign Service. 
  36. ^ Epstein, Jennifer (August 6, 2007). "Administrators Indicted in Hazing Death". Inside Higher Ed. 
  37. ^ "Sumo trainer jailed over killing". BBC News. 29 May 2009. Retrieved 6 May 2014. 
  38. ^ "Editorial: No 'fix' to end Andover hazing scandal". Eagle-Tribune (North Andover, MA: Eagletribune.com). December 5, 2011. Retrieved 2013-08-01. 
  39. ^ a b "9 charged with hazing at University of Florida fraternity". CNN. 4 May 2012. 
  40. ^ Rahman, Mohammed (27 May 2011). "High School Cheerleaders’ Hazing Ritual Includes Wearing Diapers, Getting Hit With Hot Dogs". SportsGrid. Retrieved 27 May 2013. 
  41. ^ Woodruff, Judy (September 21, 2012). "For Perpetrators and Victims, Suppressing Temptation of College Hazing Rituals". PBS. Retrieved 27 May 2013. 
  42. ^ Cialdini, Robert (2001). Influence: Science and Practice (4 ed.). Allyn & Bacon. pp. 76–78. ISBN 9780321011473. 
  43. ^ Aronson, Elliott; Mills, Judson (1959). "The effect of severity of initiation on liking for a group". Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology 59 (2): 177–181. doi:10.1037/h0047195. 
  44. ^ Festinger, L. (1961). "The psychological effects of insufficient rewards". American Psychologist 16 (1): 1–11. doi:10.1037/h0045112. 
  45. ^ Hollmann, B. B. (2002). "Hazing: Hidden campus crime". New Directions for Student Services: 11–24. doi:10.1002/ss.57. 
  46. ^ Kamau, C. (2013). "What does being initiated severely into a group do? The role of rewards". International Journal of Psychology 48 (3): 399–406. doi:10.1080/00207594.2012.663957. 
  47. ^ Keating, C. F.; Pomerantz, J.; Pommer, S. D.; Ritt, S. J. H.; Miller, L. M.; McCormick, J. (2005). "Going to college and unpacking hazing: A functional approach to decrypting initiation practices among undergraduates". Group Dynamics: Theory, Research, and Practice 9 (2): 104–126. doi:10.1037/1089-2699.9.2.104. 
  48. ^ Lodewijkx, H. F. M.; van Zomeren, M.; Syroit, J. E. M. M. (2005). "The anticipation of a severe initiation: Gender differences in effects on affiliation tendency and group attraction". Small Group Research 36 (2): 237–262. doi:10.1177/1046496404272381. 

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