While being part of a campus group can be a meaningful aspect of student life, hazing is a hidden problem that undermines the value of these experiences. Although hazing is not unique to Middlebury College, we believe that it is important to examine these practices openly in an attempt to overcome the secrecy that perpetuates them.
What you should know
- Hazing is a violation of Middlebury College policy and Vermont law.
- Hazing takes various forms, but typically involves physical risks or mental distress through, for example, humiliating, intimidating, or demeaning treatment.
- Hazing can cause significant harm to individuals, groups and the College.
- Hazing has occurred in social houses, athletic teams, performance groups, and other organizations.
- Groups that haze often view it as positive and necessary.
- Groups that haze can achieve the positive outcomes they seek from hazing through non-hazing means.
Special thanks to Cornell University for materials and assistance in creating this website.
Visit go/hazing to read the full policy.
In the spring of 2011 the Inter-House Council and the office of the Dean of the College brought to campus hazing educator Dan Wrona to address Social House members and athletics teams. His presentation was recorded and may be viewed online.
Reporting Hazing / Who to Contact?
If you have been hazed, have witnessed hazing, or suspect that someone you know has been hazed, you can report your observations confidentially to College officials.
- Vice President for Student Affairs /Dean of the College - Katy Smith Abbott - 443-3233
- Dean of Students - Bashakhi Taylor - 443-5575
- Director of Athletics - Erin Quinn - 443-5253
- Atwater - Scott Barnicle - 443-3310
- Breainerd - Natasha Chang - 443-3320
- Cook - Ian Sutherland - 443-3330
- Ross - Ann Hanson - 443-3340
- Wonnacott - Matt Longman - 443-3350
To report a dangerous situation that is underway, call 911 for an immediate response. This will connect you to the Middlebury Police Department. Alternately you may call ext. 5911 on campus for the Department of Public Safety.
Myths and Realities
Myth: The definition is so vague that anything can be considered hazing - it's really open to interpretation.
Reality: Read the definition and then ask yourself the following questions:
- Does the activity involve mental distress such as humiliation or intimidation?
- Does it involve physical abuse (e.g., sleep deprivation)?
- Is there a significant risk of injury or a question of safety?
- Would you have any reservations describing the activity to your parents or a College official?
- Is alcohol involved?
- Would you be worried if the activity was shown on the evening news?
If the answer to any of the above questions is "Yes," the activity is probably hazing.
Myth: New members want to be hazed.
Reality: Occasionally there are new members who say they want to be hazed. But generally most do not want to be humiliated, intimidated, or physically abused. "Wanting" to be hazed usually means desiring an intense, challenging experience. It is not necessary to haze new members in order to challenge them.
Myth: Hazing only "a little bit" is not really that bad.
Reality: While there are more and less severe forms of hazing, even low level hazing crosses the line. Even a "little" hazing can have an unintended negative impact on new members. And if the action meets the definition of hazing, the group will get in trouble if caught.
Myth: Hazing builds unity among new members.
Reality: Hazing may create unity among new members, but often there are costs as well. The effect of hazing on a group can be like the effect of a hurricane on a community: residents feel closer to each other afterward but some may be suffering. Would anyone suggest that it is good for a community to be hit by a hurricane?
Myth: Hazing is the only method for holding new members accountable.
Reality: While holding new members accountable may be important, there are effective ways to do so without hazing. Effective parents, teachers, and bosses all know ways to hold others accountable without humiliating, degrading or physically hurting them. These skills can be learned.
Myth: Hazing is okay as long as it is not physically dangerous.
Reality: Mental hazing can be brutal and leave lasting psychological scars. Some hazing victims report that the mental hazing they endured was worse than being physically abused.
Myth: Hazing is a way to improve the attitude and character of a new member.
Reality: Hazing often generates anger and resentment. Plus it teaches that "values" such as deception, coercion, and intimidation are acceptable means for achieving your goals.
Myth: A little hazing should be okay, as long as there's no mean-spirited or injurious intent.
Reality: Regardless of intent, some group bonding activities designed to be "all in good fun" still may raise some serious safety concerns." For example, serious accidents have occurred during scavenger hunts. And when members are drunk, they sometimes subject the new members to more than they originally intended.
Myth: Hazing continues because everyone in the group supports it.
Reality: Many group members may not approve of hazing but go along with the activity because they mistakenly believe everyone else agrees with it. This "reign of error" helps to perpetuate hazing. The strongest supporters of hazing are often the most vocal and dominant members.
Myth: If someone agrees to participate in an activity, it can't be considered hazing.
Reality: In states that have laws against hazing, consent of the victim can't be used as a defense. This is because even if someone agrees to participate in a potentially hazardous action, it may not be true consent because of peer pressure, intentional or unintentional threats, and the withholding of information about what will occur.
Myth: Since alumni and current members were hazed it is only fair that the new members go through it too.
Reality: "Tradition" does not justify subjecting new members to abuse. Traditions are created by groups, and groups hold the power to change or eliminate them. It only takes one year to break a hazing tradition. Remember that the founding members of organizations were not hazed.
Myth: Eliminating hazing makes an organization just like any other social club. It will be too easy to become a member.
Reality: Hazing is not necessary for an initiation experience to be challenging and unique. A well-organized, creative program will build group cohesion and foster character development. Any group can haze new members - that's the easy way out. It takes vision and commitment to run a good, non-hazing program.
Myth: Enduring hazing is a sign of strength.
Reality: While it does take a certain strength to make it through hazing, many people submit to it because they desire acceptance by others, are afraid to resist, or feel a need to prove to themselves or others that they are worthy or tough enough (e.g., "a real man"). These motives reflect conformity, fear and insecurity, which are not qualities typically associated with strength. In contrast, standing up to a group of abusive peers or breaking free from hazing takes courage. That's real strength.
Myth: Hazing is really just a prank that goes wrong.
Reality: Accidents can happen during hazing, but hazing is not accidental. It is premeditated abuse that can be emotionally traumatic, physically dangerous, or even life-threatening.
Myth: Hazing practices preserve the uniqueness and exclusiveness of the group.
Reality: Since hazing practices are secret, group members often don't realize that their "unique" practices are typically variations on common themes: extensive memorization with verbal abuse for incorrect answers, sleep deprivation, servitude, kidnappings, drinking rituals, calisthenics, lineups, cleaning up messes, isolation of members, theft, impossible games, sexual embarrassment, inappropriate clothing, absurd scavenger hunts, unpalatable food, and physical violence.
Myth: Other groups on campus will not respect an organization that does not haze.
Reality: A positive, educational program will result in a better all-around organization and the ability to attract the best new members. Being able to recruit the best students will earn the respect of other groups.
Myth: Hazing only exists in fraternities and sororities.
Reality: Hazing incidents have occurred across the country in athletic teams, military units, performing arts groups, religious groups, and other types of clubs and organizations. Hazing occurs in high schools as well as on college campuses.
Myth: Hazing must be okay if the military does it.
Reality: The U.S. military does not, in fact, condone hazing practices. The military does engage in a unique type of training for dangerous military operations. This training is conducted by professionals to prepare military personnel for putting their lives on the line for their country. According to the Dept. of the Army's TRADOC Regulation 350-6: "Hazing is strictly prohibited" and is "an offense punishable under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.”
The above myths vs. reality were adapted in part from stophazing.org.
Alternatives to Hazing
Groups should design new member education activities that focus on the mission, purpose and function of the organization. If an activity doesn't reflect favorably on the reason the group exists then another activity should be used. Commitment and dedication to the group's values and purposes will come from actually engaging in activities that promote those values and purposes.
- Ropes/Challenge Course
- Outdoor activities through Middlebury Outdoor Programs - hiking, camping, canoeing, climbing, etc.
- Attend College sporting events
- Do a project to improve your social house, a campus location, park, etc.
- Raise money for a project to improve or buy something for your social house or meeting location
- Plan a weekend for moms, dads, siblings
- Participate in Intramural Sports
- Use the College's climbing wall
- Do a hands-on service project for the elderly, children, etc.
- Attend campus special events (plays, concerts, lectures) as a group
- Go ice skating at Kenyon
- Educational programming regarding the history of the group and/or the College
- Movie Night
- Group Dinners
- Community, campus or facility beautification projects
- Leadership development workshop
- Participate in a mentoring program
HazingPrevention.Org is a newly formed national organization dedicated to providing current information related to hazing and hazing prevention to individuals and organizations. Resources offered on their website include, information about what you can do, links to videos, personal stories, and newsletters.
NCAA Hazing Prevention Resources
This PDF provides information and resources for student-athletes, NCAA administrators, and coaches so that each campus can maintain a healthy and safe environment for all its student-athletes!
StopHazing.org provides accurate, up-to-date hazing information for students, parents, and educators. There are informative articles on all forms of types of hazing, including high school, military, athletic and fraternity/sorority hazing.
The National Collaborative for Hazing Research and Prevention
The NCHRP engages in research, information-sharing, and the development and dissemination of evidence-based hazing prevention and intervention strategies. Review the newly released "Initial Findings of the National Study of Student Hazing: Examing and Transforming Campus Hazing Cultures" linked from their website.
Inside Hazing: Understanding Hazardous Hazing
Provides practical information on all aspects of hazing as well as the theoretical perspective of Susan Lipkins, Ph.D., author of "Preventing Hazing: How Parents, Teachers, and Coaches Can Stop the Violence, Harassment, and Humiliation."
Unofficial Clearinghouse to Track Hazing Deaths and Incidents
Comprised by one of the nation's leading experts on hazing, Hank Nuwer, this website compiles hazing new stories and reports on hazing incidents.
Sports Hazing Incidents
An ESPN article that documents 20 years of hazing in high school and college athletics.
A free iPhone App developed to provide information about hazing, including resources available and ways to prevent it. The app also acts as a tool to report hazing behavior as it is happening.
Strengthening the Bonds: A Positive Fraternity Pledge Program for the 21st Century
Written by a former fraternity brother, this article argues that hazing builds dissension and eventual retribution and presents a seven-step process for pledging that builds unity, teamwork, and loyalty without hazing.
Teambuilding and Alternatives to Hazing
Free team building games and ideas
Information on team-building strategies, philosophy and basic how-to.
High School Hazing
Initiation Rites in American High Schools: A National Survey
Published by Alfred University in August of 2000, this study of high school students around the United States illustrates the prevalence and the nature of hazing.
Hazing: It is not just a college problem!
A discussion of high school hazing and what can be done to prevent it available from Education World.com.
C.H.U.C.K. (Committee to Halt Useless College Killings) c/o Eileen Stevens
516 567-1130, P.O. Box 188, Sayville, New York 11782
C.H.A.D. (Cease Hazing Activities and Deaths) c/o Rita Saucier
334 343-2119, P.O. Box 850955, Mobile, Alabama 36685
Allan, E.J. (2004). Hazing and Gender: Analyzing the Obvious. In Nuwer, H. (Ed.), The hazing reader (pp. 275-294). Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.
Berkowitz, A. D. (Ed.). (1994) Men and rape. Theory, research and prevention programs in higher education. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Boglioli, L. R., & Taff, M. L. (1995). Death by fraternity hazing. The American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology, 16(1), 42-44.
Campo, S., Poulos, G. & Sipple, J. (2005). Prevalence and Profiling: Hazing Among College Students and Points of Intervention. American Journal of Health Behavior, 29(2), 137-149.
Cokley, K., Miller, K., Cunningham, D., Motoike, J., King, A. & Awad, G. (2001). Developing an instrument to assess college students' attitudes toward pledging and hazing in Greek letter organizations. College Student Journal, 35(3), 451-456.
Finkel, M. A. (2002). Traumatic injuries caused by hazing practices. The American Journal of Emergency Medicine, 20(3), 228-233.
Hollmann, B. (2002). Hazing: Hidden campus crime. New Directions for Student Services, 99,11.
Janis, I. L. (1997). Groupthink. In R. P. Vecchio (Ed.), Leadership: Understanding the dynamics of power and influence in organizations. (pp. 163-176). Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press.
Jones, R. L. (2000). The historical significance of sacrificial ritual: Understanding violence in the modern black fraternity pledge process. The Western Journal of Black Studies, 24(2), 112-124.
Kimbrough, W. (2003). Black Greek 101: The culture, customs, and challenges of Black fraternities and sororities. Madison, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press.
Land, B. (2004). Goat: A memoir. Random House: New York.
Lipkins, Susan (2006). Preventing Hazing: How Parents, Teachers and Coaches Can Stop the violence, Harassment and Humiliation. Jossey Bass Wiley.
Lodewijkx, H., & Syroit, J. (1997). Severity of initiation revisited: Does severity of initiation increase attractiveness in real groups? European Journal of Social Psychology, 27(3), 275-300.
Lodewijkx, H., & Syroit, J. (2001). Affiliation during naturalistic severe and mild initiations: Some further evidence against the severity-attraction hypothesis. Current Research in Social Psychology, 6(7), 90-107.
Martin, R. and Davids, K. (1995) The effects of group development techniques on a professional athletic team. Journal of Social Psychology: 135(4), 533- 535.
Milgram, S. (1974). Obedience to authority: An experimental view. New York: Harper and Row.
Nuwer, H. (1990). Broken pledges: The deadly rite of hazing. Atlanta, GA: Longstreet Press.
Nuwer, H. (2000). High school hazing: When rites become wrongs. Franklin Watts: New York.
Nuwer, H. (2001). Wrongs of passage: Fraternities, sororities, hazing and binge drinking. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.
Nuwer, H. (2004). The hazing reader. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.
Sweet, S. (1999). Understanding fraternity hazing: Insights from symbolic interactionist theory. Journal of College Student Development, 40(4), 355- 363.
Zimbardo, P. G. (1973). On the ethics of human intervention on human psychological research with special references to the Stanford prison experiment.