Hazed and Confused

March 14, 2006

What do varsity athletes and band aficionados have in common? Both groups often haze new members of their groups through raucous drinking games, sometimes to the point where a new member gets sick or passes out. 

That’s according to preliminary findings of a national hazing study, presented Monday at the NASPA conference for student affairs administrators, in Washington. The study, led by two University of Maine researchers, Elizabeth J. Allan, an assistant professor of higher education leadership, and Mary Madden, an assistant research professor, was conducted with students and staff at four New England institutions of higher education, which were not identified. While the study thus far presents some interesting findings, administrators looking for answers to combat hazing will have to wait several more months -- or even years.   

To date, the researchers have analyzed answers from 1,789 students who completed 70-question Web-based surveys, which included questions about both college and high school experiences related to hazing. Hazing was defined as a dangerous behavior -- unrelated to qualifications for a group -- that one was compelled to engage in to be part of a group. One in 20 students said they had been hazed at their current institution, but a much larger number of students reported experiencing behaviors that the researchers considered to be hazing. 

“Our goal was to examine the extent to which hazing occurs across a range of student groups and within diverse types of colleges and universities,” said Madden.  For phase two of the study, the survey will be refined and used to explore institutions nationwide.  Finally, in phase three, the researchers hope to present intervention models that administrators will be able to utilize. 

The researchers found that hazing was reported across many types of teams and student organizations. Varsity athletes, members of social and service fraternities and sororities, band and performing arts members and those who participate recreation and sports clubs all engaged in drinking games, were forced to sing or chant, and got sick or passed out from being forced to drink alcohol. Varsity athletes were by far the most likely group to participate in drinking games, with 60 percent of respondents from this group indicating that they had engaged in the behavior.

The findings also indicate that coaches and advisors play a somewhat surprising part in hazing rituals. Forty percent of the students who reported being involved in hazing behaviors also said that a coach or advisor was aware of the activity. Twenty-two percent of students said that their coach or advisor took part of the hazing rituals.  

While action plans for combating hazing have yet to come, only 28 percent of students said that they were told about anti-hazing policies when joining a team or student organization. Only 22 percent said that they were given a written copy of campus policies. Madden said that increasing awareness of such policies is important.

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