Often, people believe it is difficult to determine what constitutes hazing and will even advocate that hazing helps an organization build better members. We have included below some common myths and facts to help individuals more clearly understand the issue of hazing.
Myth #1: Hazing is a only a problem for fraternities and sororities.
Reality: Hazing is a societal problem. Hazing incidents have been frequently documented in the military, athletic teams, marching bands, religious groups, professional schools and other types of clubs and/or organizations. Reports of hazing activities in high schools are on the rise.
Myth #2: New members expect to and want to be hazed.
Reality: Occasionally there are new members who say they want to be hazed. But generally, the majority do not want to be humiliated, intimidated, or physically abused. “Wanting” to be hazed usually indicates a desire for a challenging experience. It is not necessary to haze new members in order to challenge them in healthy and developmental ways.
Myth #3: As long as there is no malicious intent, a little hazing should be OK.
Reality: Even if there is no malicious “intent,” safety and unhealthy experiences will likely remain a factor in hazing activities that are considered to be “all in good fun.” Such activities do not serve in promoting true growth and development of group team members.
Myth #5: Hazing builds unity and teamwork among members.
Reality: This is the most frequent argument used by hazers and hazing organizations. The outcomes may seem to work, but there are underlying consequences. Think about how tragedy affects a group—the experience may bring individuals together but many are left silently suffering from its effects. More commonly, hazing builds underlying animosity between people and does nothing to foster trust, unity or respect. It simply creates better hazers.
While holding new members accountable is 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. Chapter and organizational officers can work with Fraternity and Sorority Programs staff, A-State Faculty & Staff, and the volunteers and staff of a national organization to develop programs that hold new members accountable without hazing them
Myth #6: 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 cannot be used as a defense in a civil suit. Even if someone agrees to participate in a potentially hazardous action, it may not be true consent when considering the peer pressure and desire that is inevitably present to belong to the group.
Arkansas is a state that has indicated that consent cannot be used in a defense.
Myth #7: It’s difficult to determine whether or not a certain activity is hazing—it is sometimes such a gray area.
Reality: It’s not difficult to decide if an activity is hazing if you use common sense and closely follow the official national/local policy guiding an organization's membership education process. If you can’t figure it out, ask a University staff member's opinion and/or view the FAQ portion of this site for a list of questions to ask yourself.
(Above Myths Adapted from Death By Hazing; Sigma Alpha Epsilon. 1988)
Myth #8: Everyone already knows it is happening, so it must be fine.
Reality: University staff and students have an obligation to report and act on information regarding hazing. If no action has been taken, people do not know it is happening. It is important to confidentially alert the appropriate officials of any hazing concerns as soon a possible.
Myth #9: Everyone in the organization before me had to do the same thing, so it’s a tradition. I need to do it to be a real member.
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/one new member cycle to break a hazing tradition. Remember that the founding members of organizations were not hazed and would not have condoned such behavior. One member class can break the "tradition" of hazing- it just takes some courage and integrity to do what is right.
In hazing organizations, the hazing will likely grow increasingly more severe every year unless there is an intervention. The individuals before you probably did not have to do what you are doing.
Myth #10: Eliminating hazing makes the "pledge"/new member program too easy. We want tough and dedicated members.
Reality: Hazing is NOT necessary to join any group. If the argument were true, it would be required by the national organizations. The common experiences of "pledging"/joining an organization is what brings a group together—NOT the type of experiences.
Myth #11: Other organizations and students on campus won't respect a chapter that doesn't haze.
Reality: It is a common assumption that everyone hazes or all other groups haze. This is obviously false. Most groups that claim they do not haze, in fact, do not haze. Organizations that ignore or avoid the issue during recruitment likely have something to hide and are afraid to admit that they do haze.
A positive, new member education program will result in both a stronger, all-around organization and the ability to attract the best new members. Being able to recruit the best students for membership is what will earn the respect of other groups.
Myth #12: Hazing continues because everyone in the group/organization/chapter 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 the behavior. This bystander behavior helps to perpetuate hazing. The strongest supporters of hazing are often the most vocal, destructive, uninvolved, and dominant members.