Skip to main content
Texas A&M University Stop Hazing Initiative

Hazing Definitions

Hazing refers to any activity expected of someone joining a group (or to maintain status in a group) that humiliates, degrades or risks emotional and/or physical harm, regardless of the person's willingness to participate.  In years past, hazing practices were typically considered harmless pranks or comical antics associated with young men in college fraternities. 

Today we know that hazing extends far beyond college fraternities and is experienced by boys/men and girls/women in school groups, camps, religious organizations, university organizations, athletic teams, the military, and other social and professional organizations. Hazing is a complex social problem that is shaped by power dynamics operating in a group and/or organization and within a particular cultural context. 

Hazing is a process, based on a tradition that is used by groups to maintain a hierarchy (i.e., a pecking order) within the group. Regardless of consent, the activities require individuals to engage in situations which are physically and psychologically stressful.

Hazing activities are generally considered to be:  physically abusive, hazardous, and/or sexually violating.  The specific behaviors or activities within these categories vary widely among participants, groups and settings.  While alcohol use is common in many types of hazing, other examples of typical hazing practices include: personal servitude; sleep deprivation and restrictions on personal hygiene; yelling, swearing and insulting new members/rookies; being forced to wear embarrassing or humiliating attire in public; consumption of vile substances or smearing of such on one's skin; brandings; physical beatings; binge drinking and drinking games; sexual simulation and sexual assault.

These activities can be humiliating, demeaning, intimidating, and exhausting, all of which results in physical and/or emotional discomfort. Hazing is about group dynamics and proving one's worthiness to become a member of the specific group.

Hazing practices can quickly skid out of control and cause significant and lasting physical and/or psychological damage. When hazing occurs everyone in the group, including the perpetrators, (those who planned and carried out the actions) bystanders (those who watched and did not actively participate) and victims, (those who were receiving the hazing) may be psychologically traumatized.  When hazing occurs, family members, friends, advisors, coaches and other supervisors may also be traumatized; even if they were not present during the hazing activities.


The trauma experienced by individuals exposed to hazing may be evident immediately, or it may be delayed for months, years or even decades after the process has concluded.  The concept of "Hidden Harm" has to do with the fact that everything cannot be known about the individuals who choose to join groups and organizations. They may have a background or personal experiences which make them highly susceptible to serious reprecussions when exposed to hazing environments. 

Take a moment to think of the people you know or have encountered who suffer from depression, have served active duty within the military, has been physically or emotionally abused, has a family member who has struggled with additction, or was bullied as a child.  These are a few examples of personal experiences which when exposed to hazing may be at a higher risk of re-tramatization.  Perpetrators and bystanders of hazing will often comment that they had no intension of hurting anyone, however, it is often the response of many of these unknown factors which can cause the most harm.


The blueprint of hazing states that the newcomer, or victim, is hazed. Once accepted by the group, the victim becomes a bystander, and watches as others get hazed. Eventually, the bystander achieves senior status and power, and becomes a perpetrator.

They do onto others what was done to them, and they feel as though they have the right and duty to pass on the tradtion. High school students pack up this blueprint and stuff it into their backpack, in order to take their hazing experience with them to college, the military and the workplace. Each hazing brings with it the possibility of a new twist. Perpetrators want to leave their mark on the tradition, and therefore they may add or change the tradition, slightly.

This may be how alcohol consumption has become more extreme and why hazing increasingly skids into the hazardous zone.

How Can You Tell If It Is Hazing

If you have to ask if it’s hazing, it probably is. Here are some things to think about, and to help you determine if the activity is hazing.

  • Is this in line with your organization’s mission and values?
  • Is alcohol involved? Are any state, local laws or University Rules being violated?
  • 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, University official, or the media?
  • Must members carry specific items with them at all times?
  • Must members remain silent for a certain time period, or are they denied contact with friends and family?


Sources: (

Inside ( (