Help Stop Hazing
Many individuals want hazing to stop. Some are friends or relatives of people being hazed, some are students who are being hazed themselves, and others are members of organizations that haze. They may even be hazers themselves, albeit reluctant ones. In order to play a role in preventing hazing, there are six steps that individuals must go through (adapted from Berkowitz, A., 1994) to move from being bystanders to active change agents:
- Recognize the existence of hazing. Individuals may become aware that hazing is occurring through observations or reports from others. One barrier to recognizing hazing is a lack of understanding of the indications of hazing. For example, a student who is being hazed may exhibit excessive fatigue or appear disheveled. Or the sign may be more explicit, such as wearing odd clothing. Another barrier to recognition is avoidance of questions about high-risk situations. If you know that someone is going through something called “hell week,” you may need to ask him or her questions to find out what that involves.
- Interpret the practices as a problem. Even when people are aware that someone is being hazed, they may not view the activities as being problematic. They may consider the practices to be silly or stupid, but not recognize them as being harmful or illegal. They may or may not consider what is occurring to be hazing, but even if they do they must see it as a problem or else they will not take action to challenge it.
- Believe that they have a responsibility to do something. Even if individuals recognize that hazing is occurring and they interpret the behavior as a problem, they will not do anything about it if they do not believe that they have a responsibility to do so. But in a community, the responsibility to challenge harm to others is a shared one. It is therefore important for individuals to recognize the potential role they have in stopping hazing.
- Know what to do. Some individuals are aware of hazing and feel a responsibility to do something about it, but they do not know what should be done. Whether there is a need to encourage someone to leave a group, make an anonymous report, or challenge a group to change its practices, it is important for bystanders to have some understanding of what should be done in order to make a difference.
- Acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to act. Someone who is motivated and knows what must be done may still need to acquire specific knowledge (e.g., how to make a report, what alternatives to hazing exist) and the skills (e.g., a rehearsed plan of what to say) to execute what he or she knows will be required for change.
- Overcome fear of potential negative consequences. If a person possesses the knowledge and skills to take action, he or she may still not take action because of fears (e.g., anger from the person they are trying to help or retaliation from the group being challenged).
- Take action. If steps 1-6 are met, a person will be prepared to take action to help stop hazing. Some people pass through steps 1-6 in an instant, while others may struggle over time and not reach the point of action.
Since some students want change but don't know what to do in place of hazing, this site describes alternatives to hazing that will help strengthen groups and initiate new members. You can also find resources from national organizations.
The Cornell Health Skorton Center for Health Initiatives provides institutional leadership and support for hazing prevention initiatives. Call 607 255-4782.