In Context: 5 Web Perspectives On A Story In The News

Hazing - Dangerous activity or right of passage?

(Most hazing rituals involve alcohol consumption (Morguefile: Clarita)) Another instance of hazing has popped up on an American university campus. While many hazing rituals centre around alcohol use or embarrasing tasks, the University of Florida has temporarily suspended Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity after a student complained of a "serious physical hazing incident." The incident is believed to have occurred several weeks prior to the complaint. The details of the incident are unknown, although it has been released that the victim was not taken to the hospital after the incident. The fraternity's national body suspended the chapter and wrote a letter denouncing hazing of any form. According to the university's fraternity office, it will "allow our Greek Conduct process to take place before making decisions or speculations of the fraternity's responsibility in this matter." Less than a month ago, four A&M University students were arrested after their involvement in the November hazing-related death of fellow A&M student Robert Champion.


So what is hazing?
According to, hazing is "any action taken or situation created intentionally to produce mental or physical discomfort, embarrassment, harassment or ridicule." The site outlines common examples of hazing - like forced use of alcohol or degrading games and activities. It aims to debunk myths, explain why people participate in hazing in the first place and addresses the consequences of hazing too. It also gives tips on how to end hazing - including talking to authority figures like parents or teachers and encouraging more positive bonding activities. The site is geared towards teens, but has good information for parents, teachers and university and college students too. is an RCMP run website focused on youth services and engagement.


How common is it?

Hazing in view - College students at risk
Is hazing just overblown media hype, or is it a real problem? This US study, released in March 2008, provides some important information that can help us figure that out. The group surveyed 53 college campuses nationwide, received about 11,000 survey responses and including more than 300 personal interviews - and came up with some interesting statistics. According to the report, more than half of college students involved in clubs or organizations were hazed and almost half of students coming to college have already experienced some level of hazing. The report breaks down the information into various categories, such as the different types of hazing rituals men and women use, as well as the types of hazing rituals most likely to be committed by particular student groups. The study also raises an important question - who knows that these incidents are happening, and are schools doing enough to stop them?  


How many cases have actually resulted in deaths?

Hank Nuwer's anti-hazing site - hazing fatalities
It's hard to say for sure, but some researchers are taking a tally. Hank Nuwer is a writer, social critic and journalism teacher at Franklin College in Indiana. He writes about hazing as an international human rights abuse issue, as well as a serious issue in high schools, colleges and universities in the US. Nuwer has created a list of US students who have died as a result of hazing and has also created a map to show where the deaths occurred. He was awarded a Distinguished Alumnus Award in 1999 from the State University of New York's Buffalo State College for his work as a hazing historian and researcher.


But does it happen in Canada too?

Hazing in Canada - An incident at St.FX
Sadly, yes. In 2009 revealed a hidden hazing ritual at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. According to the original report on, freshmen were beaten with branches, forced to eat until they vomited, had their faces smeared with fake feces and were forced to rub A535, a stinging ointment, on their genitals. Hazing is banned by the university and the ten students who pled guilty were punished. There are more in Canada, too. reveals some of the other cases that have gone on across the country, including incidents at McGill University and in the Ontario Hockey League.


Is there another side to this? - Views from those who defend hazing
There always is. While it is hard to find one single organization publicly standing up and preaching that hazing is ok, (also run by Hank Nuwer) has published a list of emails, and even an academic paper written by a student, in defense of hazing. The authors recount being hazed for various reasons, including joining a frat, sorority or sports team at school and joining military groups. In their minds, hazing bonds the individual to the group, increases confidence and proves a certain amount of physical and mental toughness to themselves. If you want a glimpse into the minds of those who participate in hazing rituals, this is a great place to start.

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