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Violence & Hazing

The World Health Organization defines violence as “the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community that either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment or deprivation.” Campus violence includes but is not limited to hazing, threats, harassment, vandalism, robbery, aggravated assault, forcible rape, sexual assault, suicide, manslaughter, and homicide. Violence occurs on all college campuses. On average, male college students are twice as likely to be victims of all types of violence as female students (American College Health Association, 2005).

Are you contributing to the cycle of violence?

Alcohol and drug use contributes to campus violence. Drugs and alcohol increase the likelihood of an individual to be involved in a crime as either the perpetrator or the victim. About 4 in 10 violent crimes against college students were committed by offenders who were perceived by victims to be using drugs or alcohol (ACHA, 2005). About 25% of college student victims of violence and 31% of non-student victims were injured during the victimization (ACHA, 2005).

Students who drink excessively and/or abuse drugs have higher rates of assaults, arrests, and vandalism. Following heavy drinking and/or drug use, students may find that their inhibitions decrease, they become aggressive and/or violent, and they are less able to resolve conflict because their judgment is impaired.

Relationship/dating violence

Dating/relationship violence is a pattern of coercive and abusive tactics employed by one partner in a relationship to gain power and control over the other partner. It can take many forms, including physical violence, coercion, threats, intimidation, isolation, and emotional, sexual or economic abuse. Abusive relationships may include sexual violence, which is a form of physical violence. Loving someone does not mean that you can never say “no” to sex. No matter what kind of relationship you have, if you are forced to have sex, it is rape. If you are humiliated or forced to be sexual in any way, that is sexual abuse.

Physical abuse can happen to anyone. Learn more about relationship abuse if you are worried that you or a friend may be in an abusive relationship.

How can you help?

We all can assume responsibility to ensure that our campus is safe and violence-free. Many students have difficulty reporting their own victimization and/or interpersonal violence because they fear retaliation. You can help by providing support to victims, promoting safety, and reporting crimes or suspected crimes to Washington University Police Department (WUPD). If you live in WU housing, contact your residential advisor (RA) or your residential college director (RCD). If you live off campus, contact your local police department.


What is hazing?

What you or your members may consider a harmless prank or legitimate means of educating new members may be a criminal act. So what is hazing, and how can you distinguish it from non-hazing activities? If you are unsure if what you are doing is hazing, ask yourself:

  • Would you photograph or videotape the activity and be proud to share it with non-members? The Chancellor? Your parents? A judge?
  • Does the activity involve alcohol consumption that subjects members to unreasonable risk of harm to self or others?
  • Does the activity promote and abide by the ideals and values of your organization?
  • Is this activity an educational experience?
  • Are new members being asked to engage in an activity in which active members will not participate?
  • Would you be able to defend the merits of this activity in a court of law?
  • Will the activity enhance new members’ satisfaction in the organization? Or will they feel confused, ashamed, or uncertain about why they participated in this event or joined?
  • Does this activity meet both the spirit and the letter of the standards prohibiting hazing?

Adapted from Phi Delta Theta’s “Transmit the Fraternity” and the FIPG Risk Management Manual

If you have to ask whether it is hazing, it probably is.

Hazing is a crime

Missouri State Law defines hazing as “a willful act, occurring on or off the campus of an educational institution, directed against a student or a prospective member of an organization operating under the sanction of an educational institution, that recklessly endangers the mental or physical health or safety of a student or prospective member for the purpose of initiation or admission into or continued membership in any such organization to the extent that such person is knowingly placed at probable risk of the loss of life or probable bodily or psychological harm” (RSMO 578.360).

Washington University’s Policy on Hazing is defined as “any activity organized by a student organization, or members of a student organization, which involves a member in practices which are injurious, or potentially injurious to an individual’s physical, emotional, or psychological well being (as determined at the sole discretion of the University) shall be immediate cause for disciplinary action. It shall not matter whether such practices were mandatory, or voluntarily entered into by any of the student organization members in question, including new and initiated members.”

Individuals and organizations who are caught hazing may be punished by local authorities and the University. Missouri law makes it illegal to participate in or cause acts of hazing. Hazing is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by fines up to $1,000, imprisonment of up to one year, or both. However, if the hazing "creates a substantial risk to the life of the student or prospective member," the act is a Class C felony punishable by fines up to $5,000, imprisonment of up to seven years, or both. Under Missouri law, consent is not a defense for hazing.

Sanctions, such as suspension, removal from campus, or loss of privileges, may be given to an entire organization even if only a few members engaged in the activity.

The impact of hazing

Have you ever thought about how hazing impacts those involved? Below are some effects of hazing and a few examples of activities that may cause them.

Problems with alcohol: Binge drinking, alcohol poisoning, and alcohol abuse can lead to physiologic effects such as impaired mental/physical reflexes, memory loss, inability to concentrate, and hindered intellectual functioning, as well as emotional effects such as anger, violent behavior, sexual assault, depression, and suicide.

  • Any activity which requires/strongly encourages the consumption of a large amount of alcohol in a short period of time.
  • Pressuring individuals to participate in events such as “case races,” “power hour,” or “century club.”

Stress: Psychological/emotional stress may induce or aggravate psychological illnesses, including depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, or self-esteem issues.

  • Any activity that makes a member an object of amusement or ridicule.
  • Requiring new members to engage in activities in which active members will not participate.
  • Taking part in line-ups or grilling individuals with questions or harsh criticism.
  • Indecent exposure or nudity of any kind.

Poor Nutrition: Failure to maintain a well-balanced diet or healthy weight may result in malnutrition, body image concerns, disordered eating (e.g. fad dieting and compulsive eating), over-exercising, and eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia.

  • Restricting what members can/cannot eat.
  • Activities that promote unrealistic perceptions of body image or that create an undue pressure to maintain an unhealthy weight.

Inconsistent Sleeping Patterns: Insomnia, (difficulty falling or maintain restful sleep) is associated with increased irritability and susceptibility to injury as well as headaches, upset stomach and decreased motivation, memory, concentration, creativity, and spontaneity.

  • Any activity designed to deprive an individual of sleep.
  • Any activity which requires members to get up early or stay up late/all night.

Compromised Safety/Accidental Injuries: Engaging in dangerous activities and risk-taking behaviors can lead to serious injury, including accidents, fighting, and possibly death.

  • Any activity in which members are bound, gagged, or otherwise restrained.
  • Excessive physical activity/workouts.
  • Water intoxication.
  • The marking or branding of a member.
  • Scavenger hunts or other timed activities.

Academic Difficulties: When daily functioning is compromised, it is likely that academic difficulties will surface, including missing classes, difficulty concentrating, inability to perform well on projects and exams, and decreased GPA.

  • Any activity that requires members to skip classes or takes away from their time to study.
  • Requiring members to carry items or wear inappropriate apparel to class.

Illness: Physical and mental stress, especially when combined with decreased sleep, can result in a decrease in immune system function, increasing the risk of acquiring a communicable illness such as influenza or pneumonia.

  • All-night work or study sessions.
  • Preventing a new member from practicing personal hygiene.
  • Unbalanced diet.

Relationship Difficulties: Behavior changes such as unpredictable mood swings, depression, decreased self-esteem, anger, or aggression can cause relationship difficulties.

  • Any activity that causes a member to have feelings of resentment, abandonment, or loneliness.
  • Requiring members to temporarily discontinue contact with family or friends.

Apathy: Members may be led to believe that being hazed will create a sense of community. Often, the realization that membership does not meet this expectation results in an apathetic attitude towards the organization.

  • Any activity that makes members feel unappreciated or taken advantage of.
  • Requiring acts of servitude such as running errands, cleaning rooms, or doing laundry for active members.

Problems with the Law: If a violation of the University’s policy on hazing or state law occurs, the Director of Judicial Programs, campus police, or the local authorities may become involved.

  • Any activity requiring members to break the law, such as fighting, breaking and entering, vandalism, driving under the influence, or minors in possession.
  • Any paddling or striking, e.g. “trading swats”

All of the hazing examples listed here are considered violations of both Missouri and Washington University hazing policies.

Break the hazing cycle

Coming up with alternatives to hazing activities is a great way to create change within your organization, but it will not solve the problem. First, take a look at the organizational culture, then make the following changes:

  • Make members aware: Use all of the information available about hazing to let your members know what actions are hazing and why hazing is not appropriate. Talk with your national headquarters, coaches, advisors, and university administrators if you have questions about policies or what constitutes hazing.
  • Educate members: Teach your members that there are alternatives to hazing. Take advantage of workshops or speakers and create positive programming that assimilates new members into your organization.
  • Detect hazing violations: Be alert for activities and comments that may indicate hazing is happening in your organization. Don’t look the other way. Confront the issue promptly.
  • Take corrective action: If you know hazing is occurring, it is imperative you put a stop to it. If you are not sure how, contact an advisor, coach, staff member, university administrator, or national headquarters to assist with your intervention. Use standards boards or one-on-one conversations to help members understand why their behavior is unacceptable.

Adapted from the University of Texas at Austin’s Crossroads Brochure

More violence help

More hazing help

  • Uncle Joe’s Peer Counseling and Resource Center has a 24-hour hotline at 314-935-5099. If you wish to speak with someone in person, their office is in the basement of Gregg Hall, 10p.m. - 1a.m. nightly.
  • The Department of Athletics - located in the Athletic Complex, (314) 935-5288 - has staff who can talk with you or your organization about hazing within athletic teams.
  • The Greek Life Office - located in the Campus Life Office in the Danforth University Center, 314-935-5923 - has staff who can talk with you or your organization about the implications of hazing in a sorority or fraternity.
  • Learn about the NCAA’s official stance on sportsmanship and ethical conduct.
  • covers many aspects of hazing and ways you can combat the issue and create change.
  • The Gordie Foundation’s Circle of Trust was created to help educate students about the dangers of alcohol abuse, peer pressure and hazing.