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Hazing in High School Sports

The term “hazing” means any abusive conduct or method of initiation into any student organization. Hazing is any form of subjecting another student to abusive or ridiculous tricks; to frighten, scold, beat, or harass him or her; or subject the student to personal indignities. Hazing is violence directed at specific individuals as part of the initiation process to join a student organization or become a member of the college at large. It includes physical and or emotional harassment of prospective members. The student would have to endure punishment if he or she wants to become a member.

A landmark study by Alfred University, New York, has defined hazing as “any humiliating or dangerous activity expected of you to join a group, regardless of your willingness to participate. ” Hazing is a form of ritualistic bullying – “acceptable intimidation” – and is most prevalent among high school students. Up to half of the students who belong to a clique or gang are usually subjected to objectionable hazing activities, and many of these are often grossly humiliating experiences. Both male and female students commonly undergo the torment of hazing practices, but males are at a greater risk of being subjected to dangerous hazing.

Though hazing is not officially tolerated on college campuses, it continues happens all too frequently. Students who are hazed could have their lives seriously disrupted. Sometimes even worse things can happen, including deaths. The victimized students generally have little choice in dealing with hazing than to drop out, and as a result have their dream of membership in a student fraternity or a sports club shattered. “It’s pervasive, it’s dangerous, and it is behavior that is forced upon student-athletes as the price of admission to a team,”

– Edward Coll, president of Alfred University. (Quoted in New York Times 1999) People generally tend to take a vaguely tolerant attitude toward hazing. Many consider a little hazing to be acceptable, at least, as long a there is no explicit malicious intent. However, even if there is no discernible malicious intent, and things were carried out in the spirit of good fun, safety may still be an issue. Hazing activities can nonetheless commonly include overtly dangerous elements such as physical abuse, being tied up and abandoned, and forced alcohol use.

Hazing is supposed to function as a means of indoctrinating new members into a fraternity’s culture and inculcate deference to the senior members. Those who perpetrate hazing activities view hazing as an effective way to teach respect and develop discipline. But respect cannot be taught or imposed from above, it has to be earned. Victims of hazing can only nurture hatred and resentment for those who have hazed them. Just like other forms of victimization, hazing mostly breeds mistrust, animosity and alienation.

Hazing has both mental and physical aspects which could range from harmless to brutal. Hazing could have serious emotional and physical repercussions. Students who are hazed report loneliness and difficulty making friends. They could suffer from a serious trauma for many years to come. A majority of students involved report injuries, academic problems, fights with parents, retaliation toward others, eating and sleeping problems, anger, confusion, embarrassment and guilt; in the Alfred University study, the proportion of people who reported such negativities scaled to 71 percent.

Hazing activities do not serve any purpose in promoting the growth and development of group members. It would be wrong to equate hazing to foolish pranks that can sometimes go awry. Hazing generally tends to be act of domination and control over others, a willful expression of power employed to derive sadistic pleasure, and as such is not much different from other forms of victimization such as mugging and raping. Hazing is often an outcome of premeditated plan and not either incidental or accidental.

Hazing is degrading, demeaning and dehumanizing, and could in rare instances prove to be life-threatening. Hazing has been rendered illegal in nearly all the states. Though hazing incidents generally tend to go unreported, kept under the lid through fear of reprisal and embarrassment, they have nevertheless been leaking out and appearing frequently enough in the news. In the recent years, there have been major hazing-related tragedies at schools in our own state, Colorado, as well as in Arkansas and other states, all of which have received well-deserved publicity.

In the wake of so many news reports of violence suffered by students on the high school campuses of our country, it is becoming increasingly difficult to take a tolerant or mildly condoning attitude to this dark and evil practice. The problem of hazing is not confined to athletic teams, fraternities, and sororities, and, it is much more universally prevalent in our society. Hazing incidents have been frequently documented in the army, navy, religious cults, and various other types of clubs or organizations. However, reports of hazing activities in high schools and college sports are on the rise.

Unfortunately though, not adequate research has been conducted on the prevalence and consequences of hazing in the higher education setting. Considering the enormous negative impact hazing activities can have on the morale of our students and the integrity of our institutions, more research needs to be carried out in this area. However, even more importantly, there is a need for more stringent and effective state laws to root out the hazing culture and mentality in our campuses. Further, every educational institution has to have a clearly articulated anti-hazing policy in place, including Washington High School.

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