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Hazing and Sociology

The sociological support for hazing in many groups is perhaps the biggest obstacle that must be overcome to achieve its elimination. Hazing is used to represent and further social dominance and hierarchy. While some of the sociological results that many claim justify hazing may actually be true, most are not.
The most prevalent claim over the years has been the belief that hazing builds team cohesion and conformity. Even though this seems to be the main motive for the use of hazing, a variety of studies have proven it to be false. Conversely, in 2007, a study revealed that increased hazing activities lead to less team cohesion rather than more. All in all, there is a great deal of evidence that hazing can be divisive of group members. Still, when developing prevention strategies it is important to remember that the theory of advancing team cohesion is a key justification of hazing in the minds of many.
Some experts have suggested that hazing may promote loyalty to the group, as well as increase the attractiveness of joining the group for outsiders. Yet, even the possible truth of these claims should be used as an argument against permitting hazing. The fact that these heinous actions draw in new members and boosts their allegiance to leaders who are then abusing them only shows why it is so important that hazing be stopped. In this regard, world-renowned hazing expert and Buffalo State College graduate Hank Nuwer describes hazing as “addictive.”
Hazing is addictive in its ability to suck victims in and increase their dependence on the harmful group. Certainly, it is troublesome for victims to be lured into and become addicted to something that puts them in danger. Additionally, the group atmosphere of hazing has frequently led offenders to relegate the blame for their atrocious actions on the group, rather than recognizing their own responsibility for what had occurred. This reduction of moral responsibility is hazardous in its ability to empower hazers to act without the restraint of ethical standards. As such, developing a comprehensive sociological understanding of why groups haze is critical.
With the knowledge that groups commonly use hazing to achieve sociological goals, it is easier to prescribe strategies to stop it. For instance, many aim to use hazing to establish stronger bonds among teams and organizations. So, to counteract this objective it would be wise to punish those who have been discovered as hazers by removing them from the group they are attempting to improve. The existence of such a penalty would likely be discouraging enough to some of those who haze to influence them to end their actions. Unquestionably, someone with the goal of building a stronger team would be fearful of performing an activity that could possibly lead to their separation or dismissal from the group. Moreover, one reason that some group supervisors, like coaches, marching band instructors and fraternity and sorority advisors, turn a blind eye to hazing is because they also believe hazing will result in better group cohesion. These leaders should be held exceedingly accountable for any hazing they know of and decide against taking action to end.
These are the individuals trusted to protect the best interests of group members. When they fail to live up to this duty, they should be punished severely. Otherwise, there is no reason for them to stop an act they only deem as beneficial. Another way to break the cycle of hazing is by introducing positive team building rituals. As a result, these new activities will take the place of hazing and render it unnecessary. There is no reason that initiations and rites of passage have to be degrading. Yet, a mere 20 percent of students currently participate in only positive initiation activities. A push to implement this tactic is already being made in Minnesota, where many positive events such as potluck dinners have been adopted. Team trips are another healthy way to build strong organizational connectedness. Likewise, group members would build cohesion by working on productive projects together. Working on tasks like community service projects accomplishes many of the goals of hazing, without containing the troubling drawbacks. It is only through an acclimation for the sociological roots of hazing that it is possible to develop strategies for its abolition.

– Rocco Zambito, Jr.
Student President

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