Hazing - American Education
An American schoolboy initiation rite dating back to about 1850 and characterized by various pranks on initiates that can range from mockery and humiliation to sadistic physical distress or injury. A traditional part of college fraternity
and SORORITY initiations, hazing gradually spread into athletics during the 20th century as part of the “welcoming” ceremony for newcomers to college teams. Akin to adolescent rites of passage into adulthood in traditional societies, hazing in the United States spread to high school athletics in the 1970s and 1980s. Ironically, just as rates of random criminal violence by juveniles were declining during the 1990s (see JUVENILE DELINQUENCY), hazing rites changed from adolescent foolery to increasingly dangerous bullying and brutality, with some high school initiates to school teams suffering beatings and sexual assaults. About half the high school students in American report having been subjected to hazing, according to a survey conducted by Alfred University, in New York, in April 2000. Defined as “any humiliating or dangerous activity . . . to join a group regardless of your willingness to participate,” hazing included drinking contests, stealing, inflicting pain on themselves, physical abuse, dunking someone’s head in a toilet, being yelled or cursed at, eating or drinking disgusting substances and piercing or shaving one’s body. In the most surprising finding, about one-fourth of the high school respondents had faced hazing when joining church youth groups. In other categories, 76% reported hazing as a requirement for joining fraternities or sororities, 35% reported hazing for joining athletic teams and 34% for joining cheerleading squads. At the college level, several students died from alcohol poisoning as part of fraternity hazing that required initiates to consume entire bottles of undiluted spirits. As rates of injuries increased, parents across the United States began suing school and college officials, and many schools and colleges responded by banning hazing and, in a number of cases, calling police to arrest students who had injured younger students by hazing.