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What University Students Need to Know About Hazing

By February 21, 2018April 6th, 2022No Comments

Did you know that more than half of students in colleges and universities involved in clubs, sports teams and organizations have experienced hazing?

It occurs in high among both boys and girls that participate in sports teams, clubs, Greek life, cheerleading, honor societies, and many more.

With second semester Sorority and Fraternity Recruitment under way across the country, it is important for new members to understand the dangers in hazing and just how prevalent it typically is on campuses nationwide. You need to understand the full scope of what is considered hazing as well as the range of harsh sanctions that universities often impose for hazing charges. Through this awareness, students may realize that the list of hazing examples is longer than they previously thought.

First it is important to understand what hazing entails.  The definition of hazing is any action taken or any situation created intentionally that causes embarrassment, harassment or ridicule and risks emotional and/or physical harm to members of a group or team, whether new or not, regardless of the person’s willingness to participate.

This incredibly broad description lacks examples, so often times students do not even know that they are hazing or being hazed. Typically, there is an inherent power difference between those doing the hazing and those being hazed; freshman students are usually hazed by older students. Additionally, there is often an intentional initiation rite, practice, or tradition involved.

Some examples of hazing are the more stereotypical ones such as forcing new members to drink copious amounts of alcohol, requiring new members to endure hardships such as physical labor, staying awake, or starving, and requiring them to eat substances or foods such as alive goldfishes. However, some are not as well understood. This category includes older members giving younger, new members alcohol to drink, wearing embarrassing or uncomfortable clothing, and requiring them to walk in groups to class; while some people may be ok with these types of tasks, they are putting the new members at risk for feeling pressured to do something they do not want to do.

The harsh reality is that two in five students say they are aware of hazing taking place on their campus, and a significant number of hazing incidents and deaths involve forced alcohol consumption. Hazing is extremely common and sometimes life threatening, so it is important to know when an act needs to be stopped. Because of these facts, schools have been cracking down on hazing and imposing harsh sanctions on students who are caught hazing.

There is a wide range of sanctions depending on the school, the students, and their involvement, and it is not unrealistic that colleges provide disproportionate sanctions for the hazing committed. Sanctions may include disciplinary probation, loss of housing or scholarship, suspension for a semester or year, or expulsion.  In very serious cases where hazing has resulted in harm to a person or a death, criminal sanctions may also be imposed that can follow you on your permanent record for life.

DC Student Defense has represented clients with a variety of these sanctions, including students who were suspended for a year yet were not major players in the hazing, but merely bystanders. Thus, guilty by association is extremely threatening to students because the school considers knowing about and being present for hazing yet not stopping it an offense.

If you’re not sure whether or not something happening to you or to someone else is hazing, ask yourself these questions to better judge the situation:

  •       Would I feel comfortable participating in this activity if my parents were watching?
  •       Would we get in trouble if a school/college administrator walked by and saw us?
  •       Am I being asked to keep these activities a secret?
  •       Do I feel any sense of pressure to do this task even if I am ok with it?
  •       Does participation in this activity violate my values or those of this organization?
  •       Is this causing emotional or physical distress or stress to myself or to others?

If you determine that you are participating in hazing, it is imperative that you understand its potential for serious harm and the range of harsh sanctions you could receive even if you are simply a bystander.


These materials have been prepared by WGW for informational purposes only and are not intended and should not be construed as legal advice.


Shan Wu

Author Shan Wu

Shan’s professional and personal background gives him a unique understanding of academic institutions and the criminal justice system. A former federal prosecutor in Washington, D.C., he is at home in D.C. Courts and very familiar with all of the Washington, D.C. law enforcement agencies, especially the Metropolitan Police Department. His parents were university professors so he grew up in a university environment. He understands the mindset of academic institutions. As a prosecutor, he supervised in the misdemeanor crime section. This is the section of the Washington, D.C. prosecutor’s office that handles most college student cases. His understanding of charging decisions and how judges view these cases is invaluable to his student clients and their families. Shan served as a federal prosecutor in the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia for over ten years. During his tenure there, now Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr. appointed him to supervisory positions in the Misdemeanor Trial Section and also in a police corruption task force. His outstanding legal work in the government was recognized through numerous Special Achievement Awards from the Justice Department as well as awards conveyed by law enforcement agencies and community groups. From 1999-2000, Shan served as Counsel to Attorney General Janet Reno, advising her on criminal and civil investigations, E-Gov, E-Commerce (electronic signatures, internet gambling, internet telephony, privacy & public access issues in electronic court filings), congressional oversight, and legislative review. His responsibilities included serving as liaison to the FBI, DEA, Criminal Division, Executive Office of United States Attorneys, National Institute of Justice, and White House Counsel’s Office. Shan serves on the D.C. Bar Association’s Hearing Committee of the Board on Professional Responsibility and is a past president of the Asian Pacific American Bar Association for the Greater Washington, D.C. area. He is a 1988 graduate of Georgetown University Law Center, where he graduated Order of the Barristers, edited two law reviews, and was Co-Director of the Moot Court Program. He holds a B.A. in English Literature from Vassar College as well as a Master’s Degree in Creative Writing from Sarah Lawrence College. Following law school, he clerked for the late Hon. Jerry Buchmeyer, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, and the late Eugene Wright, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. He is admitted to practice law in the District of Columbia and Connecticut.

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