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There are various definitions of this complex issue and various types of hazing. According to researchers Allan & Madden, “Hazing is any activity expected of someone joining or participating in a group that humiliates, degrades, abuses, or endangers them regardless of a person’s willingness to participate.” – (Allan & Madden, 2008).

It is also worth mentioning that it is illegal for student organizations to conduct any activities which involve “hazing.” According to California law, “hazing” is conduct which causes, or is likely to cause, bodily danger, physical harm, or personal degradation or disgrace resulting in physical or mental harm to another person in the course of the other person’s preinitiation into, initiation into, affiliation with, holding office in, or maintaining membership in any organization. Violations may result in loss of registration as a student organization, action by the Center for Student Conduct, or referral to local law enforcement agencies

When does an activity cross the line into hazing? The following three components are key to understanding hazing:

  • Group context: Associated with the process for joining and maintaining membership in a group.
  • Abusive behavior: Activities that are potentially humiliating and degrading, with potential to cause physical, psychological and/or emotional harm.
  • Regardless of an individual’s willingness to participate: The “choice” to participate may be offset by the peer pressure and coercive/power dynamics that often exist in the context of gaining membership in a group.

Circumstances in which pressure or coercion exist impede true consent.