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Academic Hazing — Is It Real?

Updated: Dec 6, 2021

Academic hazing is a form of bullying that occurs in academia. It involves the abuse of students by senior members of an academic community, such as faculty members and/or upperclassmen and possibly graduate students. The most typical example of this is when freshmen get mistreated or abused by their fellow incoming fraternity, sorority pledges, or affiliated members. This form of abuse can occur in any school at any level, from elementary to post-graduate studies.

Some Statistical Facts about Hazing

According to the initial findings of the National Hazing Study: Hazing in View, (Allan & Madden, 2008)

  • More than half (55%) of college students involved in clubs, teams, and organizations experience hazing.

  • Nearly half (47%) of students have experienced hazing prior to coming to college.

It is quite evident from the above facts that hazing in academic institutions is a real thing, as a significant amount of students has faced such situations at different levels.

How Old is Academic Hazing?

Academic hazing is an unfortunate reality that has been around for decades and despite efforts to outlaw it in many states, it is practiced all the same. It's hard to believe that there are still students subjected to unthinkable acts of abuse in modern times just because they want the opportunity to further their education.

Forms of Academic Hazing

Nowadays, the term “hazing” doesn't necessarily mean physical violence. Allan, E. & Madden, M. (2012) conducted a study on the extent of hazing done in colleges and its impacts on a student’s mental health. They found out that hazing among USA students is widespread and involves a range of student organizations and athletic teams. The various forms of hazing practices common across student groups discovered during this study can be broadly categorized into:

  • Alcohol consumption (24%),

  • Humiliation (18%),

  • Isolation (21%),

  • Sleep deprivation (19%),

  • Harassment and forced sexual acts (18%)

Furthermore, they found out that there is a large gap between the number of students who report experience with hazing behaviors and those that label their experience as hazing. This necessarily implies that the facts about the reported hazing incidents are far too ambiguous than the actual amount of such activities.

Academic Hazing In Ph.D. Programs

When you're entering a new, competitive environment like grad school, it's easy to get overwhelmed by the social politics of your new world. You have to fit in, or at least appear as if you fit in. Then there are all the academic expectations and responsibilities that pile on top of one another while everyone else seems to be breezing through their own work with ease.

Apart from hazing in fraternities and sororities, there exists another type of hazing, especially in grad schools. It is the one in Ph.D. programs where instructors or supervisors adopt practices to foster emotions of imposter syndrome and degradation, induce work overload and exhaustion, that result in adverse health outcomes in students.

The tremendous amount of research for a doctoral thesis involves reading hundreds of articles, books, and publications and writing down the relevant information. After that, conducting tests and drawing results from them to jot down the final conclusions in a minimum amount of time is itself a tiring process and is very much analogous to the hazing process in general.

There is no doubt that academic hazing still exists in today’s world. The important thing is to be aware of it and take steps now to protect yourself from falling victim to it. If this is something you think your college or university is guilty of, you should report them to the proper authorities right away.

Have you ever experienced hazing throughout your academic journey? If yes, do let us know in the comment section below that how did you tackle that situation to help others as well.

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  1. Allan, E. & Madden, M. (2012). The nature and extent of college student hazing. , 24(1), 83-90.

  2. Allan, E. J., & Madden, M. (2008). Hazing in View: College Students at Risk.

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