By Margarita Nahapetyan
A new survey, which was conducted by two professors at the University of Maine, found that many college and university freshmen reported being hazed while in high-school.
The dictionary defines hazing as a ritualistic test and a task that involves harassment, abuse or humiliation. All this is being used as a way of initiating a person into a gang, club, military organization or other group. The definition can refer to either physical, in some cases violent, or mental, possibly degrading, practices.
According to the results of a new report, 47 per cent of freshmen said that they were hazed in high school. This figure has not changed much since 2000, when 48 per cent of high school adolescents reported being hazed. The scientists at the University of Maine's College of Education and Human Development, Elizabeth Allan and Mary Madden, used responses of more than 11,000 freshmen from 53 colleges and universities, who took part in the previously conducted survey on college hazing. The result was the biggest study of hazing in higher education to date, said Norm Pollard from Alfred University Pollard, who led the previous study.
This time, the professors involved the same number of participants to find out what happened to them prior to their arrival to college and university campuses. They found, not surprisingly, that the most incidents of hazing in high school happened among members of sports teams - 47 per cent. However, hazing was also common in ROTC - 46 per cent, and bands and the performing arts groups - 34 per cent. The average for other school organizations was 20 per cent, the investigators said.
Allan and Madden also discovered that the highest rates of hazing among Hazing-related activities included being required to associate exclusively with members of a group - 28 per cent, singing or chanting in public - 21 per cent, verbal abuse - 19 per cent, deprivation from sleep - 12 per cent, and having a tattoo or piercing done - 12 per cent, the experts reported.
The high school students who reported being hazed said that the activities they had to participate in ranged from foolish stunts to drinking games. But at least 19 per cent said that they were verbally abused, 12 per cent said that they participated in a drinking game, and 8 per cent reported that they drank to the point of getting sick or losing consciousness.
Elliot Hopkins of the National Federation of State High School Associations said that what worries him most is that the activities are becoming more and more sexually charged. In some cases, he said, cheerleaders were even being forced to undress and shave in front of their peers, or boys and girls being forced to simulate sex acts in order to be able to join a certain group.
The authors of the survey said that high schools should pay more attention to hazing and not just concentrate all their attention on combating bullying, which they say are two different problems. "We have had educators say, 'Isn't hazing the same as bullying?'" This just points to the amount of education that is needed all around, Madden said. Bullies do not want the victim to become a member of their group, their only goal is just to humiliate, ostracize and degrade to make themselves feel influential and better, investigators explained.
Hazing is different because it involves a group dynamic and coercion, Allan said. The coercion can be mild, but it is quite powerful, she explained. "You have these really nice people who are generally reasonable kids making sound decisions for the most part. And then all of a sudden they are swept up in his group dynamic - it contributes to impairing judgment."
The report has been presented this week at the American Educational Research Association's annual meeting in San Diego.