4 Violence Prevention Practices that Can Help You Stop Hazing on Campus

There are many types of violence, all of which are insidiously intertwined. 

Racism, sexism, and classism merge to create a society wherein sexual violence, dating violence, racial violence, and more are permitted, even encouraged, and victims are left feeling blamed and alone.  

Though this is grim, there is hope in evidence-based prevention. As a violence prevention specialist, I spend my days studying prevention and implementing programs on campus to end gender-based violence and harassment. 

Another campus challenge that is often wrongly siloed away from violence prevention is hazing prevention. On some campuses, preventing hazing is left solely to Greek life or athletics staff who often lack an in-depth, trauma-informed understanding of prevention practices.  

There are evidence-based methods to decrease all kinds of violence,  which can be applied to hazing on campus. Because — and it’s vital that we acknowledge this — hazing is violence. 

Supporting students who have faced hazing from a trauma-informed perspective can help them heal and succeed, on-campus and off. Here are my suggestions for preventing hazing among all sorts of campus social groups by utilizing trauma-informed practices. 

4 Tips

1. Consider Bystander Intervention

Consider implementing elements of bystander intervention techniques in your anti-hazing programming. The University of Texas at Austin has a great example of a bystander intervention program specifically designed to target hazing. The program has a memorable name  (“BeVocal”), educates students on recognition of potentially violent acts, and provides multiple intervention methods for students to choose from. 

If you do not have the capacity to implement a bystander intervention program for hazing, consider connecting with professionals on your campus who are already educating students on bystander intervention in other ways. They may be your violence prevention specialists, wellness staff, alcohol and other drug prevention specialists, or even university police or safety officers. 

Folks in these areas will likely be excited to partner with you and include examples about Greek life or athletics in their bystander programs. Remember: They have an interest in ending all types of violence on campus.

If you already have popular campus programs that reliably engage large audiences, consider weaving bystander intervention techniques into them. For example, perhaps there’s a session during fraternity or sorority recruitment wherein you can educate students on the three D’s of intervention. Or, there might be a group of peer educators who’ve lead bystander intervention trainings whom you can ask to attend a weekly Greek life meeting or sports practice.

2. Implement Stronger Anti-Hazing Policies

Research has shown that when there are strong policies against harmful behavior, compliance is higher. 

For example, states that have implemented stricter laws against drinking and driving have seen DUI rates decrease.  Plus, stronger seatbelt requirement policies increase seatbelt compliance. 

Strong policy leads to more compliance. So, you should make sure that anti-hazing policies are strong on your campus and that the consequences for participating in hazing activities are widely publicized and backed by tight policies.

Your institutional policy may be enforced by your student conduct office or the dean of students office. Work with professionals in those areas to ensure that any anti-hazing policies that exist on your campus are clear, strict, and fairly enforced. 

To make your policy as clear as possible, work with important partners across campus in drafting it. Invite and welcome edits for clarity. Most importantly, students should be continually reminded of the policy and the consequences for violating it.  

The University of Rochester has an excellent hazing policy that students can find right on its Fraternity and Sorority Affairs website. If you plan to revise and strengthen your campus policy, consider checking theirs out or looking at other institutions for ideas. Seek out schools close to yours in size, mission, or similar student demographic makeup. 

3. Understanding the Effects of Trauma 

Unfortunately, whether or not you’ve been made aware of it,  students on your campus have probably been hazed. When anyone faces hazing violence or harassment, they can experience several disturbing symptoms — including but not limited to sleep disturbance, flashbacks, fear, depression, and anxiety. 

If you work with a group of students who continually face (or have faced) hazing, you need to understand its effect. This video on the neurobiology of trauma is a great starting point.  You can also check out my blog posts on supporting students after trauma and how trauma-informed principles can help you support students in many aspects of your work that you may not have considered before. 

I also recommend creating policies that leave room for students to miss deadlines or take space for themselves if they are facing trauma. And if you host a training for your students on challenging subjects, be sure to give them content warnings or connections to resources available to them.

Whenever my teammates and I host violence prevention trainings on sexual or domestic violence, we have a counselor or victim advocate available to students who may need support. You could have a professional like this if you offer anti-hazing training in the event a student has faced violence. That person might lead the session or just introduce themselves to the crowd at the program’s start. 

4. Partnering with Prevention Experts on Campus

If you have a violence prevention office or victim advocacy services on campus, collaborate with them. Violence is often intertwined, and many instances of hazing include aspects of sexual violence, physical violence, emotional abuse or manipulation, and even financial abuse. 

Victim advocates on your campus will likely be more than willing to support students who have faced hazing; they understand the university reporting and disciplinary processes that students might pursue and how to navigate the criminal justice system. In addition, they serve as trained experts in providing trauma-informed support to students who have faced any kind of violence. 

Prevention experts can also help you create programming that works to prevent hazing in the first place. They will be more than happy to collaborate as it is key for everyone on campus to understand prevention science in order to decrease all types of violence on campus. 

For example, you might collaborate with your prevention office on implementing hazing prevention training for all club-affiliated students that includes social norms data, bystander intervention techniques, how to support friends who have faced hazing, and how to report club members who do not respect campus anti-hazing policies. 

You might also pool funds to bring well-regarded anti-hazing activists like Byron Hurt or speakers from the Anti-Hazing Coalition to campus or virtual programming. You could require all students who are members of organizations at high-risk for hazing to attend. 

You can also build a collaboration with prevention professionals and student leaders to implement ongoing programming and education that students help create. Involving students in your programming creates more buy-in and gives students important leadership experience. 

gif of Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick saying 'we need to work together'

With a violence prevention and trauma-informed practice, you can create safer spaces and communities for students. Students will feel more supported and better able to find meaning on campus.

What questions do you still have about hazing as viewed through a violence prevention lens? Connect with us on Twitter @themoderncampus.

Kacie Otto

About the author: Kacie Otto (she/her) is the Violence Prevention Specialist and Victim Advocate at Marquette University. If she’s not knitting or reading a book about feminism, you might find her at a campsite or in a thrift shop. Learn how we can help get your students involved.