Fraternities and sororities, as well as other student organizations or athletic teams, are prohibited from hazing. Many are surprised that it is not only a violation of University policy, but hazing is also prohibited in the state of Tennessee and a violation of state law.
Community Standards Hotline:
The Community Standards Hotline has been set up as a way for individuals to anonymously report acts of hazing as well as other potential violations of Vanderbilt University policy. All calls to the hotline will be handled in a confidential manner. You can share any information that you have by calling 615-343-STOP (7867), and we greatly appreciate your participation in keeping our campus safe.
Hazing Incident Reporting Form:
Want to report hazing that you are witnessing or experiencing? Please go to the link listed below and complete it to the best of your abilities. The more information that is provided the more opportunities the Office of Student Accountability, Community Standards, & Academic Integrity will have to properly respond to the circumstances reported. Click here for the Hazing Incident Reporting Form.
State law requires each college and university in Tennessee to adopt a policy prohibiting hazing. Hazing is defined in the law as “any intentional or reckless act in Tennessee on or off the property of any [college or university] by one (1) student acting alone or with others which is directed against any other student, that endangers the mental or physical health or safety of that student, or which induces or coerces a student to endanger the student's mental or physical health or safety. Hazing does not include customary athletic events or similar contests or competitions, and is limited to those actions taken and situations created in connection with initiation into or affiliation with any organization.”
While including the statutory limitations of hazing above (i.e., student acts directed at students on or off campus), the University expands its definition of hazing to include any act by an individual or an organization that may produce, or is intended to produce, mental or physical discomfort, embarrassment, harassment, or ridicule, or any acts that are humiliating, intimidating, or demeaning, or that endanger the health and safety of an individual or group of individuals regardless of their affiliation for the purposes of, but not limited to, recruiting, joining, pledging, initiating, admitting, affiliating, or retaining membership in an organization. Such acts include—but are not limited to—the following:
- Violation of federal, state, provincial, local law, or organizational policy;
- Consumption of any food, liquid, alcohol liquid, drug, or other substance in any con-customary manner;
- Physical contact, including but not limited to, beating, paddling, branding, dangerous physical activity, or exposure to elements, or threats of such conduct;
- Exercise inconsistent with the mission of the organization;
- Adversely affecting the mental health or dignity of the individual through acts such as sleep deprivation, exclusion from social contact or conduct that could result in embarrassment, or threats of such conduct;
- Disruption of academic performance or class attendance, including early morning or late night work sessions,
- Designated driving programs;
- Personal or financial servitude;
- Publicly wearing apparel which is conspicuous and not normally in good taste;
- Engaging in public stunts;
- Morally degrading or humiliating games and activities; or
- Scavenger hunts.
The university makes no distinction as to whether the acts occurred on or off campus. Willful or voluntary participation in hazing activities by a victim does not absolve the person or organization engaging in hazing from responsibility.
49-7-123. Hazing prohibited
- As used in this section, unless the context otherwise requires:
- “Hazing” means any intentional or reckless act in Tennessee on or off the property of any higher education institution by one (1) student acting alone or with others which is directed against any other student, that endangers the mental or physical health or safety of that student, or which induces or coerces a student to endanger such student’s mental or physical health or safety. “Hazing” does not include customary athletic events or similar contests or competitions, and is limited to those actions taken and situations created in connection with initiation into or affiliation with any organization; and
- “Higher education institution” means a public or private college, community college or university.
- Each higher education institution shall adopt a written policy prohibiting hazing by any student or organization operating under the sanction of the institution. The policy shall be distributed or made available to each student at the beginning of each school year. Time shall be set aside during orientation to specifically discuss the policy and its ramifications as a criminal offense and the institutional penalties that may be imposed by the higher education institution.
These activities have at one time or another been construed as hazing by the courts and/or institutions or higher education:
- Paddling or striking in any manner
- Marking or branding
- Physical harassment: pushing, cursing, yelling, etc.
- Staging any form of “line-up”
- Conducting any type of “hell week” activities
- Requiring new members to practice periods of silence
- Phone duty
- Requiring the carrying of items such as statues, rocks, paddles, etc.
- Requiring calisthenics such as sit-ups, push-ups, etc.
- Sleep deprivation
- Preventing / restricting class attendance
- Forcing or coercing someone to eat or drink against their will
- Completing tasks in order to obtain signatures
- Preventing personal hygiene
- Causing indecent exposure
- Requiring uncomfortable attire
- Keeping the date of initiation into the group a secret
- Work parties / clean up for new members only
- Scavenger or treasure hunts
There are many hazing “myths.”
Myth #1: Hazing is primarily a problem for fraternities and sororities.
Fact: Hazing is a societal problem. Hazing incidents have been documented frequently in the military, athletic teams, marching bands, religious cults, professional schools and other types of clubs and/or organizations.
Myth #2: Hazing is no more than foolish pranks that sometimes go awry.
Fact: Hazing is an act of power and control over others – it is victimization. Hazing is premeditated and not accidental. Hazing is abusive and degrading, and may be life-threatening.
Myth #3: As long as there’s no malicious intent, a little hazing is okay.
Fact: Safety may be compromised by traditional hazing activities, even those considered to be “in good fun,” and even in the absence of malicious intent. For example, serious accidents have occurred during scavenger hunts and kidnapping trips. The risks of hazing far outweigh any potential “benefits” of such activities.
Myth #4: Hazing is an effective way to teach respect and develop discipline.
Fact: Respect must be earned – it cannot be taught. Victims of hazing rarely report having respect for those who have hazed them. For example, would you respect the person that yells at you or the person that helps you wax the floors for parents weekend? As with other forms of victimization, hazing breeds mistrust, apathy, and alienation in an organization/group. It does nothing to bring the group together as one.
Myth #5: If someone agrees to participate in an activity, it cannot be considered hazing.
Fact: In states that have laws against hazing, consent of the victim cannot be used as a defense in a civil suit. This is because even if someone agrees to participate in a potentially hazardous action, it may not be true consent when considering peer pressure and the victim’s desire to belong to the group.
Myth #6: It’s difficult to determine whether or not a certain activity is hazing – it’s such a gray area sometimes.
Fact: It’s not difficult to decide if an activity is hazing if you use common sense and ask yourself the following questions:
- Will active/current members of the organization refuse to participate with the new members and do exactly what they’re being asked to do?
- Is there risk of injury or a question of safety?
- Would you object if the activity were featured in the school newspaper or on a local TV news program?
- Would you have any reservation about describing and justifying the activity to your parents, to a professor, or to the Chancellor?
- Would you hesitate to invite the Executive Director of your international fraternity or sorority?
If the answer to any one of these simple questions is “yes,” the activity is probably hazing.
As a member – new or initiated – of a fraternity or sorority at Vanderbilt, you have an obligation to ensure that your organization upholds the principles upon which it was founded, as well as to protect your own dignity. Vanderbilt University and your fraternity or sorority headquarters will be anxious to work with you to combat this problem. It is important that you are completely honest about your situation. If you have witnessed or know about inappropriate activities taking place in your organization, it is important that you notify the following persons or offices:
- International headquarters
- Chapter/Regional advisor to the organization
- Interfraternity Council judicial officers
- Office of Student Accountability, Community Standards, & Academic Integrity
- Office of Greek Life
Universities are challenged to help Greek organizations come up with ways to combat hazing. Alongside of student leaders, University officials are working closely with the Greek organizations and their officers to educate them on the policies against hazing and alternative activities. Providing alternative programming is not the only solution to rid your organization of hazing. Replacing a questionable activity with another activity does not attack the problem completely. To deal effectively with hazing in your organization, you should make efforts to increase:
- Awareness among your members – Use case studies, surveys, news stories, international policy statements, or special national publications that discuss hazing practices to help inform members of the dangers and negative ramifications of hazing.
- Education of your members – Employ on-campus resources, such as leadership conferences, resource libraries, videos, manuals, or Vanderbilt professional staff to help educate members of your organization on ways to address and correct hazing problems.
- Detection of violations by your members – The organization can be held responsible for the hazing actions of individual members, even if the organization as a whole is not involved. It is important to look for activities and comments that may suggest a member or group of members is hazing other members.
- Corrective action – Do not overlook any hazing problems you find in your organization. It is crucial that those members who are found in violation of hazing policies be disciplined for their actions. Corrective action should be tailored to the incident, taking the severity and nature of the problem, alumni/ae involvement, environment and any other pertinent factors into consideration. Your willingness to address these problems will help if you are found responsible for hazing by your international organization or the University.