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Alternatives to Hazing

Adapted from IUP's Office of Student Leadership and Greek Life

Why Look for Alternatives?

Some students who haze contend that hazing results in positive outcomes for the group (e.g., increased closeness), the individuals who are hazed (e.g., personal growth from overcoming challenges), and the persons who do the hazing (e.g., pride in continuing traditions). But these positive outcomes can be achieved through non-hazing activities that avoid the negative effects that often result from hazing.

Some members of groups that haze say that one of the biggest barriers to changing their practices is that they don’t know what else to do that would accomplish their goals. On one hand, if the desired goals include making others endure the pain and degradation you went through, then there are no real alternatives. On the other hand, if the goals are to increase group unity, promote individual growth, instill positive values, and foster an identity with the group, then there are options. A program of activities aimed at replacing hazing will likely need to incorporate some level of challenge or intensity. It may also need to incorporate non-hazing mechanisms of self-governance for holding new members accountable to the expectations of the group.

What Else Could Be Done?

Below is a list of ideas that can be used as substitutes for hazing or to strengthen a non-hazing program. A few points about the list to keep in mind:

  • Some activities may seem more relevant to all-male groups than all-female groups. Similarly, some are more relevant to fraternities and sororities than other organizations.

  • Activities cannot include consumption of alcohol by new members.

  • Traditions can be created as well as inherited. While the first year of an activity doesn’t constitute a tradition, future cohorts of members will see it that way.

  • Some group activities can be non-hazing or hazing, depending on how they are done. For example, having new members do skits can be a non-hazing activity. But not if members verbally degrade the performers or throw food at them. Similarly, scavenger hunts are not inherently forms of hazing . But when the list includes things that must be stolen or would likely be humiliating or embarrassing to obtain, then it becomes hazing.

  • Having current members participate along with new members in certain activities, such as cleaning the chapter property, can shift the activity from being hazing (i.e., servitude) to non-hazing.

Community Service/Philanthropy

Require new members to perform a set amount of community service hours in support of community agencies.

Have the new members appoint leaders within their group develop a plan through Community Engagement and Multifaith Programs

Athletic/Intramural activities

Athletic competitions.

Have new members compete in basketball, volleyball, or softball against current members or other groups.

History and values exercises

Have new members learn about the history underlying values of the organization. Divide them into groups and have them prepare PowerPoint presentations about the organization. Make the presentations preparation for the work world: have current members dress formally. Invite alumni to attend.

Have new members conduct twenty-minute interviews with subsets of current members to learn about their backgrounds and beliefs. Hold new member meetings in which each new member delivers a report on his/her interviews in order to “introduce” the members who have been interviewed.

Have current members and alumni speak to current members about the values of the group and what they hope the new members will contribute and receive as part their experience.

Facility improvement

New members perform a facility clean-up with assistance from current members.

New members undertake a team renovation of a common room in the chapter (e.g., painting, carpentry, carpet installation, lighting, making curtains).

Mentoring

Set up a “big brother/big sister” mentoring program. Assign the mentor responsibility for teaching about the values of the organization and monitoring the new member’s participation and academic performance (to ensure minimal expectations are met).

Have the mentor take a new member out to dinner or to an athletic or cultural event at least three times.

Entertainment

Put on a talent show. Include categories such as karaoke singing, instrumental music, skits, impersonations, and magic tricks. Since it is not the new members’ responsibility to entertain the members, have willing members from each year participate and entertain each other.

Sharing common activities

Have new members join members for meals two to three times a week. Have new members sit by themselves and talk freely with each other. As initiation day approaches, invite them to sit with current members once a week symbolizing their gradual entry into full membership.

Hold study hours in which new members are expected to be present and studying with current members. At the end of a study period, order pizzas.

Divide new members into two teams. Give them each a box full of miscellaneous materials. Give them one hour to devise a competitive game using all of the items (only rules: everyone must plan and no one can get hurt). Have the two teams compete against each other.

Rituals

Hold formal initiation rites that have a quality of solemnity. Formal attire, candlelight, and symbolic actions (e.g., taking an oath or signing a document) may be integrated into the ritual.

Invite alumni to address the new member group as part of the initiation.

Have representatives from the new member group speak about the meaning of their experience and hopes for the future.

Accountability practices

Have each new member meet with his or her mentor weekly to review the new member’s knowledge of the group and its members.

Provide written guidelines for new members outlining the expectations of the group.

Hold new member review panels periodically in which a small group of members discusses the new member’s progress with him or her. If deficiencies or a lack of commitment is noted, the panel places the new member on probation. In serious situations, the organization determines whether or not to terminate the relationship with the new member.