Alternatives to Hazing
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.
THINGS TO CONSIDER
Before you start planning a bunch of random things to do, look over the following things to consider to ensure your activities don’t involve hazing and provide a positive experience for your group.
Positive Strategies for Achieving Group Unity
Strong group unity and a sense of individual accomplishment are important for groups throughout society to achieve. Many businesses, for example, invest considerable resources to foster effective group processes and enhance individual motivation. And they generally do so through positive, encouraging strategies that build people up rather than tearing them down.
Start with a Desire to Change
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. Your goal should not be making others endure the pain and degradation you went through. If the goals are to increase group unity, promote individual growth, instill positive values, and foster an identity with the group, then there are alternatives. 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.
Activities cannot include consumption of alcohol by new member
Honestly it is probably a good idea to not have alcohol consumed by any member of your group during an activity! Where is the unity and group growth when members are more interested in drinking than the planned activity? Group activities should be enjoyed by all members regardless of whether they are old enough to drink or not. Make your activities fun and active so everyone wants to participate and NEVER have new members consume alcohol as part of that activity, whether they are of age or not.
Today’s activity, tomorrows tradition
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 (as any day camp counselor can tell you). But when the list includes illegal activity such as stealing, 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. Remember that a “Tradition” does not lock any organization into a certain behavior. Be open to change and enhance an old activity to make it better, safer, and more enjoyable for all members.
EXAMPLES OF ACTIVITIES
Below are a few examples of some activities you can do with your group. These are just to get you started. There are plenty more activities that your group could do. Remember to keep the above points in mind while planning the activities. These activities can still be hazing if done in a way that demeans, disgraces, or embarrasses a person or endangers the mental, physical, or emotional health of the person.
Community Service & Philanthropy
- Divide the new members into two groups with current members as team leaders and conduct service or philanthropy project.
- Serve meals once a week to homeless community members or distribute food through the local food pantry.
- 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 to develop a plan with the UNC Charlotte Office of Volunteer Outreach!
Service Learning Trips
- New members and selected current members spend spring break working in a southern inner-city or rural community building a home with Habitat for Humanity. Use the first half of the spring semester to plan the trip and learn about the community you will be serving. Have current members with construction skills conduct workshops for new members to enhance their abilities.
- Work with UNC Charlotte Leadership & Community Engagement to explore service learning opportunities.
- 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 mentors take new members out to dinner or to an athletic or cultural event at least three times.
- 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.
- Have a Super Bowl viewing with wings at your favorite wing place!
- Hold a movie night for members in the Student Union Theater.
Share Common Activities
- Have new members join members for meals 2-3 times a week. Set a schedule to either do large group meals or maybe smaller 1:1 meals with a new and old group member.
- Have new members sit comfortably in a circle for two hours in a dark room with only a single candle for light in the center of the circle. Provide the group with discussion questions that they are expected to talk about. Remind them that participation is by choice. Start with non-threatening questions or incomplete statements (e.g., “If I had a billion dollars, I would . . .”) and end with more probing ones (e.g., “I’m afraid that . . . ” or “If I could live my life over I would . . . ” Option: have each member write a question on a card and put it in a question box. Select one question at a time and discuss it.
- 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 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.
- 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 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 member on probation. *For serious concerns, the organization determines whether or not to terminate the relationship with the member.
- Have members compete in basketball, volleyball or softball against other members or other groups.
- Have members compete against each other in bowling at a local alley (catch: everyone must use the opposite of their dominant hand).
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 20 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 of their experience.