Whether you’ve joined a sports team or a fraternity/sorority, hazing is part of the initiation process. Although it is generally considered harmless fun in order to help build camaraderie, hazing that gets out of hand typically leads to death or serious bodily harm.
The following are three main forms of hazing:
- Subtle hazing – This type of hazing refers to activities that are considered “harmless,” “meaningless,” or taken for granted, but neglect mutual respect and lead to embarrassment and ridicule. Common examples include requiring new members to greet each member in a specific way, carry certain items for older members, or otherwise perform certain tasks for the benefit of older members.
- Harassment hazing – This type of hazing causes stress and confuses new members, resulting in physical discomfort and/or emotional anguish. Common examples include yelling or screaming, intimidation and interrogation, wearing embarrassing apparel, being forced to pull pranks, or being dropped off in a specific location and forced to find a way back.
- Violent hazing – This type of hazing results in physical, psychological, and emotional injury. Common examples include forced consumption of alcohol or liquids, forced sexual activity, complete or partial nudity, “paddling” or whipping, branding, or kidnapping.
According to Wisconsin law, it is illegal to intentionally and recklessly endanger a student’s wellbeing to initiate them into an organization. In addition, just because a student consents to hazing, doesn’t make it legal.
If hazing leads or is likely to lead in injury, it is a Class A misdemeanor, which is punishable by a jail sentence of up to nine months and/or a maximum $10,000 fine. If hazing results in great bodily injury, it is a Class H felony, which carries a maximum three-year prison term and/or a fine not exceeding $10,000. If hazing causes someone’s death, it is a Class G felony, which results in a maximum 10-year prison term and a fine no more than $25,000.
Merely being accused of hazing can result in significant damage to your personal life and professional reputation. You could get suspended or expelled from school, lose your job, or be shunned by the entire community—all before a conclusion of the case is reached.