Hazing: Information and Reporting

Hazing is a serious public health problem impacting students at WashU and nationwide. Rooted in the perpetuation of power dynamics, it causes emotional and physical harm. As members of the WashU community, we have a responsibility to uphold the values of our organizations, and this includes taking an unequivocal stand against hazing.

Washington University in St. Louis’ Hazing Policy

Any activity organized by a student organization, or members of a student organization at Washington University in St. Louis, which involves a member in practices which are injurious, or potentially injurious to an individual’s physical, emotional, or psychological well-being (as determined at the sole discretion of the university) is prohibited and shall be immediate cause for disciplinary action.

It shall not matter whether such practices were mandatory, or voluntarily entered into by any of the student organization members in question, including new and initiated members.

Missouri Law also makes it illegal to participate in or cause acts of hazing. Hazing is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by fines up to $1,000, imprisonment of up to one year, or both. However, if the hazing “creates a substantial risk to the life of the student or perspective member,” the act is a Class C felony punishable by fines up to $5,000, imprisonment of up to seven years, or both. Under Missouri Law, consent is not a defense for hazing.

Examples of Hazing

Joining or being a member in a group should never involve:

  • Intentional sleep deprivation
  • Not being allowed to eat, groom or take care of oneself
  • Acts of physical exertion
  • Activities done against one’s will or choice
  • Social isolation
  • Acts of servitude
  • Pressure to consume anything including but not limited to alcohol; drugs; any type of beverage, food, or non-food/non-beverage items
  • Having to witness or participate in indecent exposure
  • Not being able to devote time to academics and other activities

Context is important

While some behaviors constitute hazing regardless of context (e.g., paddling, being pressured to consume alcohol), others depend on the circumstances. For example, members of an athletic team performing normal calisthenics as part of conditioning would not be hazing, but requiring new members of a non-athletic student organization to do push-ups would constitute hazing.

If you are unsure if what you are observing is hazing, ask yourself:

  • Would you photograph or videotape the activity and be proud to share it with others?
  • Does the activity involve alcohol or drug consumption that subjects members to risk of harm to self or others?
  • Does the activity promote and abide by the ideals and values of your organization?
  • Are individuals being asked to engage in an activity in which active, or returning, members will not participate?
  • Would you be able to defend the merits of this activity in a court of law or University conduct process?
  • Will the activity enhance members’ satisfaction in the organization? Or will they feel confused, ashamed or uncertain about why they participated in this event?
  • Does this activity meet both the spirit and the letter of the standards prohibiting hazing?
  • Are individuals being pressured to participate in events such as a “case race,” “power hour,” or “century club”?

If you have to ask whether or not it is hazing, it probably is.

Hazing can result in sanctions against organizations and individuals that range from educational interventions to suspension or expulsion.

The State of Missouri’s Anti-Hazing Law

§ 578.360. Definitions

As used in sections 578.360 to 578.365, unless the context clearly requires otherwise, the following terms mean:

  1. “Educational institution”, a public or private college or university;
  2. “Hazing”, a willful act, occurring on or off the campus of an educational institution, directed against a student or a prospective member of an organization operating under the sanction of an educational institution, that recklessly endangers the mental or physical health or safety of a student or prospective member for the purpose of initiation or admission into or continued membership in any such organization to the extent that such person is knowingly placed at probable risk of the loss of life or probable bodily or psychological harm. Acts of hazing shall include:
    1. Any activity which recklessly endangers the physical health or safety of the student or prospective member, including but not limited to physical brutality, whipping, beating, branding, exposure to the elements, forced consumption of any food, liquor, drug or other substance or forced smoking or chewing of tobacco products; or
    2. (b) Any activity which recklessly endangers the mental health of the student or prospective member, including but not limited to sleep deprivation, physical confinement, or other extreme stress-inducing activity; or
    3. (c) Any activity that requires the student or prospective member to perform a duty or task which involves a violation of the criminal laws of this state or any political subdivision in this state.

§ 578.363. Colleges and universities to have written policy prohibiting hazing

Each educational institution in this state shall adopt a written policy prohibiting hazing by any organization operating under the sanction of the institution.

§ 578.365. Hazing–consent not a defense–penalties

  1. A person commits the crime of hazing if he knowingly participates in or causes hazing, as it is defined in section 578.360.
  2. Hazing is a class A misdemeanor, unless the act creates a substantial risk to the life of the student or prospective member, in which case it is a class C felony.
  3. Nothing in sections 578.360 to 578.365 shall he interpreted as creating a new private cause of action against any educational institution.
  4. Consent is not a defense to hazing. Section 565.080 does not apply to hazing cases or to homicide cases arising out of hazing activity.

If you or someone you know has been impacted by hazing at WashU

Report Hazing through the Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards’ Student Conduct Incident Report form.