Hazing: Information and Reporting
Hazing is a serious public health problem that is rooted in the perpetuation of power dynamics, and causes emotional and physical harm. Hazing impacts students at WashU and nationwide. As members of the WashU community, we have responsibility to uphold the values of our organizations, which 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 a group should never involve:
- intentional sleep deprivation
- eating or drinking gross stuff
- acts of extreme physical exertion
- activities done against one’s will or choice
- making one socially isolated from the group
- acts of servitude
- being pressured to consume alcohol
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.
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:
(a) 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
(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
(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
- A person commits the crime of hazing if he knowingly participates in or causes hazing, as it is defined in section 578.360.
- 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.
- Nothing in sections 578.360 to 578.365 shall he interpreted as creating a new private cause of action against any educational institution.
- 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.