Hazing is any activity of a physical or psychological nature that is degrading or humiliating to another person. Groups of individuals or individuals acting on behalf of a club, group, organization, or team sometimes use hazing as a way of initiating a person into their respective group. Hazing does not encourage respect for others and is unacceptable and prohibited by Whitman College. Oftentimes, perpetrators of hazing activities justify their actions under the auspices of teambuilding; teambuilding supports and respects individual members within a group, hazing does not.

To determine whether an activity constitutes hazing, use the following questions as a guide:  

  • Is this activity unrelated to the educational goals of the team, club, group, or organization?
  • Will active or current members of the group refuse to participate with the new members and do exactly what the new members are being asked to do?
  • Does the activity risk emotional or physical abuse?
  • Is this activity a prerequisite for membership on your team or in your organization?
  • Is there risk of injury or a question of safety?
  • Is alcohol used inappropriately?
  • Do you have any reservation describing the activity to your parents, to a professor, or a college official?
  • Would you have reservations about the College newspaper, the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin, or a local television news crew displaying images, stories, or a video stream about your activity?

If the answer to any of the above questions is yes, the activity likely constitutes hazing. Even if there is no malicious intent, safety might still be a factor in traditional initiation activities that upperclassmen consider all in good fun. The College strongly encourages campus groups, organizations, clubs, or teams to review the appropriateness of all activities (planned or otherwise) with their respective sponsor, adviser, or coach. This is particularly important for group leaders who organize activities outside of their sponsor’s, adviser’s, or coach’s normal purview.

In states that have laws against hazing, such as the State of Washington, the defendant(s) cannot use consent of the victim as a defense in a civil suit.

Consent is not a defense because a participant’s agreement to participate in a potentially hazardous activity may not be true consent when considering peer pressure and the desire to be part of a group.

The following behaviors and activities would constitute hazing on this campus. It is important to note that social pressure can constitute forced or requisite participation, even if the organizers claim that the activity is voluntary.

  • Actions that recklessly or intentionally endanger the physical and mental health or safety of students.
  • Forced, coerced, or required consumption of any food, liquor, drug, beverage, water, or any other substance.
  • Forced, coerced, or required participation in physical activities, such as calisthenics, exercises, or so-called games.
  • Forced or required conduct that could embarrass or adversely affect the dignity of the individual, including the performance of public stunts and activities.
  • Forced exposure to the weather.
  • Excessive fatigue resulting from sleep deprivation, physical activities, or exercise.
  • Assignment of activities that would be illegal or unlawful, or might be morally offensive to new members.
  • Physical brutality, including paddling; striking with fists, open hands, or objects; and branding.
  • Kidnapping against a person’s will, and forced transportation or stranding of individuals.
  • Verbal abuse, including “line-ups” and berating of individuals.
  • Forced or required clean-up work or labor created for new members.
  • Denial of sufficient time to study.
  • Forced or required nudity or lewd behavior.

It is important to note that current or former students participating with new or prospective group members in any of the above activities can still constitute hazing. New and returning members should also be aware that according to federal hazing laws, not only can the individuals involved in the act of hazing lose all financial aid, but the person they haze also can lose all financial aid, regardless of consent or voluntary participation.

The College will pursue disciplinary action in all cases of suspected hazing. The College considers disciplinary action at the college level to be independent from other court proceedings, and action may be instituted against a student also charged in civil or criminal courts based on the same facts that constitute the alleged violation of the Code of Conduct. For more information on hazing, visit the Dean of Students Office or www.hazingprevention.org.