Princeton is committed to protecting the wellbeing and safety of those who wish to join a student organization, team, or club. Hazing is a real problem that may cause long-term physical and psychological effects. This guide is meant as a resource to help you understand Princeton’s prohibition on hazing in the context of your student organization.
According to Rights, Rules, Responsibilities and NJ State Law:
- Any student shall have the right to be free of all activities which might constitute hazing, while attempting to become a member of a fraternity, sorority, athletic team, student organization, eating club, or other campus organization. Organizations, their members, and their prospective members are prohibited from engaging in or encouraging others to engage in activities that are defined as hazing.
- A broad range of behaviors that may place another person in danger of bodily injury or behavior that demonstrates indifference or disregard for another person's dignity or well-being may be classified as hazing.
As a student leader in your organization, it is your responsibility to think critically about Princeton’s hazing policy as it applies to your current and future initiation or recruitment practices. You are encouraged to familiarize yourself with, and make use of, the resources in this guide.
Is your team or group engaging in new member activities that are acceptable and allowable under Princeton policy, and the law?
Consider these questions:
- Is the activity meant to be a secret, or kept from outsiders?
If the answer is yes…secrecy often surrounds hazing.
- Is there an expectation or pressure that every new member must perform or participate?
If the answer is yes…even if a member consents to the activity, it may still be hazing. This is especially true if there is a pressure to prove that you are worthy to join the group by participating, or an unspoken understanding that if you don’t participate, you won’t get in or be accepted.
- Would I feel comfortable telling my parents, my coach, or the president of the university about this activity?
If the answer is no…why is this the case?
- Is the activity referred to as “tradition?”
If the answer is yes…sometimes, but not always, a common excuse for hazing is that the practice is “tradition” or integral to the club or organization’s culture. Rethink: what values are you really promoting with this activity? What values do you want to promote on your team/club?
- Are specific individuals singled out?
If the answer is yes…hazing often involves making individuals feel uncomfortable through criticism or ridicule in the name of “testing” or “character-building.”
- Would you feel comfortable explaining this activity to a future employer?
If the answer is no…why not?
- Will this activity promote friendships and break the ice between old and new members?
If the answer is no…hazing often places older members in a place of dominance and new or prospective members in a place of submission. This can lead to a power dynamic that more easily creates an environment of harm.
- Does the activity meet the standards outlined in Rights, Rules, and Responsibilities?
If the answer is no…stop doing it. The Committee on Discipline has suspended students for organizing and/or participating in hazing activities.
- Would older members of the group refuse to participate in this activity?
If the answer is yes…this is often a sign of hazing.
- Is the activity meant to be a secret, or kept from outsiders?
All of the following activities violate Princeton’s policy against hazing and may be crimes in the State of New Jersey. If your organization practices any of these activities, rethink the risk that you’re taking. Is it really worth it the potential harm to you or your peers?
The following are taken from the Stop Hazing organization (www.stophazing.org):
- Forced or coerced consumption of alcohol
- Being yelled at or cursed at by other members of the team or group
- Sleep deprivation
- Ingestion of vile substances
- Simulate or imitate sex acts
- Associate with certain people and not others
- Forced or coerced shaving of heads or other body parts
- Personal servitude (making someone do your chores)
- Inflict violence on someone
- Be whipped, kicked, or beaten
- Perform sex acts
- Public nudity
- Make prank phone calls or harass others
- Wear embarrassing clothing
- Deprive self of regular hygiene practices (e.g., brushing teeth, bathing/showering)
- Destroy or steal property
- Cheat or help others cheat on an exam
- “Drop-offs” or “dumps” in unfamiliar locations
- Lock-ups or being confined to small spaces
- Physical restraints
Examples of prohibited activities that students have experienced at Princeton:
- Requirements that new members must change their schedule in a way that keeps them from functioning according to their normal schedule academically, socially, etc. (For example: A prospective member must sleep in an older member’s dorm for three weeks on end. )
- “Spotlighting:” the practice of subjecting prospective new members to isolation under a spotlight where they are asked embarrassing and highly personal questions, or any variation of this practice
- Addressing prospective members in demeaning terms
- Forcing or pressuring a prospective member to demean another prospective member.
How well do your current initiation or recruitment activities promote the following?
1= not at all, 5 =very well
New and prospective members understand the history and values of our club, team, or organization.
1 2 3 4 5
Our prospective members feel reasonably comfortable talking with older members and are excited about formal membership.
1 2 3 4 5
Our current recruitment activities are a true taste of what it’s like to be in this club, team, or organization for older members.
1 2 3 4 5
Our new member activities do not unduly take away from the members’ participation in academics, sports, or other activities. In fact, new members are encouraged to maintain a healthy balance and lifestyle, even during recruitment.
1 2 3 4 5
Based on our initiation activities, an outsider could say that our older members are genuinely concerned with the fun, safety, and physical and psychological well-being of prospective members.
1 2 3 4 5
I would feel comfortable if an administrator such as President Eisgruber sat in on our activities for prospective members.
1 2 3 4 5
Based on this activity…
List two parts of your new member practices that you want to continue:
Why do you want to continue them?
List two parts of your new member practices that you think you should change or do better:
Is there anything that has to stop?
Some of the following ideas are suggestions for bonding as an organization, while some are suggestions for activities with prospective members during a recruitment process.
- Do a ropes course or another teambuilding activity (Campus Rec or Outdoor Action, among others, offer many options)
- Have prospective members perform skits
- Have a members camping trip or retreat
- Have a dinner/movie night
- Have new members do a ‘lock in’ in which they have to work together to accomplish a scavenger hunt/challenge
- Play charades or reverse charades with prospective members
- Visit the climbing wall as a group
- Have a ping pong or ‘water pong’ tournament
- Have a costume night and judge who has the best costume
- Play jeopardy
- Zumba or another dancing activity
- Rock/paper/scissors tournament
- Arm wrestling tournament
- Have prospective members go on a members scavenger hunt (ex: “The senior who can ride a unicycle has the first clue”)
- Play pool together
- Group fitness session (make it a competition among volunteers—who wants to compete to see who can do the most push-ups?)
- Play lawn games (ex: cornhole/bags) or even indoor versions of lawn games, depending on the weather
- Dedicate part of a day for new members to help repair, clean, or fix up the organization’s equipment, house, room, etc.
- Do a new member Olympics
- Assign Bigs and Littles and have Littles shadow Bigs for an evening or weekend.
- Do a ‘secret buddy’ gift exchange
- Ask prospective members to tell jokes or stories to get to know them better
- Have prospective or new members brainstorm ideas for community service projects.
- Go for a group kayaking trip on the canal
- Invite an alumnus to talk about the history of the organization
- For prospective members, do ice breakers such as 10-word stories (if you had to tell your life story in ten words or less, what would it be?), or two truths and a lie (I’m going to tell you three facts about myself—two are truths and one is a lie. Can you guess the lie?)
- Have prospective members suggest theme nights for social events throughout the year. See who can come up with the best idea.
- Have new members plan a group barbecue or surprise party for older members.
- Host a poker night
- Have prospective members speak about their favorite experience so far with the organization, club, or team
- Ask prospective members to make up a song or jingle about themselves
- Have a board game night or a board game competition
- Have a video game tournament with a popular game
- Have a candlelight or “pass the torch ceremony” about what the team/group means to each person, or why prospective members want to join
- Throw a new member picnic
- “Speed dating:” Arrange two circles: prospective members on the outside and new members on the inside, facing each other. Have a facilitator give a topic of conversation or ask a question. Have each person answer for a minute or two, then move on to a new partner and a new question.
- Throw a bonfire (following allowable guidelines)
- Go for a group hike
- Depending on the weather, have a water balloon or water games event.
- Have new members plan a social event with another team, organization, or group.
- Have a lip sync competition among prospective members
- Go on a new member fishing trip
- Play paintball or go bowling
- Have a senior member/ new members dinner or lunch
- Have an alumni mixer
- Have new members or prospective members plan a tailgate at an athletic event, especially if older members are on a team
- Go ice skating as a group
- Go see a play or performance
- ‘Lava ball:’ Have a group of new/prospective members stand in one room with a beach ball and designate an amount of time. They can’t allow the ball to touch the ground for that entire time. See which group can do this for the designated amount of time, or just see who can keep the ball in the air for the longest.
- Have ‘study nights’ throughout the week; reserve space in a library for your group to do academic work together. Have members rotate for providing snacks.
- Go to a local Princeton-area restaurant together
- Go to Terhune Orchards
- Have new members plan a creative fundraiser to help cover the costs of their group/initiation dues, or for an activities fund.
- Throw a “garden party” in the garden by Forbes.
- Have career or resume-writing workshops for juniors and seniors
- Host a cooking class
- Ask prospective/new members to arrange themselves in a line alphabetically, based on birthday, height, etc. Then, have each person introduce themselves. To step it up a notch, once they complete the task, ask participants to do this blindfolded, if they feel comfortable and up for the challenge.
- Have new members do trust falls (while older members catch)
- Have new members cook a meal together, then eat it together with older members.
- Have a talent competition among prospective members.
- ‘DJ:’ Have a social event where each prospective and current member plays their favorite song, or a couple favorite songs, to get to know people’s taste in music. If the same song is played twice, make sure the two ‘DJ’s meet.
- Have a silly string party (make sure you let people know in advance to wear appropriate clothes, and clean up after yourselves)
- Ask each prospective member to bring an object that represents their culture, history, or story, then mingle and share the significance with an older member.
- Have prospective members perform relay races with different challenges (leap frog, etc)
Be creative. Use your intelligence not only to brainstorm activities that are fun and safe for new or prospective members, but to also think about the unique culture and aspects of your club, organization, or team that are central to your mission.
What makes your organization special? How can you convey that to new or prospective members? How can you make your organization attractive to prospective members?
Be on the same page: Make sure that all the current members of your club or team debrief before a recruitment or initiation process together. Everyone should be aware of the expectations, goals, and even timetables for the process.
What do we really want to know about prospective members? Do our activities accomplish this? What are the characteristics we value in a potential member of our club or team? How can we gear our activities towards identifying or developing these values in prospective or new members?
What are the assets of your group, and how can you use them to your advantage? Does your group or organization have a big meeting space? If you do, use that asset strategically, especially in a recruitment process. For example, use space creatively to make an environment where current members can get to know initiates on multiple levels. Consider using one room for more athletic-based activities or music/dance, using one room for louder activities like “speed dating,” or other games, and using another room for quieter conversation and opportunities to get to know prospective members on a deeper level. Consider bringing in prospective members in groups of 2-4 to talk with them in this quieter space, as older members rotate in and out.
What are the assets of my organization in terms of space, time, or money? How can we budget for team or initiation activities? How can we prioritize our activities based on the most important values of our organization? How can we creatively use the assets that we have and “play to our strengths?”
Remember…There are real consequences for hazing, and ignorance is not an excuse. Make sure you are aware of what is or isn’t acceptable. If that means running potential activities by your organization's staff advisor to make sure it’s okay, or further clarifying the hazing policy, take that step. It is always better to ask.