RefinED Character is an educational consulting company specializing in social emotional development for preK-12 and collegiate communities.


Hazing Conversations- Lead Through Questioning

Posted by Scott Heydt on Tuesday, February 25, 2014 Under: Hazing

RefinED Friends,

Within the past few weeks, even more information has emerged regarding the tragic death of Michael Deng at Baruch College in New York.
  This nineteen-year-old young man died at the hands of his future “brothers” after being subjected to excessive physical abuse.  The case has been ruled a homicide, and it is likely the young men involved will feel the legal, emotional, and public consequences for years to come.

Incidents like these clearly match the hazing definition.  Young men and women whose practices cause death or serious injury have little to no retort when questioned about their intentions.

When hazing isn’t this overt, men and women perpetrators will argue that hazing involves a “gray area.”  If practices aren’t listed in a lengthy organization or University definition, or if the perpetrators see it as “harmless fun” or “tradition”, some will argue the supposed gray area.  They’ll rely on sweeping generalizations such as, “No one has been hurt” or “I remember what it taught me when I went through it.”

The reality is gray area debates are natural human reactions when someone is faced with an immediate statement that his/her actions are wrong.  You tell me I’m wrong, I’ll convince you I’m right.  Tell me there’s a hard, fast definition; I’ll find holes in that argument. 

We must inject logic and questioning into the anti-hazing dialogue if we seek lasting change. Sure, we can preach hazing’s many dangers, create comprehensive definitions, and communicate its illegality until we’re blue in the face. Please do not misunderstand, these elements are important in their own ways, but they cannot begin and end the conversation.

Instead, lead through questioning. Allow the individual to reach the realization that hazing does not align with his/her personal or organizational values.  And, if the individual cannot reach that realization through self-analysis, then the choice is made, and you as coach, advisor, etc. ratify that choice by ending his/her tenure within the organization or invoking other logical consequences. 

I have found the following questions most successful when discussing hazing with an individual.  My job is not to judge but rather to listen. With these questions as a foundation, I can spur tangential questions to better understand and clarify. 


  •  Does this practice have educational value?  What are you trying to teach through this practice?
  •  Would you feel physically and emotionally safe participating?
  •  Is the organizational membership participating in the same capacity (or is it something in which the entire membership would participate in the same capacity)?
  •  Does it align with the organization’s stated values?
  •  Is it a practice the organization would publicly post on its website?
  •  Is it something to which you’d be willing to invite your entire family (grandparents, parents, cousins, nieces, nephews, etc.)?


Finally, the work is incomplete if we help point out discrepancies but don’t provide guidance about how to reconcile those discrepancies.  If a practice I thought built trust doesn’t align with my organization’s values, what practice that builds trust will?  If freshmen don’t learn responsibility by carrying the water, how do we teach responsibility effectively?

I invite you to join the dialogue.  What questions do you find most effective?  What approach may spark lasting change?  Me, I’m here to listen.


In : Hazing 

Tags: hazing "baruch college" "michael deng" tradition questioning logic teams fraternities sororities organizations "gray area" values "refined character" "scott heydt"