Public Health Approach

Preventing hazing requires a comprehensive approach involving multiple strategies.

Cornell University takes a campus-wide, public health approach to preventing hazing, which includes seven key areas.

  • Students, staff, faculty, alumni, parents, and community members each have a role to play.
  • Effective prevention requires understanding the complex factors that contribute to hazing.

The framework

 hazing-framework-fact-sheet.jpg

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Each of the links below corresponds to a "slice" of the wheel diagram shown on the above fact sheet.
[Click the links to learn about specific strategies within the comprehensive public health approach ...]

Leadership Initiatives and Culture Change Strategies

Hazing is often deeply ingrained in the culture of a group. It is perpetuated by a system in which one year’s victims become the following year’s perpetrators. The culture of individual groups are part of a broader campus and societal environment that can contribute to the passing of hazing practices from one generation to the next. Therefore, strong leadership is needed at the all levels in order to break the cycle of hazing.

  • Students can speak out against hazing and affirm that hazing is unnecessary and unacceptable.
  • Alumni from groups that have hazed in the past can help change the culture of their organization by acknowledging that the hazing they engaged in was wrong and that they want to the current members to reject what they inherited from them.
  • Administrators, staff, coaches, and faculty can challenge students and alumni to change the culture that gives rise to hazing. In 2011, following the hazing death of Sigma Alpha Epsilon brother George DesDunes, then Cornell President David J. Skorton wrote an op-ed in the New York Times in which he stated the following:

"We must end the current system of pledging, often perpetuated through traditions handed down over generations, because it fosters hazing and other activities based on humiliation or risky behavior that often pose psychological harm and immediate physical danger to those involved."

Educational initiatives

Education about hazing is important, though it is necessary to provide it in conjunction with the other elements of a comprehensive approach. Education by itself is generally not effective in changing hazing behaviors.

Hazing education addresses multiple dimensions of the issue.

Take time to learn …

While hazing education is important for members of organizations and teams, it is also vital for other members of the campus and community since anyone may be in a position to recognize and respond when hazing occurs. 

For more information or to request an educational program on hazing, contact the Skorton Center for Health Initiatives at Cornell Health.

Healthy Group-Building Activities

Traditions, rituals, and activities that promote group solidarity are important parts of the culture of many organizations and teams. These traditions and activities are often rooted in a desire to share a common experience that fosters unity and a sense of belonging.

Hazing may be motivated in part by the desire for cohesion and commitment among members. While shared coping may increase solidarity among those who endure hazing together, it can also elicit resentment and anger toward the perpetrators, which undermines group cohesion.

Hazing is simply unnecessary to meet the goals of solidarity and group commitment. There are countless organizations and teams that achieve their aims without hazing. In the workforce, employers engage in a wide range of group-building activities that do not involve hazing. 

Confidential Reporting Options

Individuals who have been hazed and bystanders who are aware of the hazing (e.g., friends, roommates, parents) have clear and simple mechanisms for submitting reports of hazing to university officials.

Consistent Enforcement & Sanctions

Groups that haze can be deterred by the potential for negative consequences of their actions. Therefore, consistent enforcement and firm sanctions are an essential part of hazing prevention.The list of hazing violations on this site includes a description of the sanctions employed in each case.

Support for Victims

Hazing can significantly impact the emotional and/or physical health and well-being of those who are subjected to it. Cornell provides support for students who are affected by hazing. Students who are unsure whether to make an official report to university officials can confidentially explore their concerns with the university Victim Advocate or health care providers at Cornell Health.

When a student chooses to submit a report of hazing to the university, the officials who receive the report can assist the student in navigating the reporting process and identifying any needs for support.

Public Reporting of Violations & Sanctions

Since hazing is perpetuated in part by secrecy and a lack of awareness of the history of hazing within organizations, public disclosure of hazing violations is vital. This website increases public awareness and accountability of groups by including a list of hazing violations by Cornell organizations and teams. 

More information