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College Hazing: Risk For Personal Injury Or Death


With the recent Penn State hazing case in the news, it’s worth revisiting the topic of college hazing, its potential consequences to victims, and the legal implications for those who choose to participate in this all-too-dangerous activity. Certainly, if you have been the object of hazing acts that have caused significant personal injury, an attorney experienced in such matters could be invaluable.

What Constitutes Hazing?

Hazing occurs in secondary schools and colleges across the United States, and involves both males and females. It is commonly associated with sports teams, cheer teams, Greek life and other campus clubs. Studies indicate that over 50 percent of student involved in campus clubs have experienced this common rite, despite known dangers associated with the practice. It often involves ridicule, degradation or embarrassment, and risks both emotional and physical wellness. Although hazing incidents differ in specifics, the general components include these key factors:

  • It generally is viewed as a rite of passage, initiation, or tradition;
  • There is a clear power differential between the people in charge doing the hazing and the individual(s) who wish to gain membership to a particular group;
  • Those being hazed are often willing participants.

Dangers of Hazing

Although many groups believe the hazing process is a way to build unity and camaraderie, just the opposite is true. Many of these practices have serious consequences:

  • Over 80 percent of hazing fatalities involve alcohol consumption;
  • Physical injuries due to extreme behaviors are not uncommon;
  • Hazers frequently crave power and control;
  • Hazing has been found to thwart academic achievement;
  • Self-esteem is frequently impaired as a result of humiliating practices;
  • Animosity, fear and resentment may overwhelm individuals who are hazed;

The Ultimate Consequence: Penn State Hazing Results in Death

Cordell Davis was pledging one of the many Greek organizations on campus, looking for a community of “brothers” with whom to enjoy his college years. But after consuming serious amounts of alcohol and experiencing multiple falls, the young man met his untimely death. The 18 fraternity boys who participated in the event are being formally charged due to their contributions to the situation. Grand jury findings were clear: a permissive environment contributed to an atmosphere where young people recurrently behaved in a manner that displayed a reckless disregard for human life.

Florida Hazing Laws

Florida law requires that any public educational institution whose students are eligible for state assistance must have a clear anti-hazing policy. Rules and penalties must be on the books outlining consequences for any individual or group involved in hazing others. In addition to fines, probation, suspension and dismissal are all possible punishments for individuals. Organizations that sanction hazing activities may be barred from campus altogether as well.

Beyond campus policies, the law allows for misdemeanor and/or felony charges against hazers when appropriate.

Response to Hazing

If you or a loved one has suffered personal injury due to hazing activities, the fact that you consented to the hazing does not impact your legal claim to reparations. Our compassionate, but an aggressive personal legal team will fight for justice on your behalf. Contact the Law Offices of Robert W. Elton today in Daytona & Ormond Beach for a confidential, no cost consultation.