The Litigation Landscape of Fraternity and Sorority Hazing: Criminal and Civil Liability
Hazing—“the act of placing another person in a ridiculous, humiliating, or disconcerting position as part of an initiation process”—has caused injury and death. Some of the benefits asserted by those who participate in hazing are that the practice “creates deep and long-lasting bonds among those who endure it, instills the values of the group in new members, builds character, demonstrates commitment to the group, forges a connection with all members who had previously endured the experience, and inspires the respect of one’s peers.” Yet numerous lawsuits against individuals, fraternal organizations, and educational institutions have prompted legislatures to pass hazing laws that augment and enhance general criminal laws. The argument for these laws emphasizes that the “benefits of specialized hazing laws purportedly include the removal of procedural hurdles that have impeded prosecuting hazing injuries and increased awareness of the dangers of hazing.” However, the first hazing statute in America was not crafted with the goal of punishing hazing conduct of Greekletter organization members. Rather, “[t]he first hazing statute in America appeared in 1874 in response to hazing in the military” and the “perceived attitude toward hazing by midshipmen.” It was long believed that the best way to eradicate conceit or “freshness” among new military initiates was through personal humiliation, leading to “plebe bedevilment” and torment. In response, Congress enacted a federal law in 1874 criminalizing this type of hazing in military units, whether or not the acts resulted in actual harm. In this Article, we offer an overview of the current hazing litigation landscape and what the future might look like in this area.
Gregory S. Parks and Elizabeth Grindell,
The Litigation Landscape of Fraternity and Sorority Hazing: Criminal and Civil Liability,
99 Neb. L. Rev. 649
Available at: https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/nlr/vol99/iss3/4