Amherst College encourages student participation in athletics and student organizations. Such involvement enriches the College experience and can contribute significantly to the social and leadership development of Amherst College students. Antithetical to that experience and to the mission of the College is the practice of hazing, which is a violation of College policy and may also be a violation of state law.
Students, faculty, staff, and family and guardians of students should acquaint themselves with the information and links in this section so that they may identify possible occurrences of hazing and understand consequences of such behavior. If you suspect that someone is being hazed, you are encouraged to contact the Office of Student Affairs (413-542-2337).
Amherst College defines hazing more broadly than Massachusetts General Law to include any activity that is part of an initiation or admission into a group or is required for continued acceptance in a group and that encompasses one or more of the following:
- physically or psychologically embarrasses, demeans, degrades, abuses, or endangers someone regardless of that person’s willingness to participate;
- categorizes members of the group based upon seniority or standing or otherwise emphasizes the relative power imbalance of newer members;
- involves the consumption of alcohol, drugs, or other substances;
- removes, damages or destroys property;
- results in the disruption of College or community activities, the educational process, or the impairment of academic performance; and/or
- violates a College policy and/or a state law.
This definition pertains to behavior on or off campus and applies whether or not the participants or others perceive the behavior as “voluntary.” The implied or expressed consent of any person toward whom an act of hazing is directed does not relieve any individual, team, or organization from responsibility for their actions nor does the assertion that the conduct or activity was not part of an official organizational or team event or was not officially sanctioned or approved by the organization or team.
Longstanding team or organizational traditions that are carried over from year-to-year sometimes constitute hazing. Discontinuing inappropriate traditions can be especially difficult because of pressure from within the group or from alumni. Such pressure, however, is not an excuse for unacceptable behavior; the College expects students to adhere to College policy and state law.
Some incidents of hazing are more serious than others. Generally, the greater the actual or potential physical or psychological harm, the more severe the hazing. Hazing incidents typically involve the planners and organizers, bystanders (those who participate but were not hazed or involved in the planning or organizing), and victims (those who were hazed). All involved are responsible for their behavior, but consequences will typically differ based on the seriousness of the incident and one’s level of responsibility, planning, or participation.
Violation of the hazing policy may subject an individual, recognized organization, and/or team to adjudication by the College through the Conflict Resolution Process, with penalties up to and including suspension or expulsion for individuals and revocation of organizational recognition and funding or forfeiture of a season or disbandment in the case of a student organization or team. See Chapter II, Conflict Resolution Processes, for additional information.
5.3. Examples of Hazing
No policy can address, in specific fashion, all possible activities or situations that may constitute hazing. The determination of whether a particular activity constitutes hazing will depend on the circumstances and context in which that activity is occurring and that determination will be made by the Office of Student Affairs.
Examples of mild to more severe hazing include, but are not limited to, any of the following activities that are part of an initiation or admission into a group or required for continued acceptance in a group:
- physical or verbal abuse of any kind or implied threats of physical or verbal abuse;
- branding or other body markings;
- encouraging or requiring a person to consume alcohol, drugs, unusual substances or concoctions;
- encouraging or forcing a person to violate Massachusetts law or College policy such as total or partial nudity in public, theft, or trespassing;
- confining a person or taking a person to an outlying area and dropping that person off;
- servitude such as encouraging or requiring a person to run personal errands, cook, clean, etc.;
- requiring a shaved head or other haircut;
- stunt or skit nights with degrading, crude, or humiliating games or acts;
- “mind games” or creating real or perceived psychological uneasiness or harm;
- encouraging or requiring public stunts or buffoonery;
- encouraging or requiring the wearing or carrying of apparel or items likely to subject the wearer to embarrassment, ridicule, or harm;
- encouraging or requiring members to participate in inappropriate scavenger hunts or road trips;
- depriving a person of sleep;
- expecting certain items to always be in one’s possession; and
- requiring new members/rookies to perform duties not assigned to other members. Note: duties like carrying water to practice can be a first-year responsibility if other team members have similar responsibilities or all responsibilities are rotated among team members.
Note: Hazing does not include actions or situations that are subsidiary to officially sanctioned and supervised College activities such as athletic training and events, e.g. running extra laps at practice.
All Amherst students have access to a variety of resources provided by the College that provide crisis intervention services, counseling, academic support and medical services.