Are hazing rituals so much a part of campus culture that nothing can be done to stop it? When it happens, are the participants alone responsible or should liability fall on others? This is what you should consider if you or your child has been a victim of hazing.

How did hazing get started?

Hazing is something that has existed probably as long as exclusive clubs have existed. Hazing rituals are designed to prove someone's willingness to do whatever it takes to be part of that exclusive group, are often considered "bonding" experiences, and -- quite frankly -- are just traditions for many groups. Each generation essentially thinks, "Hey, I did it -- the new guy should also have to do it!" 

What is being done to stop it?

Hazing is so institutionalized that studies indicate 25% of hazing occurs right in plain sight on campus -- and another 25% occurs with an adult alumni present at the event. While universities give lip service to stopping hazing and claim to have a zero-tolerance approach to the problem, most students report that all that they know about their university's hazing prevention efforts is that the university claims that hazing isn't tolerated. Beyond that, they can't tell you anything that university officials have done to actually stop it.

How serious is the hazing problem?

A criminal trial -- which is expected to soon be followed by a type of personal injury claim known as a wrongful death -- is proceeding against 18 members of the Penn State chapter of Beta Theta Pi who encouraged a sophomore "pledge" at their fraternity -- which is someone hoping to ultimately pass muster (including all hazing rites) and be accepted as a fully-fledged member of the group -- to drink to excess and then did nothing to save him after he tumbled down a flight of steps. 

Although the young man was clearly injured, and surveillance equipment inside the fraternity show him repeatedly falling, folding into a fetal position, then trying to get up again only to fall some more over a series of hours, the reaction of his fellow fraternity members ranged from throwing beer on his face and tossing shoes at him to covering him up with a blanket. No one called 911 until it was apparent that he was no longer moving.

Who is responsible for hazing injuries and deaths?

Criminal responsibility has to be determined by the prosecutor. However, civil responsibility can be determined by a judge or a jury. While those directly involved in an injury or death caused by hazing clearly bear some liability, the fraternity, sorority, club or athletic organization that permitted the hazing to go on as part of its rituals may also be found liable and required to pay compensation to either the victim or his or her survivors.

In addition, if the incident took place either on campus or with the knowledge of campus authorities, the university itself may be held financially liable as well. This could hold true even if the university didn't know exactly what hazing was being done or where -- as long as it can be shown that the university had reason to know that hazing was still going on.

For more information, talk to an injury attorney today or click here to investigate further.