Hazing at the University of Michigan in 1907. Photo via VasenkaPhotography, Flickr CC.
Hazing at the University of Michigan in 1907. Photo via VasenkaPhotography, Flickr CC.

Hazing has been in the news a lot recently. It exists across a variety of settings, including sports and the military.

Why does hazing occur? Some research discusses the function of hazing as rites of passage or as an expression of group solidarity. Hazing can bring members together, validate one another in the group’s eyes, symbolize transition into group membership, bolster group cohesion, and create group conformity within particular hierarchies.
Research on insider’s attitudes towards hazing highlights interesting dynamics within organizations. Individual members often have negative thoughts about hazing, but individuals are unlikely to protest the practice in-group settings. Power dynamics within those groups normalize hazing and silence opposition to it.
The research suggests that hazing takes on a particular character within Greek Letter Organizations (GLOs). In fraternities, for example, where membership and group identity are constructed around ideas of the “all-male” group, hazing can serve as a validation of masculinity and a suppression of femininity. In addition, in GLOs that have been historically raced, hazing can express racial identities, in-group unity, and belonging.

Race’s role in higher education gets a lot of press. Recent challenges to admissions procedures and classes on race highlight problems with whiteness, raising questions about the state of college diversity.  But what often gets left out of these conversations is the impact of diversity on learning itself and the nuances of how these impacts differ between students.

A diverse student environment can have a positive effect on learning, especially since students from other backgrounds can help each other think about topics differently. In addition, students can learn from the lived experiences of their out-group peers.
While diversity has overall beneficial impacts for the educational process, these outcomes are not created equal. White students are more likely to connect class concepts to abstract theory or class contexts rather than personal experiences, and they are more likely to join in class discussions than are black students.
Students from different backgrounds connect to professors, faculty, and educational spaces differently, affecting their scores and educational success. Notably, this affects the way educators teach and grade. Nonwhite students, particularly under a white teacher, are more likely to feel alienated in the classroom, participate less, and receive lower scores.