Bowdoin College, ME Hazing Policy

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Bowdoin College, ME, US

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Type: Policy

Status: In effect

Source File:


A learning community has a distinctive set of values and qualities meant to support individual growth and development. At Bowdoin, we value traditions, rituals, and rites of passage because they remind community members of their connections to one another and to the past and future of the College; they can build important bonds between groups and individuals. Athletic team or student organization initiations or traditions, however, that attempt to build these bonds between members must do so in an affirming way without coercion of any kind. In a learning community such as ours, we value lasting relationships grounded in mutual respect, not artificial connections created through shared humiliation.

College Policy and Maine Law
Hazing is strictly prohibited at Bowdoin by College policy and by Maine law. Violation of the hazing policy may subject an individual or recognized organization or team to disciplinary action, either administrative or via the Judicial Board, with penalties up to and including suspension or dismissal for individuals and suspension or termination in the case of a student organization or team. In addition to incurring serious College-imposed consequences for violations of Bowdoin policy, students and organizations may be subject to criminal prosecution by legal authorities for violation of the Maine injurious hazing law, which defines “injurious hazing” as: “any action or situation which recklessly or intentionally endangers the mental or physical health of a student enrolled at an institution in this State.”1

Bowdoin defines hazing more broadly as: Any activity that is part of an initiation, participation, or affiliation in a group that 1) physically or psychologically humiliates, degrades, abuses, or endangers--regardless of a person’s willingness to participate; 2) results in the disruption of the educational process or the impairment of academic performance; or 3) violates College policy or state law. This applies to behavior on or off campus. 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. Examples of hazing include but are not limited to the following: physical threats or abuse of any kind; encouraging or requiring a person to consume alcohol, drugs, or foreign or unusual substances; forcing a student into a violation of the law or College policy such as indecent exposure, theft, or trespassing; confining a person or taking a person to an outlying area and dropping him/her off; servitude such as encouraging or requiring a person to run personal errands; requiring a shaved head or the wearing of conspicuous apparel in public; and depriving a person of sleep.

Identifying Hazing
Hazing is a form of victimization. It is pre-meditated and not accidental. Hazing consists of a broad range of behaviors that may place another person in danger of physical or psychological discomfort or harm or of activities that demonstrate disregard for another person’s dignity or well-being. A level of coercion is often involved, i.e. those being hazed either couldn’t or didn’t feel they could opt out because of the peer pressure involved and the desire to belong to the group.

The determination of whether a particular activity constitutes hazing will depend on the circumstances and context in which that activity is occurring. Here are some key questions to consider:

1. Is a person or group being singled out because of status?
2. Are the activities being planned in advance?
3. Is there a risk of real or even perceived physical or psychological discomfort or harm, i.e. was it demeaning, abusive or dangerous?
4. Is there a concern about safety?
5. Is there a level of coercion and peer pressure involved and how easily are people able to opt out?
6. Will current members refuse to do exactly what the new members are being asked to do?
7. Do the activities interfere with students’ other activities or obligations (academic, extracurricular, family, religious, etc.)?
8. Is alcohol involved?
9. Is there a sexual element to the activity?
10. Do any activities violate College policy or federal, state or local 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 perpetrators (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 generally differ based on the seriousness of the incident and one’s level of responsibility, planning, or participation.

There are new-member activities that are positive and/or educationally valid, e.g. community service projects, movie nights, ropes course training, tournaments around team history, etc. Ask if you would have any reservations describing the activity to parents, grandparents, a professor, dean, police officer or judge; or ask how you would feel if the activity was photographed and appeared in the Orient or on Facebook, YouTube, or local TV. If either or both would unsettle you, then the activity probably constitutes hazing.

Hazing has dangerous potential to harm individuals, to damage organizations and teams, and to undermine the educational mission of the College and the fundamental values of our learning community. As such, no student, College employee, College volunteer, student organization, athletic team, or other College-recognized group or association shall conduct or condone hazing activities, consensual or not.

Taking Action
When in doubt about an activity, ask a dean or a coach or other College employee who works with student organizations or teams. They can provide additional examples of behaviors that might constitute hazing, examples of positive group bonding activities and rites of passage for new members, assistance with organizing legitimate events to foster teamwork and cohesiveness, and other relevant information and support.

At Bowdoin, where community members look out and care for one another, students and employees are expected to intervene personally or by calling Security if they encounter activities that put others in physical or psychological harm or discomfort as long as they can do so without jeopardizing their own safety or the safety of others. By stepping up and taking action, bystanders are frequently able to put an end to inappropriate behavior before things get out of hand. Bowdoin students and employees should notify appropriate College officials (Security, deans in the Office of Student Affairs, coaches or other College officials who have responsibilities for student organizations) of any perceived instance of hazing as defined by College policy and/or law and do so as soon as possible so the activity can be stopped or the allegations can be investigated. Reports may be made directly or anonymously by submitting an anonymous letter to an appropriate College official or asking a College official that the report remain anonymous.