Pepperdine University is committed to the highest standards of academic excellence and Christian values which strengthen lives for purpose, service, and leadership. Hazing is a violation of our Christian teaching that all people are created in the image of God and should be treated with dignity and respect. Therefore, Pepperdine is dedicated to a University community free of hazing.
Hazing is prohibited by state law and University policy. The University's hazing policy applies to all student organizations – including groups governed by the Sports Club Council, Inter-Club Council, Inter-Fraternity Council, Panhellenic Council, National Pan-Hellenic Council, and athletic teams – as well as unrecognized student organizations.
It is unlawful to engage in hazing. See California Penal Code section 245.6 ("Matt's Law"). Matt's Law defines hazing as "any method of initiation or preinitiation into a student organization or student body, whether or not the organization or body is officially recognized by an educational institution, which is likely to cause serious bodily injury to any former, current, or prospective student of any school, community college, college, university, or other educational institution in this state. The term 'hazing' does not include customary athletic events or school-sanctioned events." Individuals found guilty of hazing may be imprisoned and/or fined. Matt's law also allows a person against whom the hazing is directed to sue the individuals who participate in the hazing or organizations that authorize, request, command, participate in, or ratify the hazing.
Pepperdine's Definition of Hazing
Pepperdine defines hazing much more broadly than Matt's Law. This broader definition is classified into three categories: 1) subtle hazing; 2) harassment hazing, and 3) violent hazing (see descriptions and examples below). Pepperdine prohibits any student or student organization from engaging in, individually or as part of a group, an act which is humiliating, intimidating, or demeaning or potentially endangers or puts at risk the mental health or physical safety of a student for the purpose of or in connection with initiation, admission into, affiliation with, or as a condition for continued membership in a group or organization. Hazing includes active or passive participation in such acts and occurs regardless of the willingness to participate in the activities.
The following terms are an important part of Pepperdine's definition of hazing:
- Passive Participant: An individual member of the hazing group who stands by and watches the hazing activity perpetrated upon another person and chooses not to do or say anything that would or could change the course of action. The University considers passive participants as much of the problem as active perpetrators, and will consider passive participants to be contributors who help perpetuate hazing culture.
- Consent: Even if someone agrees or is otherwise complicit in participating in a potentially dangerous activity, this does not remove the responsibility from the perpetrators (or passive participants). Furthermore, it may not be true consent when considering the pressure and desire to belong to the group. Consequently, the implied or expressed consent of any person toward whom an act of hazing is directed cannot be used as a defense to a charge of hazing.
Example of Hazing and Prohibited Activities
A complete list of activities that would constitute hazing would not be possible, but hazing can be classified into three categories that would reasonably be expected to affect another person's dignity or well-being. Almost anything that new members are required to do that is not required of more senior members or any other activities devoid of legitimate educational value is likely to constitute hazing. Violating or encouraging others to violate any University policy in the context of new member activities is prohibited (e.g, alcohol consumption).
Subtle hazing typically involves activities that breach reasonable standards of mutual respect and place new members on the receiving end of ridicule, embarrassment, and/or humiliation tactics. New members often feel the need to endure subtle hazing to feel like part of the group or team. Some examples include, but are not limited to:
- Any activity that is presented as optional but has real or perceived negative consequences for nonparticipation (e.g., not participating Spirit Cup activities results in running laps).
- Assigning demerits
- Silence periods with actual or implied threats for violation
- Deprivation of privileges granted to other members
- Requiring new members to perform duties not assigned to other members
- Encouraged exclusion from social contact
- Compelling a person or group to remain at a certain place
- Line-ups and drills/tests (sometimes includes name calling)
- Requiring new members to refer to other members with titles (e.g. "Mr." or "Miss") while they are identified with demeaning terms
- Expecting certain items to be in one's possession (e.g., backpacks, shields, paddles, bricks, etc.)
- Activities that would unreasonably interfere with students' other activities or obligations (academic, extracurricular, family, religious, etc.)
- Required uniforms, costumes, or clothing designating new member status (e.g., t-shirt with "Pledge")
- Depriving students of sense awareness (sight, sound, etc.)
Harassment hazing typically involves behaviors that cause emotional anguish or physical discomfort in order to make new members feel like part of the group. Harassment hazing confuses, frustrates, and causes undue stress for new members. Some examples include, but are not limited to:
- Verbal abuse
- Threats or implied threats
- Wearing or carrying apparel or items likely to subject the wearer to embarrassment, ridicule, or harm
- Stunt or skit nights with degrading, crude, or humiliating acts, inappropriate scavenger hunts or road trips
- Public stunts and buffoonery
- Fake branding/cutting or psychological game playing
- Shaving of the head or any other part of the body
- Sleep deprivation or disruption
- Sexual simulations or nudity in any form
- Expecting new members to perform personal service to other members-cook, clean, etc.
- Expecting new members to be deprived of maintaining a normal schedule of personal hygiene
- Expecting new members to harass others
- Degrading or humiliating games and activities
Violent hazing involves behaviors that have the potential to cause physical, and/or emotional harm. Some examples include, but are not limited to:
- Forced, pressured, or coerced alcohol or other drug consumption
- Beating, paddling, or other forms of assault
- Forced or coerced ingestion of substances or concoctions
- Water intoxication or other consumption challenges
- Abuse or mistreatment of animals
- Any activity which involves vomit or other body fluids
- Expecting illegal activity
- Exposure to extreme heat or cold without appropriate protection
- Branding, tattooing, piercing
Positive New Member Activities
There are many new-member activities that are positive, educationally appropriate, and develop group unity, bonding, and a sense of belonging, Examples include, but are not limited to the following: 1. Attending pre-season or organizational training sessions 2. Engaging in community service 3. Completing a "ropes" course or other group building activities 4. Participating in a supervised group, organization or team trip 5. Competing with each other in team games, splitting the team equally between new members and returning members Because it is not always clear to individuals which activities are unacceptable and constitute hazing, student leaders and members of student groups are required to consult with groups' advisors, coaches, or other University officials responsible for the program or activity in advance of the planned event. Activities which detract from the goal of fostering the personal and intellectual development of our students have no place at Pepperdine.
How You Can Tell If It Is Hazing
If you have to ask if it's hazing, it probably is. Here are some things to think about, and to help you determine if the activity is hazing.
- Is this in line with your organization's mission and values?
- Are alcohol or other drugs involved?
- Are any state, local laws or University rules being violated?
- Will active/current members of the group refuse to participate with the new members and do exactly what they're being asked to do?
- Does the activity risk emotional or physical abuse?
- Is there risk of injury or a question of safety?
- Do you have any reservation describing the activity to your parents, to a professor, University official, or media?
- Must new members carry specific items with them at all times?
- Must new members remain silent for a certain time period, or are they denied contact with friends and family?
- Would you be comfortable describing this activity to your parents? Or have details about it published in the Graphic?
Pre-Approval of New Member Activities
All new member activities must be approved in advance by the appropriate department responsible for overseeing the organization, group, or team involved. In deciding whether to approve the program, the department will consider whether the proposed activity constitutes hazing as defined above and also whether the activity is likely to produce or would be perceived by a reasonable person as likely to be humiliating, intimidating, demeaning, or potentially endangers or puts at risk the mental health or physical safety of a student. Organizations, groups and teams may not engage in any new member activities that have not been approved by the responsible department
Individuals accused of hazing will be brought before the Student Disciplinary Committee pursuant to the Disciplinary Procedures set forth in the Seaver College Student Handbook. Student Organizations charged with hazing will be brought before the Student Organizations Disciplinary Board. Student organizations and members found to have engaged in hazing will be disciplined, up to and including, deactivation of the student organization and dismissal from the University of its members. University disciplinary proceedings may be instituted against a student also charged with violation of any law, including Matt's Law. See California Penal Code section 245.6.Disciplinary proceedings may be carried out prior to, simultaneously with, or following civil or criminal proceedings off campus.
Immunity for Reporting Hazing
In an effort to encourage reporting of hazing incidents, the Office of Community Standards may grant immunity from University discipline to a person whose conduct violated the hazing policy but voluntarily:
- reports a hazing incident before being contacted by a University official concerning the incident or otherwise being included in the institution's investigation of the incident; AND
- the conduct the student engaged in did not cause physical harm to another; AND
- cooperates fully and in good faith throughout the institutional investigation and disciplinary process regarding the hazing incident.
NOTE: The grant of immunity is not automatic and will be determined by the associate dean of student affairs for community standards.
To report hazing as it is occurring; please dial these emergency phone numbers:
On-Campus: Department of Public Safety, 310.506.4441
To report hazing after it has occurred; please contact any of the following numbers:
Department of Public Safety (CCB), 310.506.4700
Office of Community Standards (TCC 210), 310.506.4471
Greek Life Coordinator (HAWC 115), 310.506.6569