Michigan State University is committed to providing a safe environment in which all students have the right to belong to student organizations without undergoing hazing as a right of entry. As such, it is the policy of the University that hazing is strictly prohibited. Hazing can result in irrevocable harm to students, their families, and the University community.
No student organization or individual student shall conduct nor condone hazing activities. Any group or individual responsible for hazing may be subject to disciplinary action, criminal prosecution, and/or civil prosecution.
Hazing is defined as “requiring or encouraging any act, whether or not the act is voluntarily agreed upon, in conjunction with initiation, affiliation with, continued membership, or participation in any group, that causes or creates a substantial risk of causing mental or physical harm or humiliation.” See General Student Regulations, Appendix A.
Examples of hazing include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Any physical act of violence or intimidation.
- Forced physical activities (e.g. working out excessively).
- Peer-pressuring or coercing someone to consume any legal or illegal substance.
- Placing foreign substances on one’s body or that of another (e.g., using a permanent marker on the body).
- Not allowing someone to use or possess certain items.
- Depriving individuals of sleep, meals, ways to keep their body clean, or means of communication (e.g., restricting access to cell phones).
- Forcing an individual to create and/or distribute digital content to cause ridicule or embarrassment (e.g., posting photos or videos to social media).
- Forcing someone to expose themselves to weather.
- Activities such as scavenger hunts, pledge ditches, kidnapping, forced road trips, or abandonment (e.g., leaving someone in a field with no way to get home or contact anyone), which result in illegal or otherwise prohibited conduct.
- Requiring someone to possess specific items (e.g., carry a brick).
- Servitude (e.g., expecting a new member to do the tasks of an existing member).
- Changing appearance (e.g., wearing a costume or shaving head).
- Line-ups and berating.
- Coerced lewd/sexually explicit conduct (e.g., nudity) or sexual acts.
- Engaging in games, activities or public stunts that are purposely degrading or intend to cause embarrassment.
- Interference with academic pursuits (e.g., not permitting someone to attend class or exams)
- Violation of University policies.
- Requiring illegal and/or unlawful activities.
A claim that the individual against whom the hazing was directed consented to or acquiesced in the hazing is not considered a mitigating factor or justification for hazing of any form. Consent or acquiescence to hazing is never a defense.
State of Michigan Law on Hazing
The State of Michigan has criminalized certain types of hazing at educational institutions under “Garret’s Law”. See MCL 750.411t.
Under Garret’s Law, hazing means “an intentional, knowing, or reckless act by a person acting alone or acting with others that is directed against an individual and that the person knew or should have known endangers the physical health or safety of the individual, and that is done for the purpose of pledging, being initiated into, affiliating with, participating in, holding office in, or maintaining membership in any organization.”
Garret’s Law does not apply to an activity that is normal and customary in an athletic, physical education, military training, or similar program sanctioned by the educational institution.
Whether the individual against whom the hazing was directed consented or acquiesced in the hazing is not a defense to a crime under Garret’s Law.
Any incident involving a crime, an emergency, or an imminent threat to the health or safety of any person should be reported immediately to local law enforcement authorities by dialing 911.
Acts or potential acts of hazing that do not constitute an emergency should be reported to the Office of Student Support & Accountability (OSSA). Concerns may also be reported anonymously through the MSU Misconduct Hotline. Students residing in a residence hall may report to a Resident Assistant (RA) or Residence Education and Housing Services (REHS) staff member in their residence hall. Community members may contact the MSU Department of Police and Public Safety (MSUPD) at the non-emergency number (517) 355-2221 or by texting anonymously the word “MSUPD” along with a tip to CRIMES (274637). Other resources include the National Hazing Prevention Hotline at 1-888-NOT-HAZE or 1-888-668-4293.
Upon receipt of a complaint, OSSA will work with the Office of Spartan Experiences to adjudicate the compliant in accordance with the applicable disciplinary procedures for student organizations and individual students. Groups and individual students found responsible for hazing will be held accountable. Sanctions for violating the University’s hazing regulations range from warning or probation up to dismissal.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. How do I know if an activity is considered hazing?
The following questions can help assess the appropriateness of an activity:
- Does the activity promote and match the ideals, values, and mission of the University and the organization?
- Is it an activity that all members (existing and new) would do?
- Would the organization’s advisor, the national headquarters of the organization, governing councils, or University administrators approve of the activity? What would happen if they found out about the activity?
- Is the activity safe (i.e., does the activity cause physical discomfort or mental anguish)?
- Would the group tell prospective members about the activity?
- Would parents, University staff, or the local police departments be welcome to attend the activity?
If your answer to any of these questions is “no,” then the activity may be considered hazing. No activity should cause mental or physical harm or humiliation.
2. Will I get in trouble if I report hazing?
The University’s primary objective is to keep all members of the MSU community safe. Any individual who is the subject of the hazing will not be disciplined for violating General Student Regulation (GSR) 2.07 (engage in hazing). If hazing occurs within a student organization or team, it will be presumed that the officers have knowledge of, and condone, such activities. The conduct of those initiating or participating in the hazing will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. If you have participated in hazing and later decide to report, OSSA will recognize that reporting helps to keep the community safe, as well as to prevent repeat or escalating behavior. Your subsequent cooperation in reporting the activity will be considered favorably and mitigate the sanctions, if any, that may be issued.
3. If a person agrees to participate in the activity, is it still considered hazing?
Even if an individual voluntarily allowed themselves to be hazed, the hazing is still prohibited. Consent to being hazed is never an excuse under University policy or the state law in Michigan against hazing.
Registered Student Organizations
Office for Institutional Equity (OIE)
Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS)
Student Life & Engagement
Organization that provides hazing research and created “We Don’t Haze” documentary video.
National non-profit committed to preventing hazing and educating society about the harms of hazing.