Hazing in British Universities: Have Initiations Gone Too Far?

Society initiation rituals have gotten so extreme that some have ended in tragic incidents. Source: kaicho20 (via Pixabay)

By Bethan Wild | Contributor

Universities across the UK have been publicly tarnished by horror initiation stories. These rituals are often described as ‘hazing’- an initiation practice frequently depicted in American teen movies as the way of ‘testing the new member’. This imported approach to initiations involves the deliberate act of harassing and embarrassing individuals. Over the years these ‘tests’ have rapidly become more vulgar and dangerous. Universities have become witnesses to horrific events of humiliation, physical endangerment, and fatal intoxication; some of which have been met with legal repercussions.  

In recent years the barbaric rituals have infamously escalated in the male rugby and football societies. Ex-student of Brunel University, Ben Moles, spoke to Vice Magazine, telling the reporter of his experiences as part of the rugby society, stating “We knew that the guys who were setting the initiation would make it worse than their [own] initiation”. Moles went on to describe a cold winter night where the boys played a game of naked touch rugby with a raw chicken for a ball, whilst members hurled eggs and flour at the nude players. To the majority this would be seen as a cruel act of public humiliation, not a rugby team initiation. According to the CEO of British Universities and Colleges of Sports, the number of rituals is not increasing but the severity of them is.  

The fatal intoxication of Ed Farmer in 2016, is an example of the frequently naïve alcohol abuse that takes place within these societies. During an initiation bar crawl at Newcastle University, Farmer was reportedly part of the group that ordered around 100 triple vodka shots at a single bar. When discussing the university’s overlook of rumours regarding these initiations, Farmer’s father commented “I think it’s been quite a shock to them to understand the seriousness of the problem.” 

In May 2019, the rugby initiation party at Gloucestershire University, reportedly included the drinking of alcohol from a pig’s head, followed by games intended to excessively intoxicate members. Unfortunately, student Sam Potter was found unresponsive the next morning after having drank five times over the drink-drive limit.  

During 2020, in our own Cardiff University, over 200 student footballers were suspended from the teams based on formal complaints surrounding initiation ‘teachings’ on the targeting of low-self-esteem women for sex. This also follows a separate incident in 2013 when players were reportedly shown a PowerPoint presentation making jokes about domestic violence, rape, and again the targeting of less confident women.  

These initiation rituals have become an open-secret and an embedded aspect of university culture, glossed over as students just having fun before the ‘real world’ begins. For many this may be true, but the numerous fatalities and detrimental impact to the lives of young impressionable students should not be casually overlooked. Author, Hank Nuwer, states “no matter how disgusting or potentially devastating, the status quo is ‘the ones before us did it; we get to do it next year’”. If this cruel mentality towards initiation rituals continues to fester, there will undoubtedly be countless catastrophic and irreversible consequences. It is imperative that universities bear more accountability and thus place stronger restrictions on such dangerously uncivilised initiation practices.


Add Comment

Click here to post a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *