Alternatives to Hazing

Introducing new members to a group is a process that can create powerful group chemistry and develop high levels of motivation for new members from their very first experience with the group.  Many groups with long traditions of initiation practices that have involved hazing struggle with what they perceive as an unclear definition of “hazing.”  They are often reluctant to give up traditions that feel definitional to the group’s culture.  Here we clearly define some examples of healthful rites of initiation that serve all of the ultimate goals of initiation, but do so in ways that are consistent with Georgetown’s educational and developmental philosophies.

The most effective way to inspire people is to follow the principles that underlay intrinsic motivation.  Hazing rituals are generally about extrinsic motivation, including external reward or punishment associated with performing a particular act.  Intrinsic motivation is optimal when a group’s culture emphasizes four things: connectedness, autonomy, purpose, and mastery.  Therefore, in very broad terms, healthy rites…

  • deepen authentic connection by developing appreciation and respect for difference, exploring personal histories, understanding personality styles, and creating the empathy that usually accompanies human relationships that dig beneath the surface of the Georgetown introduction (name, hometown, major, year)
  • provide the opportunity for participants to exercise a degree of choice and respected input so they know their voices are heard and their opinions are valued
  • have transparent goals that are clear from the beginning in their purpose and place in the group’s cultural rites and rituals
  • offer the chance for personal growth and exploration of one’s margins of intellectual or cultural comfort or experience


For minimal expense, new group members can take an assessment, like StrengthsQuest, the DiSC profile, or the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), each of which require some self-examination.  With a facilitator for an hour of training, a group leader can set up discussions or exercises with new and existing members to explore differences and similarities in dealing with a variety of situations.

Shared experiences and conversation about them are an effective opportunity to create bonds and explore differences of opinion or perspective. For any given group on campus, there is a museum, a historical site, or some place in Washington, DC that would provide a relevant bit of history. Group leaders should prepare pre- and post-experience reflection prompts that will help everyone focus on common themes that can then be discussed in small or large groups.

A variety of offices on-campus will happily provide the directions, facilitation, and props for a wide variety of problem solving challenges that can vary in length from five minutes to an hour or more.  Depending on the size of the group, challenges can be addressed en masse or in small groups that combine members of various years and experience. Evaluating challenges and coming up with creative solutions in group contexts reveals a great deal about group culture and norms in terms of communication but also provides valuable shared experience.  If you are interested in this opportunity, contact the Center for Student Engagement (, the Athletics Department Team Dynamics office (, or Georgetown Opportunities for Leadership Development ( for more information.

Every group at Georgetown has different areas of focus and attracts people with different skill sets. An athletically-oriented group might create a small group competition/mini Olympics that pits each group against the others (and they should all include both veterans and rookies) in performing physical tasks that are within the abilities of every group member. Artistically oriented groups might conduct a video scavenger hunt or something like the “Marshmallow Challenge”, which requires different creative solutions to a building problem.

Have new members work with current members to identify a community service or social justice project that is related to and consistent with the group’s focus or mission. Give the groups one month to identify the project, plan the action, execute the event, and then deliver a reflection piece to the rest of the group using some combination of audio, video, and written reporting.

Create a contest for new members to work with current and former members to come up with a 1:30 length video that captures the essence of the group in a way that makes it most likely to go viral if posted to social media and would make an effective recruitment tool for the next year.  New members will be able to interview current and former members and do enough research to really understand the group’s story.

Require each new member to identify one current member or former member of the group, have each individual research one another, interview one another, and then tell the other’s story to the entire group.  This requires practice in listening and engagement, but also moves new students in the direction of developing storytelling skills necessary for effective oral presentation.

Every group should have a clear vision statement, mission statement, or set of values to help transfer and sustain culture from class to class. However, it is appropriate for each new iteration (i.e. each academic year) of a group to re-work that statement with current members in order to make it timely and relevant.  Creating such a statement requires examination of individual and group priorities and values as well as focus on both process and outcomes of the year ahead.

Report Hazing

The University will investigate all reports of hazing behavior, including those reported anonymously. If this is an emergency or an urgent situation, call 911 or Georgetown University Police (202-687-4343) immediately.