All forms of hazing are prohibited at Bridgewater State University. The University adheres to and enforces Massachusetts General Law chapter 269, secs. 17-19, prohibiting the practice of hazing. Students and/or student organizations, teams, or groups who fail to comply with the hazing law or this policy will be subject to provisions outlined in The Student Code of Conduct and disciplinary sanctions imposed thereunder, in addition to possible criminal charges. Other community members who fail to comply with the hazing law or this policy will be subject to other disciplinary procedures.
This policy covers all University students, faculty, staff, vendors, contractors, visitors, volunteers, and all other affiliated or nonaffiliated persons, and all student organizations, teams, and groups.
3. Policy Rationale
Bridgewater State University is first and foremost an educational institution. Its hazing policy, prevention efforts, and response procedures for hazing incidents, must grow from, and embody this educational mission. Membership in organizations, teams, and other groups can increase leadership and service potential; provide athletic, recreational, intellectual, and spiritual opportunities; and otherwise contribute positively to personal and social development. However, when membership is linked with involvement in hazing activities, the educational purpose of the endeavor is compromised and can endanger the health and safety of students or other university community members.
Hazing is therefore prohibited at Bridgewater State University.
A. Hazing Behavior.
A broad range of behaviors may be considered hazing, from minor to more severe forms of conduct.
Requiring, encouraging, coercing an individual to, or creating any expectation that an individual must, as a condition of or in connection with joining, affiliating with, or participating or maintaining membership in an organization, team, or group, participate in activities where harm could result is likely to be considered hazing.
In addition, any conduct or activity towards another person, as a condition of or in connection with joining, affiliating with, or participating or maintaining membership in an organization, team, or group, where harm could result is also likely to be considered hazing.
Harm includes, but is not limited to, harm to the physical or mental health of an individual, diminishing one’s sense of membership and/or breach reasonable standards of mutual respect within the organization, team or group, as well as harm to property.
Please note, the express or implied consent of the victim will not be a defense to hazing. Apathy and/or acquiescence in the presence of hazing are not neutral acts; they are considered violations of this policy.
Types of Behavior that Constitute Hazing (not an exhaustive list):
- Participating in exercise unrelated to a sport
- Associating with specific people, but not others
- Performing acts of servitude
- Shaving of the head or any other part of the body
- Conducting inappropriate scavenger hunts or quests
- Engaging in public stunts that are potentially degrading
- Wearing apparel that is conspicuous and not within community norms
- Making prank calls
- Needing to possess certain items at all times
- Depriving privileges granted to other members
More serious acts of hazing include, but are not limited to, activities can place persons at risk of serious physical and/or psychological harm:
- Threatening or causing physical restraint, abuse, or other harm (including, but not limited to, being held down, tied up, taped, or confined in a small space, whipping, beating, branding, tattooing, piercing);
- Acts which endanger physical or mental health or safety, (including but not limited to, forced physical activity, exposure to weather, causing excessive fatigue or extended deprivation of sleep or rest);
- Engaging in or simulating sexual acts;
- Engaging in sexually violent or sexually harassing behavior;
- Compelled consumption of any substance, including food, beverages, or other substances;
- Kidnapping, or transporting and/or abandoning, a person;
- Conducting interrogations;
- Being nude in a public or private place;
- Humiliating behavior;
- Furnishing alcohol to individuals below the age of 21 or illegal substances to any person, or facilitating such consumption of alcohol or use of illegal substances;
- Damaging, destroying, or stealing property;
- Identifying hazing targets or subjects on the basis of their actual or perceived race, color, religion, national or ethnic origin, age, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, disability, gender identity/expression, veteran status, or other legally protected classification.
Be Alert to Potential Hazing Situations
The questions below may aid the determination whether a particular activity is hazing and thus prohibited:
- Is the conduct or activity a condition of or being conducted in connection with joining, affiliating with, or participating or maintaining membership in an organization, team, or group?
- Could harm (whether physical or emotional) result?
- Is there a risk of injury or a question of safety?
- Is this an activity or event that members or individuals seeking to join are encouraged or expected to attend and where individuals below the age of 21 are consuming alcohol?
- Is any one individual or group of individuals required or urged to complete tasks or activities that aren’t asked of other group members?
- Will current members refuse to participate with the new members?
- Would you have any reservations describing the activity to your parents, a professor, or a university official?
- Would you object to the activity being photographed or reported on the internet, a newspaper or local TV news?
- Will this activity be considered degrading or humiliating by any of the participants?
- Is the activity in violation of Massachusetts law or university policies?
Student leaders and members of student organizations, teams and groups are strongly encouraged to consult with the university officials listed in the Resources section below in advance of any planned event or activity if they have questions regarding which activities are unacceptable and may constitute hazing.
B. Reporting Hazing
University employees are required to report possible hazing incidents as soon as possible to the Bridgewater State University Police Department (BSUPD) at 508.531.1212 or email@example.com or by submitting an online hazing report form. Reports should include what happened, where it happened, when it happened and who was there.
Students and other members of the University community are strongly encouraged to report all possible hazing incidents as soon as possible to the BSUPD.
Please note: It is a violation of Massachusetts law for any person at the scene of a hazing crime who knows that another individual is the victim of a hazing crime to fail to report the crime to law enforcement (to the extent that such person can do so without danger or peril to themself or others).
The Benefits of Reporting Hazing:
- Individuals who are victims of hazing and who truthfully report the activities will not be held responsible for a violation of this policy.
- Individuals who have knowledge of a hazing incident, but who did not participate, and truthfully report the activities will not be held responsible for a violation of this policy in relation to that particular incident.
- When reviewing a case, consideration will be given to whether the leaders of an organization, team, or group self-reported a hazing behavior and identified individuals who are responsible for the hazing to an appropriate University official or BSUPD
- Students should be aware that any amnesty that may be granted through the University disciplinary process will not extend to criminal or civil action or penalties that may result from the incident.
C. Prohibition Against Retaliation
The University prohibits retaliation against any person who reports or files a claim of hazing under university procedures or applicable law or who assisted or participated in an investigation or resolution of such report, complaint, or charge.
D. Administrative Response
Upon receipt of a hazing allegation involving a student or student organization, team or group, the BSUPD will inform the Office of Community Standards and other applicable University departments and offices, which may include, but is not limited to, the Center for Student Engagement, the Department of Athletics and Recreation, and/or the Office of Equal Opportunity.
The BSUPD will determine if the alleged hazing conduct constitutes a violation of criminal law.
Students and student organizations, teams, and groups who are alleged to have committed hazing are also subject to The Student Code of Conduct. The University’s response to hazing allegations involving employees or other community members will be addressed through other applicable disciplinary procedures.
Individuals and organizations, teams and groups who are found responsible for a violation of this policy will be subject to disciplinary measures, up to dismissal, expulsion, and loss of recognition.
E. Massachusetts Law on Hazing (M.G.L. c. 269, secs. 17 to 19)
Each year, the University will issue a copy of this law to all full-time students and the leadership of every student group, team and organization. The Center for Student Engagement and the Department of Athletics and Recreation will require all organizations, teams, and groups to sign an acknowledgment as describe below.
Each such group, team or organization must distribute a copy of this law to each of its members, plebes, pledges or applicants for membership. In addition, each such group, team or organization must provide the University an attested acknowledgement stating that it and each of its members, plebes, pledges and applicants received a copy of the law and that such group, team or organization understands and agrees to comply with the provisions of the law.
The text of the law is set forth below.
Section 17. Whoever is a principal organizer or participant in the crime of hazing, as defined herein, shall be punished by a fine of not more than three thousand dollars or by imprisonment in a house of correction for not more than one year, or both such fine and imprisonment.
The term “hazing” as used in this section and in sections eighteen and nineteen, shall mean any conduct or method of initiation into any student organization, whether on public or private property, which willfully or recklessly endangers the physical or mental health of any student or other person. Such conduct shall include whipping, beating, branding, forced calisthenics, exposure to the weather, forced consumption of any food, liquor, beverage, drug or other substance, or any other brutal treatment or forced physical activity which is likely to adversely affect the physical health or safety of any such student or other person, or which subjects such student or other person to extreme mental stress, including extended deprivation of sleep or rest or extended isolation.
Notwithstanding any other provisions of this section to the contrary, consent shall not be available as a defense to any prosecution under this action.
Section 18. Whoever knows that another person is the victim of hazing as defined in section seventeen and is at the scene of such crime shall, to the extent that such person can do so without danger or peril to himself or others, report such crime to an appropriate law enforcement official as soon as reasonably practicable. Whoever fails to report such crime shall be punished by a fine of not more than one thousand dollars.
Section 19. Each institution of secondary education and each public and private institution of post-secondary education shall issue to every student group, student team or student organization which is part of such institution or is recognized by the institution or permitted by the institution to use its name or facilities or is known by the institution to exist as an unaffiliated student group, student team or student organization, a copy of this section and sections seventeen and eighteen; provided, however, that an institution’s compliance with this section’s requirements that an institution issue copies of this section and sections seventeen and eighteen to unaffiliated student groups, teams or organizations shall not constitute evidence of the institution’s recognition or endorsement of said unaffiliated student groups, teams or organizations.
Each such group, team or organization shall distribute a copy of this section and sections seventeen and eighteen to each of its members, plebes, pledges or applicants for membership. It shall be the duty of each such group, team or organization, acting through its designated officer, to deliver annually, to the institution an attested acknowledgement stating that such group, team or organization has received a copy of this section and said sections seventeen and eighteen, that each of its members, plebes, pledges, or applicants has received a copy of sections seventeen and eighteen, and that such group, team or organization understands and agrees to comply with the provisions of this section and sections seventeen and eighteen.
Each institution of secondary education and each public or private institution of post-secondary education shall, at least annually, before or at the start of enrollment, deliver to each person who enrolls as a full-time student in such institution a copy of this section and sections seventeen and eighteen.
Each institution of secondary education and each public or private institution of post-secondary education shall file, at least annually, a report with the board of higher education and in the case of secondary institutions, the board of education, certifying that such institution has complied with its responsibility to inform student groups, teams or organizations and to notify each full-time student enrolled by it of the provisions of this section and sections seventeen and eighteen and also certifying that said institution has adopted a disciplinary policy with regard to the organizers and participants of hazing, and that such policy has been set forth with appropriate emphasis in the student handbook or similar means of communicating the institution’s policies to its students. The board of higher education and, in the case of secondary institutions, the board of education shall promulgate regulations governing the content and frequency of such reports, and shall forthwith report to the attorney general any such institution which fails to make such report.
5. Policy Questions or concerns
Questions or concerns about this policy should be directed to the Division for Student Life.
- BSU Police Department - 508.531.1212
- Office of Community Standards - 508.531.6177
- Division for Student Life - 508.531.1276
- Center for Student Engagement - 508.531.1273
- Athletics and Recreation - 508.531.1352
Students may also seek support from Counseling Services located in the Wellness Center, Weygand Hall 508-531-1331.
Reviewed and Revised 8/2023 by Peter Wiernicki, Community Standards