Hazing at Tech

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Hazing describes various rituals that are designed to humiliate, harass, and abuse individuals. Hazing is typically used to initiate a person, or group of people, into an organization. Although hazing is a term typically used to describe abusive practices, it can also be used to describe exercises that build trust among participants [1]. Historically, Georgia Tech, like many colleges and universities, has been home to hazing performed by various organizations. These organizations include groups like fraternities, sororities, upperclassmen, and other extracurricular organizations. Even though hazing may still occur in these groups, it has been significantly reduced in recent years.[2]

RAT caps have been used in the past as a method of hazing.[3]


Affected Groups

Various groups at Georgia Tech have undergone hazing in the past, including (but not limited to) Greek organizations, athletic teams, and extracurricular organizations.


Prior to the 1950s, hazing was commonly performed by upperclassmen on students during their first year at Georgia Tech. Students in their first year at Tech have been historically known as RATS. This originally stood for Recruit At Tech when the military had a large presence on campus; however, it now stands for Recently Acquired Tech Students. The majority of hazing performed by upperclassmen was by the Reck Club when underclassmen disobeyed RAT rules[4]. When hazing laws were established in the 1960s, the Reck Club was re-purposed to uphold and maintain other, non-hazing traditions on campus (e.g., the Ramblin' Wreck).

Up until the middle of the 20th century, when hazing was abolished on campus[5], Freshmen students were subject to wearing RAT caps[6] in addition to the following rules of the "Freshmen Code"[7]:

  • Know the freshmen speech.
  • Will wear a "RAT" cap with proper inscription at all times. It is not mandatory that the "RAT" cap be worn on Sundays.
  • Keep off all campus benches during the Fall Quarter.
  • Stay out of the post-office between 9:45AM and 10:15AM during the Fall and Winter Quarters.
  • Do not use the North Avenue Stairway during the Fall and Winter Quarters.
  • Speak to everyone. No one likes a grouch.
  • Do not use the book shelves in the "Robbery" (an on campus, Georgia Tech-owned variety store [8]).
  • Attend all meetings and pep rallies.
  • Form a line for the football players as they leave the stadium after a game.
  • Known the school songs. They are: Ramblin' Wreck, Alma Mater, White and Gold.
  • Wear the freshmen pin during the Winter Quarter. This pin is to be worn by all freshmen until the end of the Winter Quarter unless the Freshmen beat the Sophomores in the annual tug-of-war to be held near the end of the Winter Quarter.
  • All freshmen are required to attend the annual Cake Race.
  • All freshmen are required to attend the shirt-tail parades.

The intent of the aforementioned rules was to create a sense of camaraderie among Georgia Tech students. In the past, the failure to follow these rules resulted in the hazing of students, including shaving a student's hair into the shape of a "T", known as a "T-cut". In addition, Freshmen are (unofficially) forbidden from touching the Ramblin' Wreck [9].

Greek Organizations

As in many colleges and universities in the United States, new students in the Greek system (i.e., fraternities and sororities) have historically undergone hazing as a form of initiation. Although there are laws and policies against this type of behavior set by the state, school, the Interfraternity Council, and individual chapters, hazing still occurs on campus.

In a 2000 Technique Article, it was reported that the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity faced charges on 38 counts of hazing, improper conduct, possession of drugs, and illegal handling of alcohol. During a hearing, testimony of fraternity brothers revealed that instances of hazing included "line-ups", "rat courts", mock trials, interrogations, yelling of obscenities, and votes of continuance not consistent with the national constitution of, or sanctioned by, the national fraternity. Although the fraternity contested charges regarding dangerous activities, the president of Sigma Phi Epsilon during the time period in question, Casey Cohen, remarked that "hazing to the degree that the charges came up happened only during Initiation Week." As a result of the investigation, the fraternity was sentenced to a two year suspension from campus [10] This sentence mandated that the house be vacated and all markings that identify the house as belonging to the fraternity be removed.

Georgia Tech Band

In 2000, an investigation into the practices of the Georgia Tech marching band occurred due to the complain of various parents who reported hazing practices to school administrators[11]. In particular, these practices included those known as "RATs without caps" and "dwarfing." RATs without caps involved band members who lost their caps during the season performing tasks at the end of the season to earn their caps back. Dwarfing involved band members ordering a menu item consisting of scrambled eggs mixed with cheese and chicken chunks and bacon from a Chick-fil-A restaurant and eating it without silverware[12]. At the end of the investigation, it was found that no violations of Georgia Tech hazing policies occurred.

Freshmen students in the Georgia Tech marching band undergo "friendly" hazing activities at the hands of their peers. One such example is the wearing of the RAT cap. Freshmen students in the marching band are expected to wear their RAT caps and maintain them according to the traditional format (i.e., mark the caps with hometown, major, games won and lost, etc) [13]

Methods of Hazing

Historically, multiple forms of hazing have been used toward underclassmen and fraternity pledges, among others. These forms include:

  • Servitude - Doing chores for upperclassmen.
  • Paddling - Beating students with a wooden paddle as punishment.
  • T-Cut - A hairstyle in which the letter "T" is shaved into a student's head as punishment.[14]
  • Branding - A mark or emblem is burned onto the skin of a victim.

As there are anti-hazing laws and policies in effect, there are many activities that were once used to haze individuals. These activities are used today as team-building and initiation activities, such as the wearing of RAT caps, the freshman cake race, the Mini 500 race and other Georgia Tech traditions. For example, the Mini 500 is an event that is held annually as a homecoming tradition; however, it began in the early 1960s when fraternity pledges were forced to ride tricycles around campus.[15] Another example is the RAT cap. In the past, students who chose not to wear the cap were subject to hazing; however, today, the wearing of the RAT cap is a tradition used by freshmen and organizations like the Georgia Tech marching band[16].


  1. Hazing. In Wikipedia the Free Encyclopedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hazing
  2. Remarks by President Wayne Clough, Speech Delivered to the Greek Alumni Forum: http://smartech.gatech.edu/bitstream/1853/21035/1/oop_02-044_Greek_Alum_Forum_11-02.pdf.
  3. http://www.flickr.com/photos/hectoralejandro/3829900905/
  4. Georgia Tech Traditions. "In Wikipedia the Free Encyclopedia". http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georgia_Tech_traditions#Ramblin.27_Reck_Club.
  5. Technique. September 20, 1948. Miller, Walt. "Frosh Hazing Has Gone But the Rat Caps Remain". Atlanta, GA. http://hdl.handle.net/1853/30821
  6. Technique [Volume 32, Issue 04]. 20-Sep-1948. http://hdl.handle.net/1853/30821.
  7. Georgia Tech T-Book (09-10). Pg. 78.
  8. Georgia Tech Living History. http://livinghistory.gatech.edu/new/timeline/1920.html.
  9. Georgia Tech T-Book (09-10). Pg. 84.
  10. Technique [Volume 86, Issue 13]. 20-Oct-2000. http://smartech.gatech.edu/bitstream/handle/1853/7835/Technique-2000-10-20.pdf?sequence=6.
  11. Technique [Volume 86, Issue 13]. 20-Oct-2000. http://smartech.gatech.edu/bitstream/handle/1853/7835/Technique-2000-10-20.pdf?sequence=6.
  12. Technique [Volume 86, Issue 13]. 20-Oct-2000. http://smartech.gatech.edu/bitstream/handle/1853/7835/Technique-2000-10-20.pdf?sequence=6.
  13. Georgia Tech T-Book (09-10). Pgs. 79-80.
  14. Technique: Volume 27, Issue 01
  15. The Technique. "Homecoming Traditions Make Tech Special. 1999-10-08. "http://dev.nique.gatech.edu/issues/1999-10-08/campus%20life/7.
  16. Georgia Tech Traditions: Rat Caps. "In Wikipedia the Free Encyclopedia". http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georgia_Tech_traditions#RAT_Caps
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