Universities across the UK have been accused of turning a blind eye towards "repulsive" initiation ceremonies, by headteachers who are calling for action against the tradition.
Bouts of excessive drinking may be part and parcel for many students, but reports of animal abuse and stomach-churning dares are revealing a darker side to the university experience.
Eating dog food and biting the heads off of live goldfish were some of the dares said to be handed out by students, with one report from the Edinburgh University rugby club telling students to strip naked and play rugby with a live chicken instead of a ball.
The ceremonies were brought under scrutiny when senior education workers attended the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference (HMC).
“The stories nearly always involve nudity, alcohol and repulsive behaviour," said Andrew Fleck, headmaster at Sedbergh School in Cumbria. "Most pupils are embarrassed, but they say they have to take part if they want to go on playing sport.”
Chairman of the HMC sports committee, David Elstone, was equally condemning of the events, with The Telegraph reporting him adding: "Someone is going to get seriously ill and even worse. It is just a matter of time.”
The events range from the dangerous to the bizarre, with one report from The University of Exeter Athletic Football Club detailing an initiation ceremony that demanded newcomers kiss an eel called 'Colin.'
These 'hazing' ceremonies, which originate from the US, have led to numerous expulsions, and even prosecutions over the past few years.
Sociology Professor Eric Anderson at the University of Winchester has conducted research into the phenomena.
"These initiations are being increasingly banned, but that just forces them to go underground," he tells HuffPost UK. "Existing members want to haze newer members, even if the experience was awful for them."
"Research show that members who go through it feel a sense of loyalty to the tradition, and once they buy into it they have to convince themselves that it's worthwhile."
Anderson added that whilst it has been done by female teams, the problem mostly lies with men.
"When people, particularly men, get power, they like to use it. That kind of power corrupts even good people."Suggest a correction