Jeff Angus's Management by Baseball column a few days back discusses the prevalence of "hazing" rituals in both baseball and business: "A frequent bad management trick is to unconsciously or intentionally make someone go though some hazard course that the manager had to go through when he was just a player. " Substitute the word "student" for "player" and you have a terse description of American academia, especially the system of graduate and professional education. On my various stops in the academy, I have seen both the intentional ("They came to believe that the hazing they received was an important part of their training [after all, why would they have chosen to endure it rather than leaving -- a subtle logic trap]. So they abused the agent trainees the way they had been abused.") and unintentional ("managers tend to just imitate managers they've had themselves [who, in turn, probably developed their managerial behavior portfolio the same way].") flavors of hazing. As Angus points out, such practices, besides making people needlessly miserable, tend to entrench bad practices and squander potential. It repeatedly surprises me that intelligent people, trained in critical analysis, can be so glaringly uncritical when it comes to their own institutional practices.
See also, Grad School "Camp"