- INSULTS AND STUPIDITY LEADS TO SUSPENSION
- TRAGEDY LEADS TO OFF-CAMPUS FRATERNITY SYSTEM
- STRATFORD HEIGHTS
- BALANCING UNIVERSITY NON-DISCRIMINATION POLICIES AND THE FIRST AMENDMENT: THE CLASH BETWEEN UGA AND BYX
- APPEAL FILED IN AEPI FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION CASE
- HAZING: A PRIMER AND REMINDER
Newsletter > January 2007 > "HAZING: A PRIMER AND REMINDER"
HAZING: A PRIMER AND REMINDER
Dan McCarthy & Tim Burke, Manley Burke, firstname.lastname@example.org
Despite the virtually universal effort of national and international Greek organizations to ban hazing and to discipline members who engage in it, periodic reports of hazing activities continue. With the constant turnover in membership because of the induction of new members and the graduation of older members in the active undergraduate chapters, it is necessary for all chapters to frequently discuss hazing. Such discussions should include the definition of hazing, including all activities that constitute hazing, and the possible legal ramifications for hazing.
Most states have statutes that specifically define hazing. For example, in Ohio, hazing is defined in O.R.C. §2903.31 as “doing any act or coercing another, including the victim, to do any act of initiation into any student or other organization that causes or creates a substantial risk of causing mental or physical harm to any person.” Any person who violates the statute is subject to criminal prosecution. In addition to potential criminal charges, in O.R.C. §2307.44, Ohio law also provides for civil liability for hazing. Under the statute, the victim can sue the participants in the hazing and any organization or officer who “authorized, requested, commanded, or tolerated the hazing.” It is also important to note that consent of the victim is not a defense to civil liability.
The NIC, NPC and most fraternities and sororities also specifically define hazing for their organizations. A representative definition is found in Kappa Sigma’s Code of Conduct. Kappa Sigma defines hazing as
“any action, behavior or situation created by any Kappa Sigma chapter or by any member—pledge, active, or alumnus—as part of the operations of any Chapter voluntarily or involuntarily involving any member(s) or potential member(s) to produce or result in mental or physical discomfort, embarrassment, harassment or ridicule as a prerequisite to or as a requirement for membership or initiation in the Fraternity, or which is otherwise prohibited by federal, state, provincial, local or host institution policies, rules, regulations, statutes or ordinances.”
Because of the broad definitions found in state statutes and the organizations’ own definitions of hazing, it is crucial for chapters and their members to fully understand how broad hazing is defined. Common activities, such as scavenger hunts and mandatory interviews, are considered hazing.
As the Ohio statute is simply a representative statute, each chapter should be familiar with the laws in their jurisdictions and make their members aware of the possible legal consequences, both criminal and civil, for hazing.
RECENT HAZING INCIDENTS
Hazing is still too frequent. Some recent cases that have garnered headlines are below.
At the University of Pennsylvania, two members of Alpha Phi Alpha have been convicted of assault and harassment for beating a pledge and branding him with rubber bands. The victim said he and two other members suffered the treatment for violating pledge rules. He reported that the bands were placed tightly around prospective members’ arms and then snapped repeatedly until the skin was broken and ultimately scarred. Two fraternity members were convicted and each received a sentence of nine months of probation. In addition, the University has placed one of the perpetrators on academic probation, suspended the second for a semester and fired him from his job with the University. The victim, who, according to a doctor who testified, must attend physical therapy sessions because of his injury, also took a leave of absence from the College because of the psychological and emotional distress.
According to an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education, members of the Phi Gamma Delta Fraternity at the University of Vermont had faced criminal charges under Vermont’s new anti-hazing law. The charges against the four members who were cited for conduct at a party where pledges were allegedly mocked as being gay were dismissed, but the University suspended the chapter while the University completed its judicial review of the incident.
At the University of Central Florida, the Florida Epsilon Chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon, one of the oldest chapters on campus, was recently closed because of a hazing incident that occurred on October 26, 2006. According to published reports, at least three pledges dressed in woman’s clothing were hospitalized due to excessive alcohol consumption. The chapter had approximately 90 members, and it is believed that as many as 2/3 of the members participated in the hazing activities. Though the case is still under investigation, SAE’s national office already closed the chapter.
Whether it is a crime or not, hazing is an anathema to the very brotherhood and sisterhood that fraternities and sororities strive to promote. It should not be condoned under any circumstances. The most common excuse for hazing is the illogical, “I was hazed; therefore the pledge class after me will be hazed.” Chapters must break this vicious circle of hazing. One of the best ways to stop hazing is to make members appreciate the potential risks involved for those who are hazed and the potential criminal and civil liability for those who do the hazing.