Student groups addressed about university’s anti-hazing policies at workshop
TUSKEGEE, Ala. (December 9, 2011) — In the wake of the suspected hazing-related death of a drum major at Florida A&M University, Tuskegee University reaffirmed its zero-tolerance stance on hazing to students today. An anti-hazing forum and workshop for student organizations was held Thursday in the auditorium in the Brimmer College of Business and Information Science.
|Vincent Antonio Brazelton, a junior majoring in
environmental science, reads a portion of the
Alabama hazing law at the forum on Thursday
at the forum and workshop.
|Tamara Lee, university attorney and associate
vice president for legal affairs, explains that
hazing is a serious crime.
“Becoming a member of any organization is not worth dying for,” said Cynthia Sellers, vice president for student affairs and enrollment management.
Sellers, the director of bands, university attorneys, student group advisers and student affairs representatives addressed members of the university bands, Greek-letter and other organizations. Students were given a lesson on the university’s anti-hazing policy, Alabama’s hazing law, and resources to prevent or report harmful practices.
Junior Ellen Tisdale is a member of the Marching Crimson Pipers Band and Tau Beta Sigma sorority. She said the forum was a positive way to let students know that “you don’t have to go through hazing and sometimes it can go too far.”
Legal matters and consequences
Students were given a frank lesson about hazing and the state law by Tamara Lee, the university’s associate vice president for state and regional government affairs. She explained that hazing was a crime that can take several forms, and it was never to be considered harmless.
“Because this is a misdemeanor, don’t let that lull you into thinking it’s not an important law,” Lee said. “If they charge you with the crime of hazing, they will charge you with other higher crimes such as assault or manslaughter.”
She also explained some of the consequences students and organizations can face if they engage in hazing such as expulsion, suspension, sanctions, jail, fines and civil suits. She put particular emphasis on a portion of the state law that states that conviction for hazing means members and their organization will have to forfeit entitlement to public funds, scholarships and grants. She also told students that a hazing conviction could also prevent them from practicing law, obtaining a business license or being hired by employers.
Lee also spent considerable time explaining to the students what constituted as hazing and dispelled myths about these practices. She told students that hazing can fall into three categories: subtle/humiliation, substance abuse and dangerous/violent.
The subtle/humiliation form can include making members wear certain items or perform demeaning tasks. The substance abuse form includes members being asked to take illegal drugs or drink alcohol or forcing members to ingest foods or liquids to excess. Students being beaten or made to excessively exercise falls under the dangerous/violent form of hazing.
“You may think that hazing is nothing more than a prank that goes wrong,” Lee said. “It’s victimization, it’s a crime and you can go to jail.”
Lee also detailed that some of the justifications used to defend hazing such as tradition and unity are wrong.
“It’s up to you to change the culture. There is no such thing as a little bit of hazing. All of it is bad. All of it is against the law,” Lee explained.
It is all of our responsibility
Student participants signed an anti-hazing and harassment agreement that stipulated the consequences for participating in hazing. However, John Williams, vice president of institutional research, assessment and planning, charged the students to take more of a stand against harmful practices. He asked students to sign an anti-hazing petition for the family of Robert Champion, the FAMU drum major who died after being hazed. He explained that Champion’s death was the result of harmful practices in his organization.
“He was convinced by people that said they loved him,” Williams said. “He allowed himself to be subjected to that extra examination because someone said he did not yet belong.”
Alabama hazing law:
§ 16-1-23. Hazing
(a) Hazing is defined as follows:
(1) Any willful action taken or situation created, whether on or off any school, college, university, or other educational premises, which recklessly or intentionally endangers the mental or physical health of any student, or
(2) Any willful act on or off any school, college, university, or other educational premises by any person alone or acting with others in striking, beating, bruising, or maiming; or seriously offering, threatening, or attempting to strike, beat, bruise, or maim, or to do or seriously offer, threaten, or attempt to do physical violence to any student of any such educational institution or any assault upon any such students made for the purpose of committing any of the acts, or producing any of the results to such student as defined in this section.
Where you can report hazing:
Office of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management
Your organization’s governing body
Tuskegee University Police Department Confidential Hotline: 334-724-4583
What you can do about hazing:
Confront the hazing and refuse to participate in it
Report the hazing
Develop a non-hazing policy and share it with prospective and new members
Be vigilant in monitoring the evolution of your organization
- Tamara Lee
Cynthia Sellers, vice president for student affairs and enrollment management, addresses students.