Legislative actions seeking to stop hazing deserve a look

It would appear that the Phi Delta Theta fraternity at the University of Central Florida has some explaining to do. One of its pledges was found wrapped to a tree in plastic wrap and doused in food Thursday night in an apparent act of hazing. Making an example of organizations that participate in hazing may be a good idea if students are ever going to understand that “initiation” doesn’t equal “humiliation.”

According to The Associated Press, pledge Shawn Pierce was found by university police at what was supposed to be a party and not a hazing event. Pierce was covered in cooking oil, chocolate sauce and whipped cream. The police were unsure if Pierce agreed to the treatment or not, as officers told AP that Pierce changed his story when pressed with the issue.

A study on hazing done by Alfred University defines the act as “any humiliating or dangerous activity expected of you to join a group, regardless of your willingness to participate.” According to the study, 76 percent of students participating whohad joined a fraternity or sorority were hazed, compared to 73 percent of students who were initiated into gangs or “peer groups.” Of the students who participated in these acts involving any of the above groups, 71 percent experienced negative consequences.

Chad Meredith, a freshman at the University of Miami, died in 2001 at a hazing event with the Kappa Sigma fraternity. According to AP, Meredith’s parents, along with Rep. Adam Hasner, sponsored Florida House Bill 1261, or “The Chad Meredith Act,” which calls for criminal penalties for hazing. The act was approved by a House committee Thursday, and would call for penalties ranging from first-degree misdemeanors to third-degree felony charges based on each case. It also eliminates the defense that the hazing victim consented to the act.

Senate Bill 51, which is incorporated in USF’s student code of conduct, mandates each state university in the State University System to enforce an anti-hazing policy, according to USF’s Web site. USF’s policy implements penalties for hazing that include fines, probation and loss of privileges. Should HB 1261 be implemented, these penalties will become much harsher, and students will have to face more intimidating judges than a group of their peers.

Hazing will probably never be affectively banned, as it is traditional in some Greek organizations and will likely not change in the near future. Yet, the looming threat of dire consequences could deter fraternities and sororities as well as protect joining members from being subjected to possibly dangerous hazing procedures.