Rally to send anti-hazing message

In the middle of an investigation into a USF fraternity accused of hazing, one student hopes to let the community know that “Bulls don’t haze.”

Nicole Garcia, a senior majoring in governmental affairs, has organized an “anti-hazing rally” for today at 12:45 p.m. at the Marshall Student Center Plaza. The rally is scheduled in the wake of allegations that the USF Omega Psi Phi fraternity chapter committed an act of hazing Friday in the vacant J&G Tax office located at 2112 W. Busch Blvd.

Garcia said she did not organize the rally for one specific fraternity or sorority, but as a “concerned student.”

“As a Greek, (I am) trying to get the message out,” she said. “There is no way I’m doing this as a requirement … I took it upon myself to organize this.”

Garcia said USF students and administrators, including Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life Director Patrick Romero-Aldaz and a representative from the Department of Student Affairs, are scheduled to speak at the event.

“We’re going to be just voicing our opinion about hazing and how we’re an anti-hazing school,” she said. “USF Bulls don’t haze. We don’t stand for that.”

Minal Patel, a sophomore majoring in psychology, said she plans to attend the rally even though she is not a member of a Greek organization.

“I think the rally is going to be a big deal,” she said. “There’s a lot of involvement in Greek Life at USF.”

Hazing is a “problem in general,” Patel said.

“It’s up to the administration and the students to stop hazing,” she said. “But students should play a more active role in stopping it.”

Matthew Dolson, a senior majoring in political science and a member of USF’s Sigma Nu Fraternity chapter, said that he may attend the rally.

“I think it’s the administration’s job to advise against hazing,” Dolson said. “But, as a member of a fraternity, it’s your job to uphold your organization’s values and stand up against hazing.”

He said that the founders of his fraternity considered hazing the “biggest enemy” of brotherhood and something that could easily become “rampant” if left unchecked.

“It’s quite unfortunate that this happened (at USF) – it’s definitely a shift in your mindset,” Dolson said.

The Tampa Police Department (TPD) is currently investigating the claims, said TPD spokeswoman Laura McElroy, and has turned the case over to Hillsborough County’s State Attorney office.

“We still have some final interviews to conduct, and we will submit them to the state attorney’s office when it’s complete,” she said. “If they want to re-interview a victim, if they want to clarify … they may do that themselves or they may ask us to bring a suspect or victim for a re-interview.”

McElroy said there are two levels of hazing – felony and misdemeanor. Felony hazing requires a “serious bodily injury usually with a permanent disfigurement (and) permanent injury” and misdemeanor hazing “doesn’t require as serious of an injury.”

“We cannot do a physical arrest on someone with a misdemeanor hazing unless we have witnessed the crime,” she said. “Since we did not witness this incident we turned it over to the state attorney’s office. They will review our investigation, determine if they need to do any additional investigating, and then they’ll make the decision of whether or not to do a criminal charge.”

Christopher Cooper, the chief legal officer for Omega Psi Phi, said the national fraternity is investigating the matter and hopes to conclude it shortly.

Romero-Aldaz, director was unavailable for comment Wednesday.