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    April 2016

    Preventing Greek Organization Hazing

    Forty-four states have anti-hazing laws making it a criminal offense throughout the U.S. Additionally, most colleges, universities, and fraternal organizations ban hazing. Yet, the practice continues.

    In the first quarter of 2016, hazing allegations were made against Greek chapters at Miami University, Florida State University, the University of Arkansas, the University of North Georgia, the University of Tennessee, and the University of Michigan. Additionally, in a study of 162 Greek claims United Educators received from 2010-2014, 12 percent came from hazing incidents—most occurring at a pledging or initiation event.

    To prevent hazing, consider the following actions:

    • Publicize the institution’s anti-hazing policy and relevant laws. Potential institutional sanctions or criminal punishment may deter student hazing. In the Greek life orientation, identify what constitutes hazing under the policy and the law, as well as associated consequences. This information should also go in the signed fraternity/sorority recognition agreement and on the Greek life website, if applicable. 

    • End, reduce, or delay pledging. Traditionally, new recruits have had to prove themselves as pledges, or noninitiated members, for weeks or months, creating an extended opportunity for hazing. Institutions that have banned pledging shorten the period between bid acceptance by new members and initiation to two or three days, thus eliminating the time available for pledging and associated hazing. Even with a pledge ban, a short period of time is typically allowed after bid acceptance to organize the initiation events.

    • Install institution advisors in Greek houses. Graduate students, faculty, and other staff members can be effective advisors, especially when they reside at the fraternity house. As a representative of the institution, an advisor should not be perceived as a peer of the members, but as an important communication bridge between the institution and the Greek organization. Advisors can also serve as a resource for pledges who may have questions about member behavior. If hazing does occur, the advisor can quickly report it to the institution.

    • Promote alternatives to hazing. Identify positive ways groups on campus can bond with new or prospective members, such as adopting a local charity; holding group events or dinners; supporting college teams by dressing up for team events or away games; participating in mentoring programs with local K-12 schools; or participating in a community service project.

    • Implement a hazing hotline. Provide students, alumni, and faculty with an anonymous method to report suspicions about Greek organization misconduct by phone, email, or online. Remember an institution has an obligation to investigate and reasonably respond to reports.

    Resources

    Greeks and Risk: Lessons From Claims
    Hazing in Education: Strategies for Healthy Rites of Passage

    By Melanie Bennett, JD, associate risk management counsel

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