North Texas Daily

University email makes accusations of hazing

University email makes accusations of hazing

September 10
23:49 2014

Samantha McDonald / Staff Writer

With the Greek community welcoming new pledges this month, images of fundraisers and future philanthropic events occupy a majority of a potential fraternity or sorority member’s thoughts. However, with red cups and string confetti come one of the most sensitive subjects in Greek life: hazing.

From the military to marching bands, hazing can affect any organization in a variety of ways. Most publicized cases, however, show the severest instances of this federal crime when in fact simple acts of hazing, such as forcing a male student to wear a dress, are more likely to occur.

Although the Greek community receives an undesirable reputation for this crime due to popular culture, hazing is known for going beyond campus grounds and into the real world.

“It’s bigger than a university issue,” said Jason Biggs, assistant dean of students for Greek life. “I think that one of the things that we’re seeing, if you really study hazing, is it’s become really a cultural and a societal problem.”

This problem has resulted in statistics that not only have damaged the good name of individuals involved in these organizations, but also possess an ability to distort the ways in which they perceive others. Among the most highly-debated topics is the issue of consent, which can be implied or explicit in nature.

While the former defines an individual’s unspoken willingness to join a group or society, the latter involves his or her verbal agreement to performing whatever is deemed necessary to become a member of that group or society.

Whichever approach it may take, consent cannot be used as a defense in a civil lawsuit because one’s involvement in a potentially dangerous deed might not be considered valid consent; factors such as peer pressure are intangible and thus cannot be proven in court.

By failing to report hazing, individuals can be charged a fine of up to $1,000 with 180 days in jail. Some of the worst cases with hazing resulting in injury or death cost up to $5,000 and $10,000 with up to one and two years of jail time, respectively. This is in addition to the possibility of university disciplinary action and penalties enforced by the state.

Despite these consequences, Dean of Students Maureen McGuinness said that the university found four student organizations responsible for hazing last year: Lambda Theta Alpha, Beta Mu Chapter; Alpha Epsilon Pi, Mu Gamma Colony; Sigma Phi Epsilon, Texas Beta Chapter; and Pi Beta Phi, Texas Epsilon Chapter. This information can be accessed online through a memo made available to UNT students every semester. Once cited, a group found guilty of the crime remains on the list for three years.

The organizations listed above were not available for comments.

Acts of hazing in the university have ranged from a Christian organization’s demand to have pledges leave its members voicemails testifying their loyalty to one that involved beating with paddles, McGuinness said.

In cases of what can be determined as less harmful hazing, such as having an individual bring an organization member a cup of coffee, it can become difficult to distinguish an act of hazing from bonding.

“If you’re doing it as a friend, then that’s one thing,” McGuinness said. “But it you’re doing it to become a member or if it’s perceived that that’s what you have to do to become a member, then that’s a problem.”

Most students, however, may not be able to differentiate between these acts and instead allow themselves to become involved in a criminal act that can build over time, possibly resulting in their removal from the university.

“They come here to have an education, to have fun, and that’s the most important thing for a student, especially when they’re joining organizations like Greek life,” said Kristopher Rodriguez, criminal justice major and peer advocate at UNT. “For people to kind of strike down students’ interest and just make it to where they don’t feel safe or welcome to the university, I think that’s wrong.”

Interfraternity Council President Christopher Nguyen stresses the importance of steering future students away from any and all activities, particularly in relation to hazing, that can cause harm to themselves or others.

After serving his term on the Greek executive board, Nguyen hopes that the future president of the IFC commits to making the university and its organizations a safe place for students who are looking to become a part of campus life.

“The most dangerous words in our language is ‘That’s how we’ve always done it,’” Nguyen said. “You never want to shoot for the status quo; you always want to go above and beyond what you’ve done.”

UNT’s zero tolerance policy for hazing denounces the victimization of students, whether through verbal, physical or mental form. If you or anyone you know is experiencing this type of abuse, call the UNT Hazing hotline at 940-369-STOP (7867) or visit the Dean of Students office, which can be reached via phone at 940-565-2648.

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