Virginia State University has announced new anti-hazing initiatives that President Keith T. Miller said “will lead the effort to deter this abhorrent practice.”
Hazing is not just a problem for college campuses, he said. Hazing is a societal problem. Episodes of hazing have been documented in the military, in clubs and organizations, in professional schools and in religious cults. Data from HazingPrevention.org indicates that two in five students nationally say they are aware of hazing occurring on their campus. One in five students report they personally witnessed hazing.
A recent hazing incident resulted in two individuals drowning and four students to be criminally charged.
President Miller said VSU’s efforts will act to change society’s attitudes and actions toward hazing. “While being associated with a group with members of like-minded beliefs and interests is one of the more meaningful aspects of life, hazing is a hidden and serious challenge,” he said. “Hazing undermines the values of the group, the university and our society. Therefore, it is important to continually examine the practices of organizations. It is not enough to certify organizations and then proceed with a laissez faire attitude toward evaluation and practices. Today’s organizational behavior must be frequently and thoroughly monitored.”
Issues with hazing have plagued colleges public and private; large and small; HBCU and predominantly white. Hazing takes many forms: physical, emotional, mental and sexual. Hazing is an act of power and control. While not just a problem for college campuses, Miller said VSU is committed to taking decisive action to eliminate hazing from its campus environment, through use of best practices.
VSU currently operates with a zero-tolerance policy toward hazing. Students and organizations guilty of hazing are quickly sanctioned, to include probation, suspension or expulsion. The school provides complete cooperation with outside agencies investigating criminal allegations of hazing against VSU students or organizations. The University’s position on hazing is articulated in the VSU Student Handbook. Miller pledged to review that document to ensure that the placement is given priority in our Student Code of Conduct and the sanctions involved are clearly understood.
Though already strong and severe, President Miller has taken additional, proactive measures to strengthen these policies. To begin the process, he established a Task Force on Hazing, comprised of students, faculty and staff. This group will identify and expand opportunities to educate and train students on a continuous basis.
Led by the Vice President for Student Affairs, the Task Force on Hazing is a significant development. Student Affairs staff already provides monthly counsel to students about the danger and the illegality of hazing. Subcommittees of the task force will include:
VSU has also created an Online Student Organization Guide to assist students with making informed decisions about student organizations. This guide explains the difference between sanctioned and unsanctioned organizations; provides a complete and current list of sanctioned organizations, including descriptions of each and contact information; and provides guidance on determining the legitimacy of an organization.
The Online Student Organization Guide will be regularly updated so students can make better decisions about university sanctioned organizations. Through the Guide, students will be able to clearly discern university sanctioned organizations. Descriptions of the site will also be included in student orientation programs.