Bill in Maryland Legislature would increase hazing penalty
In August, the cheerleading squad was suspended for the 2013-14 academic year for a hazing incident.
Although the penalty was eventually shortened to just one semester, the team still paid a price for the incident, of which the details were never released.
A bill in the Maryland legislature would make penalties for these kinds of incidents ever harsher.
Sponsored by Senator Jamie Raskin and backed by University System of Maryland Chancellor Brit Kirwan, the bill would increase the minimum fine imposed on groups, teams and fraternities for hazing from $500 to $5,000.
“I did some research [on the bill] and learned that there are periodic efforts to control hazing, and that [there is] a criminal stature, but the fine was only $500, which only amounts to the weekend keg supply for a lot of these fraternities,” Raskin said. “So when I talked to university officials they all thought that increasing the fine could deter some of the worse abuses.”
Raskin said he was inspired to write and introduced the bill when he heard about a hazing incident regarding the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity at Salisbury University.
In March 2013, a pledge for the fraternity was stripped of all clothing except his underwear, and was placed in a trash can that was filled with ice up to his waist.
He was placed outside, and other members of the fraternity sprayed him with hoses and dumped water on his head. The fraternity was suspended from campus until the end of the semester.
“The incident at Salisbury sounded something like it was from Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo Bay, not a college,” Raskin said. “If another country was doing that to American service members we would consider it inhumane and degrading treatment, if not torture, so the state needs to send a strong message to young people on campus that they can have a good time, but they can have a better time in their activities without hazing and abusing people.”
Raskin said he has the support of all college administrators, and that the bill has been met with positive feedback from his colleagues in Annapolis.
“But I think my bill will pass because my colleagues really don’t want to wake up one day to hear that someone died in one of these episodes, and say how much we wish we had done something,” he said.
The University defines hazing as “…any action taken or situation created intentionally, whether on or off campus, inflicted on person(s) joining a group or member(s) of a group, that a reasonable person would consider as having the potential to create mental or physical discomfort, embarrassment, harassment, or ridicule, without the individual’s consent.”
All punishments are imposed by the Office of Student Conduct and Civility Education, and can be overturned or lessened by a panel of faculty, staff and students, which happened in the case of the cheerleading team.
Two fraternities are currently suspended from campus for violation of the hazing policy. Zeta Beta Tau was suspended in April 2012 for violation of the hazing policy and is off campus through the summer 2014 semester.
Additionally, Alpha Epsilon Pi was also suspended in November for violation of the policy, and is off campus through the fall 2015 semester, according to the University’s Fraternity and Sorority Life webpage.
“We want to send a strong signal to young people that we will bring down the full force of the law down on them for hazing,” Raskin said.