Summer is over, and perhaps this is the semester you have waited for, the time when you are no longer the lowest member of your club or organization’s hierarchy. You may have endured the initiation process with strength and dignity, and now it is time for you to be part of the initiation for incoming freshmen or pledges.
Of course, you have likely heard warnings about hazing. Perhaps your sorority, fraternity or club leaders fulfilled their obligation by sharing with you the policies and laws related to hazing rituals. Maybe your Pennsylvania college held a mandatory orientation during which speakers reminded you of the recent tragedies resulting from excessive initiation practices. However, you may not realize how easily you could face accusations of hazing and where you can turn for help.
What is hazing?
Hazing rituals began as a way to build trust and comradery among members of organizations. Unfortunately, many sororities, fraternities, athletic teams and others take initiation practices to the point of endangering the health and lives of those involved. Pennsylvania’s laws provide a broad spectrum of activities authorities consider to be hazing, including these and others:
- Beating or physically abusing another student
- Forcing someone to eat or drink anything that could risk his or her health
- Depriving someone of food, drink, sleep or time to manage academic responsibilities
- Compelling pledges to perform humiliating, exhausting or demeaning tasks
- Requiring someone to perform illegal or dangerous activities
The law also explains that hazers are still culpable even if the pledge agrees to the hazing or willingly requests admission to the organization. Additionally, even if you do not physically participate in the abuse of a pledge, you may still face criminal charges that can range from a third-degree misdemeanor to a felony charge if someone suffers injury or death as a result of the ritual.
Protecting your future
In addition to the potential penalties for a criminal conviction, which may impact many areas of your life for years to come, you may face the consequences your institution of higher learning has in place. For example, some Pennsylvania schools are imposing fines, probation or even expulsion upon those involved in hazing rituals.
Colleges and universities are not enjoying the increasing negative publicity they are getting following reports of excessive initiation rituals, so administrations may be willing to inflict the severest penalties possible on those involved in hazing. Because of this, if you find yourself accused of participating in hazing, you would be wise to seek legal counsel about how best to proceed. Your future may be on the line.