As a 19-year-old Georgia State University student, I became a member of my fraternity's pledge club. As a pledge, I was beaten unmercifully, ridiculed, taunted and more as was the tradition in a variety of campus groups.
Once I crossed "the burning sands," so to speak, and became a founding member of the GSU chapter of the fraternity, I was elected founding president by my founding brothers.
One of my first acts as president was to prohibit hazing. Yes, my brothers put stress on future pledges, but more often than not we required them to wash cars, run errands, do homework, raise money or volunteer in the community, for instance.
If you don't know, hazing is a crime. Despite that fact, hazing goes on essentially at every college campus in every state and in most cities.
You tell me the name of any former or current college student that has ever been a part of a fraternity, sorority, band, athletic team, military unit or secret campus society that has not been hazed or does not know if hazing exists. Hell, you don't even have to be a college student to know that hazing possibly exists.
Earlier in 2011, a criminal act was allegedly committed at Pennsylvania State University. Once it was learned that university officials and administrators were aware of suspicious acts involving possible crimes against a young person, the athletic director was fired, coaches were fired, assistant coaches were fired and even the president of Penn State University was fired.
The only person fired so far in the aftermath of the FAMU hazing tragedy has been the university band director. How convenient.
The band director almost immediately demanded his reinstatement on grounds that he went to proper administrative channels, informed university officials that hazing was taking place in the band. But the fired band director said no one sought to terminate hazing or suspend or expel students involved in hazing from the band or from the school.
Who is responsible in a court of law when hazing results in a death? Obviously the school and the state that operates the school are liable, but there is a limitation on damages injured persons can received from the state. Any amount over the limitation must come in the form of a "claims bill" and be voted on by state legislators and signed by the governor.
The deepest pockets involved in universities most likely are the pockets of the members of university boards of trustees.
What do trustees have to do with it? University faculty, staff and administrators must be trained on ways to protect students by preventing activities that could be criminal or harmful to the students that attend the school.
Seems to me, if university trustees vote on university budgets and part of that budget contains dollars for training, the trustees should have no problem discussing in court whether state-funded training dollars were used for the necessary and required training on how to recognize and stop hazing.
If hazing was allowed to persist because university employees were not trained on stopping hazing, perhaps the university trustees are personally liable for lack of institutional control of public taxpayer dollars or voting for training budgets when employees were inadequately trained. (Interested lawyers can review the 1992 federal case of Brown vs. City of Oakland, Cal.)
Crime pecking order?
If a crime has been committed and no one is liable or responsible for the death of a student, should we be concerned? Or is there a pecking order of college crime where some crimes are reported to police, some crimes are ignored, some are covered up and some are just bottled up for years by silent accomplices?
At Penn State, people with knowledge of possible criminal activity along with ultimate responsibility at the school, and those administrators that had the biggest university paychecks, were fired.
But not all schools are alike.
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