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Higher education hazing prevention

Hazing on college campuses has been a ritual in the U.S. for 200 years. Cornell University had a hazing-related death as early as 1873. During this current 2018 Maryland General Assembly, there is proposed legislation that attempts to combat certain dangerous aspects of hazing called the Institutions of Higher Education – Hazing – Required Reporting and Education.

Hazing in colleges is a custom where clubs, sports memberships, or Greek fraternity/sororities induct new members and have traditional forms of activities that are usually meant to be embarrassing. They sometimes range to being outright dangerous or emotionally damaging.

Over the years, hazing has become a hot-button issue with colleges all over the country. Scandals concerning the practice have brought a bad light to some organizations and schools that are otherwise great contributors to their respective communities.

There have been reports that 55 percent of students involved in clubs have experienced hazing. Athletic coaches knew about 40 percent of those and were actually involved 22 percent of the time. This breeds an environment of mistrust towards the authority figures who should help all students under their care and prevent that sort of mistreatment.

The most troubling statistic is that even with the newfound attitude towards the dangers of hazing, 95 percent of students who experience hazing do not report it to school officials. Some of this could be due to non-extreme forms of hazing that do not lead to physiological or physical damage. However, that number still stands when considering the many students who do experience significantly harmful forms of hazing but are fearful to report it.

The bill, if signed into law, would require all schools in Maryland to submit documents and reports to the Higher Education Commission. These documents include the school’s current policy on hazing, how the policies are received, all incidents of hazing reported, and how those incidents were dealt with.

Another stipulation of the bill would be that each school would also be required to educate students about the dangers of hazing as well as the school’s policies regarding the practice. UMBC currently has a policy similar to that in place when it comes to pledges in Greek life on campus.

UMBC currently has a zero-tolerance hazing policy under their definition of what hazing entails. The policy also requires each pledge, or the equivalent in other clubs, to submit statements indicating that they know their rights as students and records by the club are to be maintained. However, these policies cannot always prevent every instance of hazing, even in extreme cases.

In the Spring Semester of 2015, five women from the lacrosse team were suspended over hazing accusations which shows that even with as strict a policy as UMBC has adopted, there is still room for improvement to make certain there are not any bullying issues when it comes to campus involvement.

The bill could help keep schools and students present and vigilant in the wake of so much damage and suffering that has come from harsh forms of hazing. Hopefully, it is passed and helps students feel safer when participating in campus activities across the state.