A former Florida A&M University administrator and his wife have recently created a hotline available for students around the country who have witnessed, or been affected by, hazing.
After numerous reports of extreme bullying in late 2010, Malcolm and Barbara Barnes decided to create an outlet for victims. Through their communications-consulting firm, CSIE Consulting, LLC, the couple has created a nation wide campaign to aide efforts against abuse found through bullying and hazing.
According to the State of Florida Law on Hazing, any act of hazing will result in a first degree misdemeanor. The Chad Meredith Act (named after University of Miami hazing victim) describes the definition of hazing as not solely being limited to physical abuse but “any activity which would subject the student to extreme mental stress, such as sleep deprivation, forced exclusion of social contact, and forced conduct that would result in extreme embarrassment.”
After the death of FAMU drum major Robert Champion, Barbara Barnes believed the focus on the hotline should move toward the anti haze movement.
“It was bullying then, and now it’s hazing,” said Barnes. “It’s always been going on in secret. Many students who join an organization don’t know enough about it. They are never told all that goes on. So when they join, they are surprised. They don’t have the copping mechanism and just sort of give in to it.”
Barnes believes a key factor in preventing the tradition of hazing is education and orientating student prior to joining various organizations.
“The hotline is one piece of a 10 piece program,” said Barnes. “We have an education and orientation piece where you work with students in educating them on what they are getting themselves into when joining organizations. We want to orientate students on what it really means to have a ‘sister’ or ‘brother’ so when a student steps out to join an organization they have knowledge about what should be expected and what is appropriate.”
The hotline is also available for parents suspicious of their children being subjected to hazing rituals.
“A parent sends their child to a university to come home with a degree.” said Barnes. “They do not want to be met with a death certificate at their door because their child has been killed due to hazing.”
As well as offering an instrument for preventing hazing, Malcolm Barnes looks to gain the trust of Tallahassee students by removing the taboo of reporting acts of hazing.
“What we really want to do is convince college students in Tallahassee that the ANTIHAZE National Hazing Hotline is a powerful tool for deterring hazing,” he said. “We want every student to know the number and to use it when the opportunity presents itself.”
The ANTIHAZE Hotline is crafted to interrupt hazing rituals as they are being performed (hazing alarms), prevent future planned hazing activities (hazing alerts), and hazing events that have already taken place (hazing reports.)
All calls are recorded as voice messages and immediately forwarded to hazing responders for the school named. All calls are anonymous, and both Malcolm and Barbara Barnes emphasize the importance of caller protection.
“It is anonymous, and we are very conscious of privacy so there will not be any retaliation,” said Barbara Barnes.
The ANTIHAZE hotline (1-855-NOHAZIN) launched on April 2, 2012 and is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Florida State University has also created an outlet for students to report hazing incidents.
Students may visit hazing.fsu.edu to report all incidents. The website launched in 2006 and has “significantly improved the system of communication,” said Adam Goldstein, the associate dean of the Dean of Student Department.
Similar to the ANTIHAZE hotline, student’s identity will remain protected. However, anonymous reports are discouraged.
“We have much more reports where people identify themselves.” said Goldstein. “The more complete information we provide, the more we are able to protect and prevent.”
The Florida State haze prevention website, like the ANTIHAZE hotline, is available for students and parents 24 hours a day and monitored daily.