Board of Governors tackles hazing

Poster of Stop Hazing sign.
Photo Courtesy of @stop_hazing_ on Twitter.

The Board of Governors is making an effort to combat hazing at all 12 institutions in Florida’s State University System.

The BOG at its Jan. 31 meeting adopted regulations with strong language prohibiting hazing, along with explicit expectations for each of the universities that it oversees. Florida statutes also prohibit hazing and list it as a felony.

While Florida A&M University and Florida State University have had many of the laws and regulations surrounding anti-hazing measures in place for the past several years, the remaining 10 state universities will now have equivalent precautions in place.

This measure puts further responsibility on the universities to have in place strong protections.

“Nothing focuses a mind like a death on campus,” said FSU’ President John Thrasher. “I do see a culture change. I think that some of the things that we have implemented after that incident have made an impact, but I will say this — it’s incremental.”

Chair of the BOG’s Student Affairs Committee, Corey King, reported the results from an online anti-hazing course that has been distributed throughout the state schools.

Nearly 95,000 students have taken the course and the results have shown positive reinforcement to be evident in the following reports: 88 percent gained increased knowledge and awareness of hazing, 80 percent said they are more committed to prevent hazing, 83 percent are less inclined to participate and 79 percent are better equipped to handle a hazing situation.

The course paired with the mandatory attendance of a hazing prevention seminar are required in order for students to enter into any student organization on the campus of FAMU.

Bryan Smith, interim associate vice president of student affairs and university ombudsman, got his start at FAMU soon after the hazing death of Marching 100 drum major Robert Champion in November 2011.

He was brought in to help steer FAMU’s hazing prevention initiatives and was initially referred to as the university’s “anti-hazing czar.”

Smith has a background in compliance ethics and law which has helped him to navigate the issue of hazing.

His approach has gained attention across the nation, and Smith has been invited to universities to help instill similar measures that are now in place at FAMU.

“The university has turned into a consultant. Other HBCUs, PWIs and sometimes private corporations have sought our methods which has been a positive result of the prevention efforts,” Smith said.

The battle for hazing prevention is on-going. New students who arrive on campus may have had exposure to hazing before their arrival.

“We have to keep hounding and addressing the issue,” Smith said. “After putting these new initiatives in place we did see an increase in reporting, and that let us know that our educational measures were working.

“We are proud to be able to say that we are leading the way in making sure that it doesn’t happen again,”Smith added.

Tips on how to spot and report hazing:

  • Hazing and bullying have the same power dynamics; be mindful of that.

  • Respect yourself, the organization you’re in, and the university

  • It can happen to anyone, you never know the psychology of a person

  • Pay attention to changed behavior, obvious pain or bruising, and encourage others to report their experiences.

If you notice any sign of hazing you can report it safely and immediately on