The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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SMU hazing policies

Hazing is a problem faced by numerous educational institutions across the country — SMU is no exception. In response to this, SMU has policies regarding the activity that may result in a number of outcomes. Having policies, however, is not enough to make sure that the SMU community is aware of hazing, so the university educates students to identify hazing and to make them aware of the hazing policies in place.

The university’s hazing policies are updated annually by students and faculty and are published in the SMU Student Handbook, Susan Ratz-Thomas, Assistant Dean of Student Affairs and Coordinator of Judicial Affairs, said.

“Unfortunately,” she said, “a lot of students don’t educate themselves enough about the policies.”

According to the Student Handbook, “hazing means any intentional, knowing or reckless act, occurring on or off the campus of an educational institution … that endangers the mental or physical health or safety of a student,” that is being initiated into any type of organization. These policies are based on the Texas State Hazing Law, which addresses personal and organizational hazing offenses.

“Last spring, hazing expert Bill Hill came and spoke to the entire IFC community [to educate students about hazing],” Ryan Williams, SMU Coordinator of Student Activities & Greek Affairs, said. “This spring, we had another program specifically for new [fraternity] members,” he said. Pamphlets that outline state and SMU hazing policies and that address penalties for hazing offenses were also passed out at these meetings.

“[The university] wanted to make sure that [new members] know what hazing is and what it means,” Williams said. “When a student joins a fraternity, it is important [for him] to know what [he is] looking for and to know when to walk away. Walking away can be the most difficult part because of peer pressure.”

Because of this, Williams said, the university also spends time educating parents about hazing. The university sends letters to parents that identify their child’s Greek affiliation along with names of SMU officials who can receive any concerns that a parent may have regarding hazing.

Once an SMU official is contacted about a hazing allegation, the university takes certain steps to resolve the matter.

Ratz-Thomas said that when the university receives information about a potential hazing violation, it conducts an investigation to see if there is evidence of a violation of the student code of conduct. If there is enough evidence, the people involved receive a written statement that notifies them that they may have committed a violation and a hearing will be heard to decide if those in question are guilty of the offense. Potential violators have time to prepare their cases and attend a pre-hearing to be made familiar with the hearing process, Ratz-Thomas said.

The hearing may be conducted by a single SMU official or by a board made of students and faculty. The board and the organization present their evidence and then witnesses are called. The whole process, Ratz-Thomas said, is open to questions. Once all questions have been answered, the board deliberates. If the board finds that no violation has occurred, the case closes. If a violation has been made, the board would then decide on punishment and would be allowed to consider past offenses of the individual or organization.

Sanctions issued may range from a Class B misdemeanor (for failing to report a hazing offense) to a Class A misdemeanor (for causing serious bodily injury to another person). In the event that a student dies from the hazing, the guilty parties may be sentenced to confinement in county jail. Those in question may hear the decision verbally or wait for it in writing.

Though the process may seem long, but it is for good reason.

“The process is very fair,” Ratz-Thomas said, “and is necessary to protect a student’s rights.”

Any time a violation is found to have occurred, SMU is required by state law to print the violation(s) and the name of the organization(s) or individual(s) found guilty. With this, the university also prints the state hazing law.

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