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Column by Gentry McCreary Addresses Hazing Related to Federal Issues.

Here is the story link

This is a long, thoughtful piece by Dr. McCreary. I’ll post an excerpt here but recommend you click on the link above to get his entire position. –Moderator Hank Nuwer

Addressing Hazing at the Federal Level
Late last week, news broke indicating that the Fraternity and Sorority Political Action Committee (FSPAC) was actively engaged in lobbying against federal anti-hazing legislation proposed by Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL).  Her proposed legislation (which has yet to be submitted as a bill before Congress) would, among other things, require mandated reporting of hazing allegations and would eliminate Federal Financial Aid benefits to students found responsible for hazing.
According to North American Interfraternity Conference (NIC) president Pete Smithhisler (http://abcnews.go.com/Business/fraternity-group-lobbies-hazing-reform/story?id=19766121), the Fraternal Government Relations Committee (FGRC) has, in fact, met with Rep. Wilson regarding concerns about her proposed legislation, and public records indicate that the FSPAC donated $1,000 to her campaign fund.  The FGRC training packet for the April 2013 congressional visits contains a brief section regarding hazing legislation, including this excerpt:
While we lead the fight against hazing, we do not think it should be a federal issue. For many legal and policy reasons, we oppose proposed legislation that denies federal financial aid to students subject to a university sanction for hazing. We believe this legislation would result in more problems than it solves in regards to hazing.
While their critiques of the legislation are legitimate, their involvement in lobbying against proposed hazing legislation could be problematic, especially for the NIC and the National Panhellenic Conference (NPC), the two groups who founded and financially support the FGRC.  Public commentary from FRGC leadership has always suggested that their lobbying efforts included three main legislative priorities: to protect fraternity/sorority exemptions articulated under Title IX, to protect tax deductions for fraternity/sorority charitable contributions, and to promote the Collegiate Housing and Infrastructure Act (CHIA), which would allow for tax-deductible gifts towards fraternity/sorority housing.  Public documents and websites related to the FGRC and the NIC/NPC government relations efforts make little mention of any lobbying on behalf of or in opposition to federal hazing legislation.  In a phone conversation, Pete Smithhisler indicated that the decision was made to only communicate the hazing lobbying effort “to our internal constituents” (Pete Smithhisler, Personal Communication, July 25, 2013).  Based on this admission, it appears that many individuals may have donated to the FSPAC under the auspices of supporting CHIA, with no knowledge that the funds would be used to lobby for or against federal anti-hazing legislation.
Social media has been abuzz with conversation regarding this revelation.  Those defending the NIC/FGRC/FSPAC are quick to point out the flaws in Rep. Wilson’s proposed legislation (http://wilson.house.gov/press-releases/congresswoman-wilson-announces-framework-for-anti-hazing-legislation/).  This criticism is not without merit.  Her proposal of denying federal financial aid benefits to any student found responsible for hazing, or witnessing hazing but not reporting it, would have far-reaching unintended consequences and would disproportionately affect low-income students.
With that said, some of the arguments against her proposed legislation appear misguided.  Several have argued that there is no need for a federal anti-hazing bill – that the issue is best left to the states.  The argument that only the states should be involved in hazing does not reflect an understanding of existing prevention framework.  Those who study the science of prevention are well aware of Bronfebrenner’s “Social Ecological Model” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_ecological_model).  The Social Ecological Model describes various levels of intervention that can affect behavior change.  The outermost layer, the “macro-system,” is often thought of in regards to public policy.  The laws governing any particular behavior are an important part of promoting change with regards to that behavior.  This is a basic tenant of the framework taught at the Novak Institute for Hazing Prevention, and has been previously discussed when comparing the anti-bullying movement to the hazing prevention movement (http://myemail.constantcontact.com/Learning-from-the-Anti-Bullying-Movement.html?soid=1101826026302&aid=OBB2_TrwoF0).
Furthermore, the federal government has demonstrated its ability to bring about behavioral change on college campuses.  For an example of this, one should look no further than the April 2011 “Dear Colleague Letter” from the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/dear_colleague_sexual_violence.pdf).  This letter, and the laws that now undergird it (http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/vawa_factsheet.pdf), have drastically improved the way that college campuses prevent and respond to allegations of sexual misconduct.  Sadly, it appears that the FGRC, along with the leadership of the NIC and NPC, have also lobbied against those reforms (http://www.fspac.org/images/uploads/FratPAC_S12_Newsletter.pdf).
Assuming that the FGRC is genuine in its assertion that it would support “well-crafted” federal anti-hazing legislation, it is worth proposing what effective federal legislation might look like.  The following list includes a number of possible ways that hazing prevention could be enacted at the federal level:
 
Include Hazing in Clery Report Statistics
The Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act was passed in 1990 in response to the 1986 rape and murder of Jeanne Clery at Lehigh University.  The Clery Act requires, among other things, colleges to publish an annual security report.  This report contains statistics about campus crime, including crimes of violence and crimes involving violations of drug and alcohol laws.  The Clery Act was amended in 2013 as part of the Violence Against Women Act to include a number of new crimes in the security report, including domestic violence and stalking.
Many campuses attempt to keep hazing allegations and investigations quiet in an effort to reduce negative publicity and to curry favor with prominent alumni.  As a result, prospective students and their parents are often ill-informed regarding the prevalence of hazing on the campuses they are considering attending.  By including hazing allegations on the Clery Report, prospective students will be able to  make better-informed decisions, and campuses will be more accountable for their respective hazing cultures.  Furthermore, as organizational conduct records are not protected by FERPA, campuses could be required to publish the names of any organizations found responsible for hazing in their Clery Report.  This would add an additional layer of accountability to both the institutions and the organizations involved in hazing.
 

 

By Hank Nuwer

Hank Nuwer is the Indiana-based author of Broken Pledges: The Deadly Rite of Hazing, High School Hazing, Wrongs of Passage and The Hazing Reader. He has written articles or columns on hazing for the Sunday Times of India, Toronto Globe & Mail, Harper's Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, The Chronicle of Higher Education and the New York Times Sunday Magazine. His new book is Hazing: Destroying Young Lives from Indiana University Press.

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