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Hazing can be hazing — only NON-CRIMINAL. The U-Albany decision considered.

Hazing can be hazing — only NON-CRIMINAL –if it technically does not fit the law. That’s at a judicial level where an organization might receive school sanctions only (perhaps suspension from social activities for a brief time).

But at the University of Albany, President Kermit Hall ruled hazing did not occur categorically for the following reason reprinted from the Times Union:

Albany president Kermit Hall said the team’s actions did not fit the school’s definition of hazing because there was no malice and no one was endangered physically or emotionally or stepped forward to press criminal charges.

Here is why he is partially wrong in my opinion: 1) The minute alcohol entered the equation, especially to an advanced level of impairment for first-year players, hazing was precisely what happened. The vast majority (more than 80 percent) of all hazing deaths involved alcohol, and I assure you–no malice was intended in nearly all (maybe even all) of these cases. 2) First-year players can enter “willingly” into an initiation and still have hazing occur. The unstated premise that the first-year players realize is that they won’t be accepted SOCIALLY on the team unless they go through the initiation with apparent good humor and some submissiveness.

It may be that the Albany initiation falls under the NON-CRIMINAL hazing category (although giving alcohol to minors males me question that also–though proving it without first-year player cooperation is another matter).

We know have had Iowa and U-Albany presidents make a decision that runs counter to what Greek advisers have been enforcing for years. When it comes to hazing, there are two tiers of justice at some schools–one for athletic teams and one for fraternities and sororities.

That is not only unfair, it’s educationally unsound.

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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