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Missouri hazing: high school into college; male and female hazing

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Taking the pledges at SEMO
Thursday, September 6, 2007
By Bridget DiCosmo ~ Southeast Missourian

As Southeast Missouri State University sororities and fraternities wrap up their recruitment weeks and look forward to signing new members, school officials will try to prevent a repeat of last semester, when three members of Zeta Phi Beta sorority were convicted of third-degree assault and hazing.

The three women pleaded guilty to the charges after university officials learned they had sprayed liquid on a student and forced her to eat garbage.

School officials say the university takes a strong stance against hazing and that allegations are met with swift action.

“Whenever we get an inkling, we investigate. We leave no stone unturned until we find out the truth,” said Gary Wendt, Greek life coordinator.

The zero-tolerance policies have always been practiced at Southeast, yet the university still has had to deal with hazing incidents. Beginning with Michael Davis’ death in 1994, Southeast has had five serious incidents involving hazing.

Students who decide to pledge one of Southeast’s 19 Greek organizations are introduced to the university’s zero-tolerance approach to hazing by way of a seminar explaining what constitutes hazing and what recourses they have if they experience such treatment, said Michelle Irby, director of Campus Life.

The Southeast code of student conduct defines hazing as “any intentional, knowing or reckless act, whether on or off campus, which endangers the mental or physical health or safety of any person, regardless of consent, or which violates public law or University policy.” The code identifies such activities, which are outlined by state law as well as university policy, as:

* Any physical brutality.

* Activities that adversely affect mental health or physical safety such as sleep deprivation, exposure to the elements, confinement or calisthenics.

* Forced consumption of food, liquid, alcoholic beverage, drug or substance that subjects a student to risk.

* Any activities that threaten a student with ostracism, subjects a student to extreme mental stress, shame or humiliation, or adversely affects the mental health or dignity of a student, or that may reasonably be expected to cause a student to leave the organization.

Most of the activities involved in initiation are ceremonial in nature, Wendt said.

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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