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Hazing code changes would repeal automatic immunity
Daily Texan Staff
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Published: Friday, March 27, 2009
Updated: Friday, March 27, 2009
Ryan Weinheimerâ€™s pledgeship to the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity in the fall of 2005 was cut short when one of his pledge brothers alerted representatives from the Interfraternity Council to the fraternityâ€™s use of hazing.
â€œI think we had Vaseline in our hair,â€ said Weinheimer, a philosophy senior. â€œWe hadnâ€™t slept for probably 24 to 35 hours, and so when they walked in, obviously the fraternity sent us all home to wait and see what IFC was going to do.â€
Weinheimer said that typically, hazing was more mental than physical.
â€œItâ€™s more of a mind-fuck thing,â€ he said. â€œIt was like staying up at the house for really long periods of time building. People of course are, like, yelling at you, making you do random shit for them.â€
But Weinheimer admitted that pledges were pushed to do calisthenics and prevented from bathing.
In an effort to deter student organizations from hazing, state Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, proposed changes to the hazing code that would clarify criteria for hazing and eliminate automatic legal immunity for students who report hazing in which they have participated.
â€œUnder the current law, there are provisions that anyone who comes and reports to the dean of students, they get automatic immunity from all civil and criminal prosecutions,â€ said Travis County Attorney David Escamilla, who testified in favor of the bill at the committee hearing. â€œAnd that has raised questions about someone who might have been the bad actor who raced over to the dean of studentsâ€™ office before law enforcement
Weinheimer said he was skeptical of the billâ€™s effects.
â€œIf itâ€™ll have any effect, itâ€™ll make sure that people donâ€™t come and tell the IFC or the University whatâ€™s going on,â€ Weinheimer said.
Dean of Students Soncia Regins-Lilly said she has noticed an increase in hazing reports since she began working at UT three years ago.
â€œDuring the fall semester, we may have received more than six or so complaints filed,â€ Lilly said. â€œIn previous years, we could go a semester with zero to one.â€
But the increase in reports has not deterred the practice.
In 2007, 10 organizations were cited for hazing, and 2009â€™s hazing memorandum cited an additional 12 organizations for violating increasingly stringent policies.
Since 2005, two UT students have died after binge drinking during pledging activities.
Lilly said traditional Greek organizations no longer hold a monopoly on hazing.
â€œOne of the myths of hazing is that it is a practice or a social phenomenon only for Greek organizations, and itâ€™s not the case,â€ Lilly said. â€œThere are non-Greek organizations that also participate.â€
Of the new organizations cited in 2009â€™s hazing memorandum, five are spirit organizations, two are multicultural Greek organizations and one, Phi Delta Chi, is a professional fraternity for aspiring pharmacists.
Lilly said that in general, hazing continues to restrict itself to traditional techniques, including humiliation, calisthenics and forced drinking, but that organizations have developed new techniques, including forced drinking of large amounts of water and cattle prodding.
Leo Barnes, UTâ€™s vice president for legal affairs, said preventing students from getting away with hazing is an important step toward deterring the practice.
Weinheimer said he didnâ€™t think the billâ€™s prescriptions would help curb the practice.
â€œThe only loophole that would be closing would be the one that makes it possible to tell [the dean of students or the IFC] about hazing,â€ Weinheimer said. â€œI donâ€™t think itâ€™s a loophole they want to close if they want to reduce hazing.â€