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Hazing News

Southern Mississippi burning over close call with Kappa Sigma

USM investigating alleged hazing
Lesley Walters
Issue date: 9/4/08 Section: News

The University Police Department has begun the investigation of an alleged hazing incident that took place Thursday, August 28 in the Kappa Sigma house on Fraternity Row.

Two female students involved were admitted to a local hospital for treatment of alcohol poisoning. One of the students was released over the weekend, but the other is being held in the Intensive Care Unit at Forrest General Hospital for continued treatment and observation.

University Police Chief Bob Hopkins said there is no open investigation of the USM chapter of Kappa Sigma, but that UPD is following up on a complaint regarding an incident that took place in that house. Hopkins said there are several students involved in the investigation, including witnesses, possible suspects and perhaps more victims.

The incident was not immediately reported to the UPD, Hopkins said, so piecing together the information will be an added challenge. He added that because of the holiday weekend and the threat of Hurricane Gustav, Wednesday was the first time students coming back to campus could be questioned.

Hopkins said the penalties for hazing involve disciplinary action from the university as well as criminal charges since “hazing is a violation of the law.” Hopkins said the UPD is looking into violations of the university’s alcohol policy as well as criminal charges. He added that some of the students may have been under the legal drinking age at the time of the incident.

“Yes, they could be [underage]. I have not seen the ages of them but I would suspect, dealing with the number of people that we are, that’s a strong possibility,” Hopkins said.

University President Martha Saunders said alcohol and drug education are a key factor involved in USM’s safety efforts, and that any incident of substance abuse is taken very seriously.

“Our students are our treasure, and we place their safety and well-being at the top of our list of priorities,” Saunders said in a statement to the USM Department of Marketing and Public Relations. “Incidents such as what allegedly took place last week are unacceptable.”

In another statement to the Department of Marketing and Public Relations, Vice President for Student Affairs Joe Paul said that any actions that threaten students’ lives, including hazing, will not be tolerated.

“We will not rest until we have secured every detail regarding this incident, and any persons and organizations found to be responsible will be held harshly accountable,” Paul said. He added that the university administration is in “close contact” with national fraternity offices now, and in any case of hazing.

President of the Inter Fraternity Council George Napier, a second-year senior and economics and business management double major from Mandeville, La., said the IFC and the University of Southern Miss “do not condone nor allow community alcohol, underage drinking or hazing of any sorts.”

“We never want this stuff to happen,” Napier said, “and we’ve never condoned or accepted this kind of activity.”

The university’s institutional policy on hazing states that “Individuals and organizations both must be responsible for ensuring that all activities exclude any form of hazing. While chapter members may not be present at a new-member activity, it is still the chapter’s responsibility to ensure the activity does not include hazing.”

The university policies regarding hazing and alcohol on campus are included in the Student Handbook which can be found here.

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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