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USG passes resolution to prevent on-campus hazing

The resolution supports Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s REACH Act, which would include hazing in the Clery Act.
Hazing+is+often+considered+a+tradition+in+many+fraternities.+
Image by Shalom Berhane
Hazing is often considered a tradition in many fraternities.

The University of Minnesota’s Undergraduate Student Government (USG) voted to approve a resolution in February supporting Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s Report and Educate About Campus Hazing (REACH) Act, which would amend the Clery Act to include campus hazing.

The Clery Act is a federal law requiring universities that receive public funding to collect campus crime data and report the information annually to the U.S. Department of Education. The law also requires the University of Minnesota to have SAFE-U alerts and the Daily Crime Log.

Colleges and universities would need to include reported hazing incidents in their annual crime reports under Klobuchar’s Clery Act amendment.

UMN students REACH for change

The goal of the REACH Act and the subsequent USG resolution is to make sure all students on campus are safe and to eliminate hazing, according to Yusra Hassan, the resolution’s author and USG’s government and legislative affairs federal coordinator.

“The main focus of the bill is to make sure that hazing prevention policies are evidence-based and research-based,” Hassan said. “We as a student government support students being able to thrive while being healthy and safe on campus.”

Hassan said Klobuchar’s staff reached out to USG to gain an understanding of the importance of this issue to students. Hassan began seeking student input by collecting student signatures to co-sponsor the resolution.

As of Thursday, 92 students have co-sponsored the resolution, along with groups including the College of Liberal Arts Student Board and the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences Student Ambassadors, Hassan said.

Discipline for hazing at UMN varies by incident

The University Student Conduct Code defines hazing as “any behavior or activity that endangers the health or safety of an individual (including, without limitation, an act intended to cause personal degradation or humiliation) for the purpose of initiation in, admission to, affiliation with, or as a condition for continued membership in a student group or University athletic team, regardless of the individual’s willingness to participate.”

Jake Ricker, the University’s public relations director, said the University opposes all forms of hazing in an email to the Minnesota Daily.

“Hazing can lead to significant and lasting physical, mental and emotional harm for victims and it has no place in our campus community,” Ricker said. “We review every allegation of hazing that we receive.”

Ricker said the University supports efforts to create transparency and accountability in the disciplining of people who participate in hazing someone that reflects the seriousness of the hazing.

The University has “existing policies and processes that outline how allegations of hazing are reviewed, investigated and adjudicated, including formal discipline when findings determine those are appropriate,” Ricker said.

According to the University’s Student Unions & Activities website, individuals and student groups who violate the Student Conduct Code section on hazing can face disciplinary actions including probation, suspension and dismissal from the University. Individuals are also subject to criminal liability.

Ricker said he could not comment on how the University would implement any changes to the Clery Act until lawmakers finalize language and potentially approve the REACH Act.

Hazing is often rationalized, psychology professor says

Liza Meredith is a psychology professor at the University who studies college student mental health. She said there are a number of reasons why hazing exists and why people may accept being hazed even if they do not feel comfortable.

“We know from psychological research that people like to obey orders, especially when certain environmental factors are in place,” Meredith said. “We know that in frats, peer pressure can play a role if you see your fellow recruits or brothers doing the activity and could lead you to justify or rationalize that it’s not that bad because of this.”

Meredith said she believes hazing is more common among men because it is a way to prove one’s masculinity and strength and is considered a tradition in some fraternities.

“So often we repeat traditions that we have done before without really thinking through why, so they might just be carrying it on for legacy reasons,” Meredith said. “There’s research to suggest one of the reasons hazing might be done is to increase obedience and conformity, and perhaps the goal of hazing is to create as much cohesion in a group as possible.”

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