Starting next semester, Texas post-secondary education institutions will have to handle hazing crimes in a new way. Due to Texas Senate Bill 38, which went into effect on Sept. 1, universities will have to be more open with disclosing incidents with hazing by releasing a report every semester. These reports must be distributed to every student attending the institution, as well as posted in an easy-to-see spot on the school’s website.
Senator Judith Zaffirini, the primary sponsor for SB 38, said via email that she hopes “Texas colleges and universities will implement Senate Bill [SB] 38 effectively and treat hazing as a serious threat to student health and safety.”
“The message needs to be unequivocal: Hazing is a crime that will not be tolerated,” Zaffirini said. “This, along with the more robust reporting and improved outreach to students required by SB 38, will be critical in our efforts to end hazing and change the culture on our campuses.”
The goal of the bill is that it will bring hazing crimes to attention, instead of letting them stay unnoticed. Zaffirini said lower statistics don’t necessarily correlate with lower number of crimes.
“Hazing festers because of secrecy, intimidation and codes of silence,” Zaffirini said. “Eliminating it requires bringing it to light. Progress will require talking about it openly, honestly and frankly and enforcing serious consequences for those who engage in and embrace it.”
Senator Zaffirini makes her stance on hazing known. SB 38 will force institutions, police departments, and prosecutors to enforce hazing crimes.
The North American Interfraternity Council has also been working to combat hazing in their own ways according to Todd Shelton, the NIC chief communication officer, said.
“The NIC and member fraternities are working with parents of hazing victims to take a leading role on anti-hazing initiatives including federal and state-based anti-hazing legislation that delivers greater transparency through stronger hazing reporting requirements, strengthens criminal penalties and encourages prosecution, calls for university accountability for bad actors, provides amnesty to encourage people to call for help, and calls for student education including providing a platform for the parents to speak to tens of thousands of college students,” Shelton said.
Shelton also said that the NIC is “pleased to see the hazing bill signed into law.”
At the beginning of the fall semester, UNT sent a mass administrative announcement via email to students regarding hazing, and the new regulations. It listed six organizations who have been involved with hazing in the past three years:
- Delta Sigma Phi, Gamma XI Chapter
- Sigma Nu, Zeta Omicron Chapter
- Pi Kappa Phi, Gamma Tau Chapter
- Theta Chi, Delta Phi Chapter
- Sigma Phi Epsilon, Texas Beta Chapter
- Pi Kappa Alpha, Epsilon Delta.
Sgt. Kevin Crawford, an officer with the UNT Police Department said if they can establish probable cause exists, someone can be arrested for hazing.
“Probable cause can be determined based on the results of an investigation including but not limited to; witness statements, victim statements and/or physical evidence,” Crawford said. “Essentially, any facts that would help a reasonable person to believe the offense of hazing has been committed.”
Crawford also said that even if a victim consents to hazing, that does not grant immunity to the hazers.
“The new law allows an individual who reports the hazing incident to be exempt from criminal prosecution,” Crawford said. “It works much like the, “Good Samaritan Law” which allows an intoxicated underage minor to be exempt from the law if they call medical aid for someone under the influence of alcohol — i.e. suffering from alcohol poisoning.”
To formally report an act of hazing, contact UNTPD at (940) 565-3000. For emergencies, always call 911. To report hazing to the Dean of Students Office, go to report.unt.edu, or call the UNT Hazing Hotline at (940) 369-STOP.
Featured Illustration: Olivia Varnell