Young men and women across the nation come to college for the first time eager to participate in an assortment of student organizations, including fraternities, sororities, academic organizations, athletic organizations, and military organizations. Many students chose to be involved in these organizations with the intent to further their college experience by gaining more friends, boosting their resume, and obtaining various leadership positions.
However, an increasingly large problem that many universities are facing today is the copious amount of hazing that occurs within these organizations.
According to the Texas Education Code Sec 37.152, a person commits an offense if he or she:
(1) engages in hazing;
(2) solicits, encourages, directs, aids, or attempts to aid another in engaging in hazing;
(3) recklessly permits hazing to occur; or
(4) has firsthand knowledge of the planning of a specific hazing incident involving a student in an educational institution, or has firsthand knowledge that a specific hazing incident has occurred, and knowingly fails to report that knowledge in writing to the dean of students or other appropriate official of the institution.
Stophazing.org further defines hazing by three specific components: it occurs in a group context, it is humiliating, degrading, or endangering behavior, and it happens regardless of an individual’s willingness to participate.
The spike in hazing cases that result in serious injury or even death has caused colleges and law enforcement to take extreme action. According to The Austin American Statesman article on hazing in Texas, Texas A&M University has discovered 10 different student organizations “responsible for hazing since fall 2018”, resulting in various organization suspensions and student sanctions.
Many students are aware of hazing, yet do not think they will ever get caught or even end up participating in such acts. However, it could be you or your close friend that winds up facing criminal charges for these behaviors, and the impact can last a lifetime. Though you have a chance of leaving University sanctions and discipline in your past, criminal charges will follow you everywhere. Even if you don’t receive a felony charge, a misdemeanor offense is still a criminal record, and may prevent you from job opportunities, housing, and much more in your future.
You may be charged with a Class B misdemeanor either for failing to report hazing or for hazing that does not result in serious bodily injury. However, if you are involved in hazing that does result in serious bodily injury, you can be charged with a Class A misdemeanor, which is the highest misdemeanor offense in Texas. A hazing offense that results in death will be charged as a state jail felony.
However, there is potential for immunity from prosecution or civil liability provided in the Texas Education Code:
Sec. 37.155. IMMUNITY FROM PROSECUTION OR CIVIL LIABILITY AVAILABLE.
(a) In the prosecution of an offense under this subchapter, the court may grant immunity from prosecution for the offense to each person who is subpoenaed to testify for the prosecution and who does testify for the prosecution.
(b) Any person who voluntarily reports a specific hazing incident involving a student in an educational institution to the dean of students or other appropriate official of the institution is immune from civil or criminal liability that might otherwise be incurred or imposed as a result of the reported hazing incident if the person:
(1) reports the incident before being contacted by the institution concerning the incident or otherwise being included in the institution’s investigation of the incident; and
(2) as determined by the dean of students or other appropriate officials of the institution designated by the institution, cooperates in good faith throughout any institutional process regarding the incident.
(c) Immunity under Subsection (b) extends to participation in any judicial proceeding resulting from the report.
(d) A person is not immune under Subsection (b) if the person:
(1) reports the person’s own act of hazing; or
(2) reports an incident of hazing in bad faith or with malice.
Student organizations are a great way to make new friends and expand your network throughout your time in college, however it is essential that you are aware of the consequences and dangers of hazing. It can follow you for the rest of your life.