Why Getting Legal Help for Hazing Allegations Is Vital
In numerous colleges across the U.S., hazing is a common initiation rite for sorority and fraternity pledges. Despite its prevalence, it is illegal. Students who are accused of hazing may face serious consequences. If they are criminally prosecuted, they may face the possibility of jail or prison time, depending on what occurred. Even if an accused student is not prosecuted criminally, the student may still face college disciplinary action up to and including expulsion. Because of the potentially severe consequences, it is advisable for students who have been accused of hazing to seek legal counsel as soon as possible.
What is Hazing?
Hazing is a type of conduct that is targeted towards students who are trying to gain admission to a sorority or a fraternity. During a hazing ritual, the pledges may be subjected to physically or mentally harmful acts. Examples may include repeated beatings or whippings. Hazing may also include humiliating actions such as forcing the students to drink voluminous quantities of alcohol, stripping or to engage in illegal acts. Hazing is a crime under state law, and colleges and universities also have policies forbidding the ritual. Students may also face civil lawsuits from their alleged victims.
Fraternity and Sorority Culture and Hazing
Fraternity and sorority culture pushes for people to feel like they are a part of selective groups and that the people who are accepted into them are able to keep secrets within the organizations. As a part of the process, hazing is often viewed as a rite of passage in order to join the group. It is commonly viewed by members of the groups as a means of building group solidarity, and the culture involved with Greek life on campus encourages loyalty to the fraternity or the sorority.
How Schools Handle Hazing Allegations
Most universities and colleges have policies and procedures in place outlining how hazing allegations are investigated and adjudicated. Normally, the schools have boards that are designated to hear the cases. Upon learning about an alleged hazing incident, the university will begin the investigative process. The fraternity or sorority along with the students will receive notice, and they may be interviewed. The interviews may be conducted with pledges, current members and the organizational leadership. The local, state and national organizations of the fraternity or sorority will be notified of the pending investigation. The school will then determine what charges should be made against the students and the organizations that were allegedly involved.
After the charges have been decided, the school will schedule a hearing and send notices to all of the students who are accused. At the hearing, the accused students and the alleged victims will be able to call witnesses. If a student is found guilty of hazing, he or she may be suspended for a period of time or permanently expelled from the school, and his or her academic record may be permanently marred. Fraternities and sororities that are accused may also be suspended or expelled from the universities as well as from their national organizations.
The Importance of Seeking Legal Help
The policies at schools and universities have become much stricter about hazing because of the national attention to hazing incidents in the past few decades. Hazing is thus a very serious allegation that warrants care if you have been notified of an allegation that has been made against you. While many people believe that they can clarify things by talking, it is vital that you do not agree to an interview about the alleged hazing incident without the help of an attorney. When you agree to be interviewed or interrogated about the incident, anything that you say can be used against you in both your college disciplinary proceeding as well as any corollary criminal case. You have the constitutional right against self-incrimination, and you can choose to remain silent. If you are asked to come in for an interview about the incident, it is a good idea to tell the school that you wish to remain silent and that you want to hire a lawyer. If you do this, any attempts at questioning must be halted.
A hazing adjudication within a university’s disciplinary process or a conviction in court can cause permanent harm. In addition to potentially facing such things as expulsion, suspension, imprisonment and other consequences, you may face collateral consequences that continue long after your case is over. Contact an educational law attorney who has experience in defending against allegations of hazing to learn more about your rights.