College is starting up again for thousands of students across North Carolina. It brings the beginning of athletic seasons, club sports, the rushing period for fraternities and sororities, and many other social activities. But there is one legal issue that is unique to college students; hazing. The act of hazing has deep roots in culture and psychology. These rites of passage are designed to strengthen the bonds between a group and form long-lasting connections. But if allowed without regulation they can result in physical and mental abuse to a student and in rare cases death.
How is Hazing Defined and How is it Punished?
N.C.G.S. § 14-35 defines hazing as "to subject another student to physical injury as part of an initiation, or as a prerequisite to membership, into any organized school group, including any society, athletic team, fraternity or sorority, or other similar group." Anyone who aids or abets hazing can also be charged. The crime of hazing is punished as a Class 2 misdemeanor, which can result in up to 60 days of imprisonment in rare cases. Most people charged with this misdemeanor are facing probation. But the long-lasting consequences of having this particular conviction on a criminal record can be life-altering. Job opportunities may not want someone with this type of behavior on their team. Not to mention that there will be consequences from the university’s disciplinary body. That is why it is essential that an experienced attorney be involved in any hazing matter.
What Actions Count as Hazing?
Traditionally there are three types of hazing: Subtle, Harassment, and Violent.
This type of hazing emphasizes power imbalance and involves activities that hurt the dignity and respect of those involved, often by ridicule or embarrassment. This activity would not rise to criminal activity but could result in a university disciplinary proceeding where a lawyer, like those at Jetton & Meredith, can help.
Examples of subtle hazing include:
- Assigning demerits
- Silence periods with implied threats of violation
- Deprivation of privileges granted to other members
- Tasks of personal servitude
- Memorization of information not explicitly required by the national new member process
- Requiring new members/rookies to perform duties not assigned to other members
- Socially isolating new members/rookies
- Line-ups and drills/tests on meaningless information
- Requiring new members/rookies to refer to other members with titles (e.g. “Mr.,” “Miss”) while they are identified with demeaning terms
- Expecting certain items to always be in one's possession
Harassment hazing consists of behaviors that cause emotional anguish or physical discomfort in order to feel like part of the group. Some types of harassment hazing can also be considered violent hazing. Harassment hazing can result in additional criminal charges, such as communicating threats, injury to property, sexual battery, or other misdemeanors related to the conduct.
Examples of harassment hazing include:
- Verbal abuse
- Threats or implied threats
- Asking new members to wear embarrassing or humiliating attire
- Wearing public, apparel that is conspicuous and not normally in good taste, or requiring shaved hair
- Stunt or skit nights with degrading, crude, or humiliating acts
- Participating in personally degrading or humiliating games or activities
- Expecting new members/rookies to perform personal service to other members such as errands, cooking, cleaning, etc
- Creation of extensive fatigue or forced or coerced participation in calisthenics, push-ups, sit-ups, running, and other fatiguing activities
- Required (explicit or implicit) participation in quests, treasure hunts, scavenger hunts, road trips, or any such activities
- Engaging in public stunts or buffoonery
- Requiring the carrying of objects, such as bricks, buckets, or large objects
- Sleep deprivation
- Late work sessions or activities that interfere with scholastic activities, including exhausting and time-consuming projects that are too disruptive to normal study patterns
- Sexual simulations
- Intentionally creating clean-up work
- Expecting new members/rookies to be deprived of maintaining a normal schedule of bodily cleanliness
- Be expected to harass others
- Any activity considered morally offensive by an individual participating
Violent hazing involves behaviors that have the potential to cause physical and/or emotional, or psychological harm. This type of hazing can result in serious criminal charges including hazing, felony assault, indecent exposure, involuntary manslaughter, animal cruelty, or even second-degree murder.
Examples of violent hazing include:
- Forced or coerced alcohol or other drug consumption
- Forced, required, or coerced consumption of any food, liquid or other substance
- Physical abuse including paddling, beating, tattooing, pushing, hitting, physical threats, exposure to the elements, or other physical harm, or forms of assault
- Forced or coerced ingestion of vile substances or concoctions
- Water intoxication
- Expecting abuse or mistreatment of animals
- Public nudity
- Confining participants to rooms or areas that are uncomfortable due to temperature, noise, size, or air quality for the purpose of harassment
- Any dangerous activity including, but not limited to long swims, jumps from high places, binding, and blindfolding
- Member ditches, abductions/kidnaps
- Exposure to cold weather or extreme heat without appropriate protection
Have you been a victim of hazing and want representation? Have you been notified of disciplinary proceedings at your university? Have you been accused of hazing or other related crimes and need help? Here at Jetton and Meredith, our team of attorneys is ready to assist you. Give us a call at (704) 931-5535 for help today!