Maryland Officials Weigh College Hazing Disclosure Plan

Maryland higher education officials are weighing a plan that would spur public universities to disclose suspensions imposed on fraternities and other groups that haze new members.

A Maryland Board of Regents committee has also begun a review of college anti-hazing programs statewide as it considers whether to adopt a uniform policy for all 12 of its public universities.

The initiatives, discussed today at a Board of Regents committee meeting in Baltimore, follow a Bloomberg News report last month of dangerous hazing at a Salisbury University fraternity. The university hadn’t publicly revealed the episode, which included forced drinking and immersing recruits at a Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter in ice.

Under the proposal, universities would publicly announce hazing sanctions as a way to deter students from joining dangerous groups, committee staff member Joann Boughman said. It wasn’t clear whether colleges would be required or merely encouraged to disclose punishments. The plan must still be debated by the Committee on Education Policy and Student Life as well as the full Board of Regents.

“That may be a very positive outcome,” Boughman told the committee. Disclosure could be “a single statement: Organization A-B-C is suspended for a period of time.”

Last week, Maryland state Senator Jamie Raskin said he is planning to introduce legislation that would increase the fine for criminal hazing from $500 to $5,000. University System of Maryland Chancellor William Kirwan told the committee today that the effort has won support from Democrats and Republicans.

Forced Drinking

“This issue has gotten the attention of some members of the General Assembly,” Kirwan said.

During an eight-week initiation at Salisbury in 2012, SAE brothers forced pledges to drink until they almost passed out, dressed them in women’s clothing and diapers and ordered them to stand in their underwear in trash cans filled with ice, according to Justin Stuart, who was then a 19-year-old freshman pledge.

Fraternity members confined recruits for as long as nine hours in a dark basement without food, water or a bathroom, while blasting the same German rock song at ear-splitting volume, according to Stuart, another former pledge, and the findings of the university’s disciplinary board.

In November 2012, the university suspended SAE through the spring of 2014, prohibiting it from recruiting. Salisbury’s disciplinary board found that brothers “put the members of the pledge class in harm’s way,” according to documents obtained by Bloomberg under an open-records request.

Salisbury Hearing

Universities have disciplined more than 100 SAE chapters since 2007, some repeatedly, according to a list published on the organization’s website as a result of a legal settlement. Colleges have suspended or closed at least 15 SAE chapters in the past three years.

Salisbury University will hold a hearing today or tomorrow into whether its SAE chapter violated the 2012 sanctions, including a ban on recruitment, according to Dane Foust, the vice president of student affairs, who attended today’s committee meeting.

The committee’s review of campus anti-hazing policies will seek to determine what works and what doesn’t and whether the system as a whole should adopt a unified policy. As of now, each individual school has its own guidelines, committee chairwoman Louise Gonzales said.

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