SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Drury University’s strict new punishments for hazing have education professionals talking.
“[Drury] obviously put a lot of thought into how it defines hazing, and the sanctions that are being applied for violations of hazing,” Missouri State Dean of Students Dr. Thomas Lane said.
The new policies, which call for a $100 fine, 20 hours of community service, and dismissal from university housing for something as simple as forcing a freshman to carry bags to practice or a student pledging a fraternity to prepare for “pop quizzes” based on group history, were spelled out in Drury’s Blue Ribbon Committee on the Prevention of Hazing report.
“I think it also shows that this university has a serious commitment to this initiative and we want to provide a safe environment for all of our students,” Drury Dean of Students Dr. Tijuana Julian said.
Missouri State defines hazing as, “any act that endangers the mental or physical health or safety of a student, or which destroys public or private property, for the purpose of getting involved or retaining membership within an organization.” Their punishments range from probation to expulsion.
“We annually take a look at our student code of rights and responsibilities,” Dr. Lane said. “Not only universities within the area, but national professional associations that our conduct professionals belong to, to student affairs associations. We are always trying to improve and make more clear our student code of rights and responsibilities.”
Drury said that about half of students on its campus were hazed in high school. To that end, athletic director Mark Fisher wants to work with high schools to stomp out hazing before students get to college.
“The earlier we can stop this we can help future generations,” Fisher said. “We know it's not going to happen overnight.”
At least one local high school is open to hearing more.
Strafford Principal Brett Soden also serves as president of the Missouri High School Activities Association (MSHSAA) board of directors. He says MSHSAA has no broad policy towards hazing, instead letting each school handle it individually.
“That might be something that someday we can sit with them and get advice,” Soden said. “Any time someone has an answer to something I think we can all share those ideas and learn from that.”
Strafford defines hazing as, “any activity, on or off school grounds, that a reasonable person believes would negatively impact the mental or physical health or safety of a student or put the student in a ridiculous, humiliating, stressful, or disconcerting position for the purposes of initiation, affiliation, admission, membership, or maintenance of membership in any group, class, organization, club or athletic team.”
That definition comes from the Missouri School Boards’ Association. Disciplines could include suspension or expulsion.
Soden does hope that some level of autonomy is maintained in hazing policy at the high school level, however. He says what’s right for a school in Kansas City or St. Louis might not make sense for smaller schools like Strafford.
“You always think that will never happen to us but you always have to be prepared - what if something like that happens?” Soden said. “I think it's something you talk about it, you're not afraid of it. You educate your people the best you can.”
Soden says hazing is hardly an issue at Strafford, but they do have a policy and chain of command for reporting it.
Missouri State is currently investigating one incident of hazing, and Dr. Lane says that they see, “a number ranging in the single digits” during a school year.