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Hazing Education Initiative

at Florida State University

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About the Hazing Education Initiative

"Raising Awareness: Hazing and the Student Experience"
Meghan Green, M.S., 2006; Graduate Assistant, Student Rights and Responsibilities 2005–2006
Adam Goldstein, Ph.D.; Associate Dean of Students 2004–2014

Chad Meredith’s story is a sad one. In 2001, while enrolled at the University of Miami, Chad returned from a concert and began drinking with two officers of Kappa Sigma, a fraternity he wished to join. After several hours of drinking, the group tried to swim across Lake Osceola near campus. Chad's blood alcohol level was 0.13, and he drowned 34 feet from shore in six feet of water. Although, the fraternity officers protested that the incident was not a fraternity–sanctioned hazing event, a jury found otherwise, and awarded the deceased student’s family a $12.6 million verdict in a negligence suit based on hazing.

In the summer of 2005, the Florida Legislature passed the Chad Meredith Act (HB193), a bill designed to address hazing in high schools and higher education. The bill clarifies the definition of hazing, makes it easer to criminalize the behavior in the courts, and clearly states that a victim’s voluntary participation is not an excuse. Under the new law, hazing is defined as, "any action that recklessly or intentionally endangers the mental or physical health or safety of a student for…the purpose of initiation or admission into or affiliation with any organization operating under the sanction of a postsecondary institution." This includes, but is not limited to: (a) pressuring or coercing the student into violating state or federal law; (b) any brutality of a physical nature, such as whipping, beating, branding, forced calisthenics, exposure to the elements, forced consumption of any food, liquor, drug, or other substance, or other forced physical activity that which could adversely affect the physical health or safety of the student; (c) any activity that which would subject the student to extreme mental stress, such as sleep deprivation, forced exclusion from social contact, forced conduct that which could result in extreme embarrassment; and (d) other forced activity that which could adversely affect the mental health or dignity of the student. Hazing does not include customary athletic events or other similar contests or competitions or any activity or conduct that furthers a legal and legitimate objective.

A group of Florida State University graduate students and staff were convened in the summer of 2006 to develop an environmental strategy for raising awareness about the new hazing law. The goals of the group were to utilize the passage of the law as a catalyst for cultural change within our individual and collective communities, raise student, faculty and staff awareness about state and university expectations regarding hazing, and to educate the community about what hazing is and where to turn should they become a victim. As a result, a number of hazing education initiatives were implemented by departments throughout the Division of Student Affairs including, Athletics, Greek Life, the University Union, and Housing. This web site is a direct result of these efforts.