How much do you know about hazing? Test your knowledge about hazing laws in the
State of Florida and expectations of students at Florida State University
All students enrolled at Florida State University are expected to act in accordance with State and federal laws and the University’s Student Conduct Code. Hazing is illegal in Florida (misdemeanor and felony violation), against the Student Conduct Code at FSU, and against the rules of sports teams, fraternities/sororities, and all student organizations.
The Chad Meredith Act, the State of Florida’s law on hazing, specifically states that willing participation is not an acceptable defense to hazing. In other words, even if people agree to participate in an activity, individuals and organizations can still be found responsible for hazing. It's the law.
When it comes to reporting hazing, remember this: Reporting an incident of hazing is not about getting people in trouble — it is about keeping people safe. If you are truly concerned about the personal health and safety of someone, we know that you would do anything to get them out of harm's way. Reporting a hazing activity to the Florida State University Police Department is the best way to do this. However, reporting hazing without providing your name limits the University’s ability to stop the behavior. Reporting a hazing incident without leaving a name or contact number is considered "anonymous reporting." Providing limited information with no contact information may not be enough to prevent hazing activities or hold individuals and organizations accountable.
The circumstances surrounding Chad Meredith’s death and hazing are: (a) Mr. Meredith was joining a social fraternity that was in good standing at the University of Miami; (b) He and several members of the organization drank alcohol, and then while still intoxicated, tried to swim across a lake near campus; (c) Mr. Meredith drowned in six feet of water; (d) The fraternity had not sponsored any official fraternity activities that evening, nor were members of the fraternity’s executive board present at the incident. Although, the fraternity officers protested that the incident was not a fraternity-sanctioned event, a jury found otherwise, and awarded the deceased student’s family a $12.6 million verdict in a negligence suit based on hazing.
All members of student organizations need to be educated on the consequences of hazing. It should be emphasized that all members hold the future of their organization in their hands when they participate in hazing activities.
It is not difficult to instill membership within a group without hazing. In fact, it is the expectation of all students and organizations at Florida State University that membership and affiliation will be developed without hazing. One way to test whether or not an activity is hazing is to ask the question, "How does this activity contribute to a new member’s understanding of what it means to be a part of our organization?" If the answer is: "to bring the new members together…" Or, "to increase their commitment to our group…" then read Florida State University’s definition of hazing to make sure that the activity doesn’t violate the policy.
The faculty and staff at Florida State University believe that all students should be able to participate in campus activities free of concerns of hazing. There are many ways to accomplish group commitment without engaging in hazing activities. Small businesses, large corporations, and non–profit organizations concerned about these same issues have found multiple ways to increase commitment levels and create a sense of 'team' without hazing. For ideas contact The Center for Leadership & Social Change, the Student Activities Center, Athletics, and/or the Dean of Students department.
Organizations can be held accountable for hazing even if the leaders of the group are not informed or involved in the activity. This was true in Chad Meredith's case, and his organization was ordered to pay $12.6 million to his family. That is why it is essential EVERY student in your organization understand they hold the future of the group in their hands — even when they act alone. We strongly recommend every group discuss Florida’s laws and Florida State University’s policies about hazing openly and often.
Organizations that are accepting new members may ask the new members to learn the history of the organization and present this information to other members of the organization (including alumni members). But, the process of learning and sharing the information cannot demean, disgrace, degrade, or cause discomfort to the new members. Also, it may not occur at times that would interrupt normal patterns of sleep.
All of the above choices are correct. If an allegation of hazing can be substantiated, (a) members of the Florida State University Police Department will contact students to investigate the incident; (b) The State Attorney's office may file criminal charges under the Chad Meredith Act, and the University may pursue Student Conduct Code charges against individuals and/or the organization. The University treats hazing allegations very seriously and will take the actions necessary to stop hazing and hold individuals and organizations accountable for their actions.
Since physical conditioning is a required component of participation in ROTC or any athletic team, it is not considered hazing when completed at reasonable hours of the day, supervised by a staff member, and in accordance with the normal functioning of the organization. However, asking new members to complete unnecessary tasks for certain members of the organization could be considered hazing.
Hazing can occur in any type of organization with any type of structure. Members of all organizations must be informed about the University's Student Code of Conduct and the state and federal laws regarding hazing.
There is no acceptable defense against hazing.
The Chad Meredith Act of 2005 is the state of Florida's anti–hazing law that clarified the criminal code in the State, making it easier to hold individuals accountable for hazing. Depending on the severity of the incident, people charged with hazing can be tried for a first degree misdemeanor or a third degree felony.
The student conduct process is completed on a case by case basis; therefore it is difficult to say what sanction an individual would receive if found in violation of the Hazing policy. One thing is certain, regardless of responsibility the student conduct process will try to help charged students and organizations better understand the decisions that they made, ways to deter this behavior in the future, and the greater context about how consequences for hazing have been elevated in Florida since passage of the Chad Meredith Act.
Hazing that causes a substantial risk of physical injury or death can be tried in a court of law as a first degree misdemeanor.
Hazing that causes serious bodily injury or death will be considered a third degree felony. Remember, if the risks for these conditions are present, the hazing activity will be considered a first degree misdemeanor under the law.
A victim of hazing can submit a "victim impact statement" to assist with the sanctioning phase of deliberations once an individual or organization has been found in violation of the Student Conduct Code. This statement will help the hearing body understand the victim's experience so that an appropriate sanction can be identified. During the judicial hearing, victims are provided the opportunity to submit questions to the hearing body for them to ask the charged student or student organization, though the questions will be asked at the discretion of the hearing body to ensure their appropriateness for the setting. After the hearing, victims are notified of the outcome or finding of the hearing body. For more information about a victim's rights, please visit or contact the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities.
While advisors, coaches, and the Dean of Students department are all important people to inform about hazing, the most important point of contact is the Florida State University Police Department (644–1234). Hazing can be reported directly to the police department on–line by sending an e–mail correspondence to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
This exercise was prepared for you by the Hazing Education Initiative sponsored by the Division of Student Affairs. Questions about the content of this exercise should be sent to the Dean of Students department at (850) 644–2428. Revised, Fall, 2015