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Letter from the President: Planning for the Future of VSU

Published date: May 6, 2013

Hazing is not just a problem for college campuses, hazing is a societal problem. Episodes of hazing have been documented in the military, in clubs and organizations, in professional schools and in religious cults. Data from HazingPrevention.org indicates that two in five students nationally say they are aware of hazing occurring on their campus. One in five students report they witnessed hazing personally. This practice must not continue. As a community, VSU will act to change society’s attitudes and actions toward hazing.

While being associated with a group with members of like-minded beliefs and interests is one of the more meaningful aspects of life, hazing is a hidden and serious challenge. Hazing undermines the values of the group, the university and our society. Therefore, it is important to continually examine the practices of organizations. It is not enough to certify organizations and then proceed with a laissez faire attitude toward evaluation and practices. Today’s organizational behavior must be monitored frequently and thoroughly.

For far too long, hazing has been viewed as an acceptable rite of passage for many students in colleges and universities throughout the United States. The practice is widespread. Issues with hazing have plagued colleges public and private; large and small; HBCU and predominantly white. Hazing takes many forms: physical, emotional, mental and sexual. Hazing is an act of power and control. While not just a problem for college campuses, VSU has committed to taking decisive action to eliminate hazing from its campus environment, through use of best practices. We will be a positive example for others to follow.

First, we have existing policies against hazing, with a zero-tolerance position. Students and organizations guilty of hazing are quickly sanctioned, to include probation, suspension or expulsion. We provide complete cooperation with outside agencies investigating criminal allegations of hazing against VSU students or organizations. While our position on hazing is articulated in the VSU Student Handbook, we will review that document to ensure that the placement is given priority in our Student Code of Conduct and the sanctions involved are clearly understood.

Though already strong and severe, I have charged my staff with creating proactive measures to strengthen these policies. To begin the process, we are establishing a Task Force on Hazing, comprised of students, faculty and staff. This group will identify and expand opportunities to educate and train students on a continuous basis. We also are creating an Online Guide to assist2students with making informed decisions about our student organizations. This guide explains the difference between sanctioned and unsanctioned organizations; provides a complete and current list of our sanctioned organizations, including descriptions of each and contact information; and provides guidance on determining the legitimacy of an organization.

The Task Force on Hazing is a significant development. The Vice President for Student Affairs is heading the group. Student Affairs staff already provides monthly counsel to students about the danger and the illegality of hazing. Additional stringent steps will be taken. The titles of the subcommittees of the task force will include:

  • Freshmen
  • Social Organizations
  • Tolerance
  • History and Future
  • Culture
  • Advisors
  • Educational Training

The Online Student Organization Guide will be regularly updated so students can make better decisions about university sanctioned organizations. Through the Guide, students will be able to clearly discern university sanctioned organizations. Descriptions of the site will be included in student orientation programs, as well.

Through these proactive measures and others, VSU will become a leader in the Commonwealth. We will include anti-hazing concepts, issues and best practices in a major conference to be held this coming academic year. Currently, initiatives like anti-hazing websites, parental coalition organizations, changing grade point average requirements to join organizations, more stringent campus access and more campus-wide hazing prevention activities are being developed. These discussions are only beginning. We anticipate many additional initiatives. Preliminary plans are being made for ongoing student campaigns against hazing. We are opting for a hazing free community, which will require a coordinated effort throughout campus. We will be relentless with our anti-hazing activities. We will help organizations design educational activities that focus on the purpose, values and function of the organization. There are a myriad of alternatives and each will be explored.

Universities are a microcosm of society. Leaders in higher education must act with a sense of urgency with regard to hazing prevention. While hazing touches every school in Virginia, indeed probably the nation, VSU is determined to lead the effort to deter this abhorrent practice.

Keith T. Miller

Keith T. Miller,

Ph.D.President
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