The chair of the University System of Maryland's education policy and student life committee said Tuesday that the committee would begin a review of all university policies on hazing, after a recent report of extreme hazing at Salisbury University that has lawmakers calling for tougher penalties.
"Hazing is unlawful in Maryland," said chair Louise M. Gonzales at a committee meeting Tuesday. "There is no question that this board ... is opposed to anything unlawful."
Gonzales said that the university system does not have an umbrella hazing policy, but every college and university has its own that are detailed and all-encompassing.
She said that while the board can explore the need for a system-wide policy, it was "incumbent upon us to examine our institutional policies" for their effectiveness and best practices.
She said, however, that it was not the board's role to "delve into incidents that have occurred or are occurring," including at Salisbury.
Bloomberg reported recently about alleged hazing by a fraternity at Salisbury, including paddle beatings, forced drinking and making pledges stand in trash cans full of ice water. Salisbury suspended the chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon through the spring. The chapter will face another full year of probation after that.
In response to reports about the hazing incidents, the national Sigma Alpha Epsilon said in a statement that they had “a zero-tolerance policy for hazing.” The group also said that it promotes responsible behavior for all of its chapters, posting its health and safety regulations, and is transparent about identifying chapters that violate them. The organization did not specify its violation rate, but said it was a “ a low percentage” for a fraternity of its size.
“We regret that, just like any large organization or company, we have had individuals or former members who failed to live up to our expectations or who violated our policies, and their actions are inexcusable,” statement said. “They reflect poorly on Sigma Alpha Epsilon, and they do not represent us.”
Also, Towson University announced last fall that it had suspended its cheerleading team, ranked No. 1 in the country, for hazing, though officials declined to reveal the specifics of what the cheerleaders had been accused of.
Joann A. Boughman, senior vice-chancellor for academic affairs, said that a survey of some university policies has revealed that the "management of student organizations on campus is a complex matter."
University System of Maryland Chancellor William E. Kirwan said he believes that "regular, continuing education on [hazing] in a substantive way" could be more important than writing a new policy.
He invited some university representatives to talk about what efforts they have made to provide such education.
Dane Foust, vice president of student affairs for Salisbury University, said the campus holds educational programming for students every semester. Students are also required to sign a pledge that they participated in the trainings and understood them.