Florida State University’s Greek life ban after a death and hazing violations has become a national conversation surrounding the misconduct of student organizations that happens behind closed doors. UCF’s Hazing and Prevention Education Committee continued that dialogue about their current prevention efforts during their Hazing 101 workshop last Thursday.
Germayne Graham, Associate Director of LEAD Scholars and chairperson of hazing prevention and education committee, and Katie Borza, a graduate assistant with Hazing Prevention and Education, both take part in the Hazing and Prevention Education Committee. They presented the Hazing 101 workshop and are involved in other hazing prevention programs.
“The good thing that UCF has been doing is that we already had practices put in place so when an event like this occurs, we know we already have a plan in place in case it happens on our campus as well,” Borza said.
According to Graham, the committee has been overseeing hazing preventative efforts on the UCF campus for approximately five years.
“We talk about prevention strategies, hazing investigations, adjudication process and mostly preventative efforts,” Graham said.
Throughout the spring there are workshops and programs that spotlights hazing prevention. During Leadership Week in February, UCF sponsors two development speakers to help faculty and staff to be able to identify hazing, Graham said.
"In May UCF sponsors the State University Hazing Prevention Summit where all the schools from the state of Florida come to UCF," Graham said, "and we have workshops and activities that help faculty, staff and grad students work on preventative efforts for hazing for the next academic year.”
FSU’s fatal incident and hazing violations resulted in a ban of certain fraternities and sparked a conversation across the country. However, they were not the only university to punish Greek organizations in 2017.
In June of 2017, UCF suspended the Alpha Alpha chapter of the Lambda Theta Phi Latin Fraternity due to allegations of hazing and sexual misconduct. More recent is the suspension of Alphi Xi Delta's UCF chapter last November due to allegations of hazing, under-age drinking and issuing inaccurate information to UCF's staff and law enforcement.
“It’s important to know that this message starts from day one at UCF, and it isn’t limited to Greeks,” UCF spokeswoman Courtney Gilmartin said. All students entering UCF are instructed to complete a series of online modules that displays UCF's rules and expectations of behavior surrounding academic integrity, alcohol, hazing and interpersonal violence, Gilmartin said.
Graham said these modules have been taken by over 31,000 students over the past three years. In 2014, UCF conducted a pilot study of the module with a small group of student leaders and found that students who were considered to be leaders were less likely to report hazing if they saw it and more likely to be involved with hazing.
“The reason we think this happens is because the more students become involved on campus and the more engaged they become and they want to obtain leadership positions due to the pressure of wanting to be involved, connected, and accepted by your peers,” Graham said.
Part of the issue also has to do with recognizing the matter at hand. About four years ago, UCF conducted a survey that resulted in 40 percent of UCF students being subjected to hazing, but only one percent of the students said that they were hazed, according to Graham.
“That was a clear indication that our students don’t know what hazing behaviors are," Graham said.
UCF’s Hazing Policy from the Golden Rule Student Handbook defines hazing as actions that recklessly or intentionally endangers the mental or physical health and/or safety of a student to be able to become a member of any organization registered with UCF. It also includes physical brutality or other forced activity. According to the policy, an individual cannot give consent to doing any of the activities listed above that are identified as hazing because it will be presumed to be a "forced" activity. Hazing can result in felony charges.
“I think nationally it was a tough year, but we do feel better about what we have to offer our students and we know most of them are aware and willing to report it,” Graham said.
UCF's Greek organizations have put themselves on moratorium due to FSU's circumstance and the recent suspensions of a UCF sorority and fraternity.
“Last month, Greek student leaders created new guidelines that prohibit alcohol and social events for the first six weeks of the spring semester,” Gilmartin said. “Previously, only the first two weeks were dry. The new guidelines are the result of conversations about refocusing on the original values of Greek organizations.”
The Hazing and Prevention Education Committee prioritizes prevention efforts in order for students to receive positive outcomes and experiences within their communities.
“I want to make sure that the students I’m working with can continue to be a part of these organizations and feel safe while they gain leadership skills, build relationships and network,” Borza said. “Hazing leaves a negative light on student organizations in general, not just the ones highlighted in the media.”
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated Germayne Graham's position. Her position is Associate Director of LEAD Scholars and chairperson of hazing prevention and education committee.