Yesterday the University of Texas sent out an email to all of its students outlining its policy towards hazing and detailing some crimes that are considered hazing. You can find the entire email in memorandum form here but these are the relevant excerpts:
According to the law, a person can commit a hazing offense not only by engaging in a hazing activity, but also by soliciting, directing, encouraging, aiding or attempting to aid another in hazing; by intentionally, knowingly or recklessly allowing hazing to occur; or by failing to report, in writing to the Dean of Students, first hand knowledge that a hazing incident is planned or has occurred. The fact that a person consented to or acquiesced in a hazing activity is not a defense to prosecution for hazing under this law.
D. any activity that intimidates or threatens the student with ostracism, that subjects the student to extreme mental stress, shame, or humiliation, or that adversely affects the mental health or dignity of the student or discourages the student from entering or remaining registered in an educational institution, or that may reasonably be expected to cause a student to leave the organization or the institution rather than submit to acts described in this subsection;
DANGEROUS OR DEGRADING ACTIVITIES
- – Any form of individual interrogation;
- – Lineups for the purpose of interrogating, demeaning, or intimidating;
- – Any type of servitude that is of personal benefit to the individual members;
- – Wearing of embarrassing or uncomfortable clothing;
- – Intentionally messing up the house or a room for clean up;
- – Demeaning names;
I’ve only quoted 10% of the memorandum because I genuinely believe that 90% of it is rational and that 100% of it was created in good faith. Many of the ‘DANGEROUS OR DEGRADING ACTIVITIES’ that were listed in the original document are genuinely harmful acts such as excessive alcohol consumption and blatant physical harm. However, it seems to me like the University of Texas may have broadened the scope of § 37.151(6)(D) which extends the definition of hazing to acts that “threatens the student with ostracism.” The University and the Legislature are concerned (for legitimate reasons) that fraternities and sororities will mentally push students into leaving the University and dropping off the face of the earth because a brother or sister was being mean to them.
Despite this, the penal code seems to be unreasonably broad and the University takes full advantage of that fact with the crimes that it considers hazing. I’m not sure how the University has been enforcing the hazing statute, but it certainly is threatening to punish individuals for crimes that could could very questionably be considered contrary to the impermissibly vague statute.