SRU establishes anti-hazing task force

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Feb. 6, 2018

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Slippery Rock University's Office of Transformational Experiences has developed an anti-hazing task force in an attempt to be proactive in educating the campus community. The task force was established in response to the recent rash of incidents at college campuses across the country.

Brian Crow, SRU professor of sport management and co-chair of the task force, said hazing usually occurs based on one's position on a sports team or in a group.

Gilmore Headshot

   GILMORE

"(Hazing is) becoming more about entertainment by humiliation (than anything else)," Crow said. Crow's interest in hazing prevention was galvanized when, while serving on the board of directors of HazingPrevention.org, he met Lianne Kowiak, whose son, Harrison, died as the result of being beaten by classmates, and members of the Theta Chi fraternity, during a hazing incident at Lenoir-Rhyne College in 1998.

The Kowiak's story left Crow inspired to do more work in this field, beginning on his own campus.

"Prevention is better than reaction," said Crow who added that by looking into similar anti-hazing programs already in place across the country, SRU's task force hopes to develop a comprehensive educational strategy to prevent hazing incidents on campus.

Steven Rerick, a senior dual public health and psychology major from Mountain Top, who has been a member of SRU's men's soccer team for five years, is one of two undergraduate students serving on the task force. He defines hazing as any activity that can be used to target an individual and mock or degrade the person. "University coaches are extremely aware of hazing and make it a priority to stamp it out before it becomes a problem on this campus."

Jayne Piskorik, assistant director for Greek Life and student organizations and a member of the task force, said that although high profile hazing incidents have put a spotlight on fraternities and sororities, all student groups should be equally included in anti-hazing efforts.

"Hazing among the Greeks has not been an issue at SRU," said Piskorik. "And we hope to keep it that way. It is important to make sure initiation activities are tied to a learning outcome"

Piskorik said that she regularly tracks relevant national information concerning the issue; as well as staying up to date with Greek Life and regulations from around the country in order to bring best practices to the University's fraternities and sororities.

While high-profile hazing cases such as the Kowiak incident put a spotlight on Greek organizations, athletics and other student clubs and organizations need to be equally involved in anti-hazing efforts according to Kevin Sharkey, police supervisor, University Police.

Crow Headshot

   CROW

"Although 44 states have laws against hazing, it is not currently a criminal charge," he said "If students are involved in a hazing activity on this campus, they will be charged based on the criminal activity involved and then reported to the Office of Student Conduct, which has set regulations in place according to the state hazing law."

According to Leigh Ann Gilmore, director, Office of Student Conduct, the OSC works in tandem with University legal counsel to constantly update and improve SRU's hazing policy.

Having worked at SRU for a decade, Gilmore has handled a few hazing situations and dealt with them according to established policies.

"A lot of consequences focus on educating students involved in hazing activities on just exactly what hazing is and how to avoid it in the future," said Gilmore. "According to Act 175, no student can consent to being hazed; and, unfortunately, a lot of students believe that if a person agrees to doing something, it can't be considered hazing, but it is and they can be criminally charged as a result of those actions in addition to what the University can hand down."

At SRU, being involved in hazing activities could lead to disciplinary actions including suspension or expulsion in addition to whatever sentence the criminal justice system levies.

"A lack of knowledge about serious consequences can lead students to believe (hazing) is not a big deal," said Gilmore, who is happy to see that SRU is trying to tackle the problem by initiating more educational sessions for student clubs and organizations.

Gilmore also emphasized the importance of hazing victims coming forward following an incident. Even if a student chooses not to refer an incident to Student Conduct or University Police, the student can receive resources including safety resources through the offices of Student Support and Student Conduct.

"OSC has safety measures in place to protect victims from retaliation and has several options that they can use based on a specific situation," Gilmore said. "One of the options is having a 'no contact order' which ensures that victims don't get contacted by alleged offenders."

Gilmore also said that hazing victims need to understand that their safety is of the utmost importance to the University.

If anyone at the University observes a student in a situation where additional academic, emotional, mental or spiritual support may be needed, they can make a Care Referral to the Office of the Associate Provost for Student Success. Once that information is received, the University can work with the student to coordinate resources and referrals that may ensure the student has the opportunity to be successful. If there is an immediate concern and a student appears to be a danger to themselves or others, contact University Police at 724.738.3333.

The 11-member task force includes:

-Brad Wilson, associate provost of transformational experiences.
-Brian Crow, professor of sport management.
-Joseph Barrow, assistant professor of military science.
-Jonathan Helmick, assistant professor of music.
-Matthew Lobaugh, assistant director of recreational sports, Campus Recreation.
-Paul Lueken, athletic director.
-Jayne Piskorik, assistant director for Greek Life and student organizations.
-Leigh Ann Gilmore, director, Office of Student Conduct.
-Kevin Sharkey, police supervisor, University Police.
-Steven Rerick, a senior psychology and public health major from Mountain Top.
-Madison Smith, a senior early childhood education major from Clinton.

MEDIA CONTACT: Hebist Asfaw | 724.738.2091 | hba1001@sru.edu