Southeast officials: No form of hazing is acceptable

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Hazing in any form won't be tolerated at Southeast Missouri State University, officials said Friday, one week after an incident involving members of the Redhawks football team. The team members allegedly duct-taped the hands, feet and mouths of several players and carried them from a locker room onto the field while the players tried to extract themselves.

Following reports Thursday and Friday by the Southeast Missourian containing information on the incident and frequency of students referred to the university's office of student conduct for suspected hazing, the university reported there have been 10 alleged hazing incidents, including four findings of actual occurrence, during the past six years. The April 13 incident is considered an 11th pending incident, according to Dr. Dennis Holt, dean of students. A university official provided inaccurate information regarding hazing frequency cases in an earlier report.

Diane Sides, assistant to university president Dr. Ken Dobbins, said the university wants a safe and healthy environment for all students.

"It doesn't matter who it is," Sides said. "Nothing is acceptable."

Sides said although the university already has extensive education on hazing prevention in place, there will still be efforts to increase it following the football team incident.

A problem, Sides said, is that students and people in general "don't know how to define hazing."

At any college, according to Holt, hazing can most commonly be seen in the form of drinking games, and many students don't consider that hazing. Even scavenger hunts set up by a student organization can fall under the hazing definition, he said, if students are told to do certain things. It is for those reasons, officials say, that many Southeast organizations, including athletic teams, undergo lessons on hazing.

The university has declined to release details on the football incident beyond those contained in a statement sent by Sides to the Southeast Missourian on Wednesday in response to a Sunshine request for the Department of Public Safety incident report and other documents related to the incident.

According to the statement, a member of the football team reported possible hazing to the Department of Public Safety on April 14. Sides reiterated Friday that the university would not release any additional information on the alleged incident, including identification of the reporting player or if the university was aware of the reason why more than 24 hours passed before the department was notified. In releasing no further details, the university is citing protection for students under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.

Head coach Tony Samuel said last week he could not comment on the incident.

A link to a YouTube video of two players wearing Redhawks jerseys on the football field with duct tape at their wrists and ankles and claiming to be of the incident was posted to a thread on the website semofans.com the afternoon of the day of the incident. The thread has since been removed and the video made private. The video was titled "College football team hazing freshman 2012."

Hazing is a violation of the university's code of student conduct and includes confinement. Hazing is also against the law in Missouri. The university's department of public safety referred the incident to the Cape Girardeau County prosecuting attorney's office last week but no charges were filed. The incident is under judicial review by the university's office of student conduct and disciplinary proceedings are pending against the students involved, according to the statement.

Student athletes at Southeast are required to sign an agreement that states they understand and will follow all standards of the university athletic department code of conduct. The code of conduct states "hazing is strictly prohibited by the Athletics Department and will result in disciplinary action," that individual coaches may impose additional expectations and that the athletic department and coaches also reserve the right to implement additional sanctions. Also stated is that a whole team will be held responsible and disciplinary action will be taken if any standards are violated during a team function and there is no clear evidence that the team attempted any restraining action through its members. The incident followed an early morning spring practice.

eragan@semissourian.com

388-3627

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One University Plaza, Cape Girardeau, MO 63701

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