Tuesday, February 06, 2007

School Haze

source: Tallahassee Democrat
"Two Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity brothers at Florida A&M University, Michael Morton and Jason Harris, received two-year prison sentences on Monday for hazing fraternity pledge Marcus Jones."
This case has been a local news item for some time, now. There's been a mistrial, a hung jury, and finally, some convictions.

When I first heard about it, the case resonated with my pre-existing opinions about the practice of hazing. After I heard how severe the beating was, there was no question in my mind that the "brothers" took things too far... even if the victim was a willing participant.
"Yet a statement from Jones, read aloud by a victim advocate because he was not present, spoke of his being forced to leave FAMU because of his injuries, which required surgery, and, "I've been looked at as a snitch by my peers."

"I don't want another college student to be beaten like I was," said Jones, noting he receives counseling and has sleepless nights.

His father Mark Jones told the judge: "Marcus' life is a total wreck now. ... These individuals who want leniency tortured my son.""
It's too bad that this young man's peers see him as a snitch, despite the broader implications of this case. Besides, if I remember correctly, it was the victim's father who decided to go to court, not the victim, himself. In fact, Mr. Jones, the father, has been accused of exploiting the situation to make an easy dollar.

I don't know about that. Actually, I tend to doubt it.

Whatever the case, no one's questioning the fact that this young man's injuries were very real and very painful.
"Attorney Chuck Hobbs, who defended Morton, vowed to appeal the conviction and sentence. He said the state's hazing law is poorly written and ambiguous.

"Marcus Jones was a willing participant," he said."
See, this is a tough one, for me. In fact, it's one of the toughest parts of this case, in my opinion.

One of the reasons earlier trials were so difficult was because there were unclear definitions of "serious bodily injury," if I remember correctly. As far as I was concerned, though, injuries that require surgery EASILY qualify.

Now that I think about it a little more, I remember that my very first college roommate sported his fraternity symbols as keloidal flesh on almost a dozen parts of his body. He and others CHOSE to do this, branding themselves like cattle (or slaves), and no one called the cops on them because of it.

Maybe these no-hazing laws weren't as strict, at the time, if they existed at all, but I have to wonder what the difference is/was between the two situations?

Perhaps it's the fact that people like my roommate INTENDED to create scar tissue while the plaintiff, in this case, probably wasn't longing for the business end of an operating table.
"Race also plays a role in how black defendants like Morton and Harris are perceived, Hobbs said.

"I believe her," Hobbs said of Dekker's comment that race didn't affect her sentencing in this case." But he accused the justice system of being more permissive with white fraternity brothers and said, "This system is full of racism on a daily basis.""
That's a toughie. I can't speak to how fairly or unfairly this law has been applied, but I thought it was an interesting wrinkle.

Besides disliking it, I guess one of the main reasons I'm against hazing because it's based on an imbalance of power in favor of those who don't necessarily know when to quit. This could easily result in "serious" bodily injury.

What do you think about hazing?


TDJ said...

Tough one. My dad is a Que from way back, so he was hazed and hazed those that came after him. I grew up thinking that I wanted to join a sorority. But, once I got to college, I realized that I was in love with the idea of being in one and had no desire to join a sisterhood with the folks that were at my university.

Hazing, as I see it, is unnecessary. But, if Greeks feel that it needs to be done, then there must be definable limits. I think that there must be boundaries that the Greeks abide by and that the pledges are informed of all that could happen and they must agree (in writing, with witnesses).

B. Good said...

In many cases, "hazing" is done responsibly and with a purpose (its also VERY voluntary). Unfortunately, its dummies like this that take it too damn far, thus the reason for the laws in the first place.

Shai said...

Hazing. I don't agree with it. In high school, we had a ton of groups and a few you had to "rush" to get in. Things like buying lunch for the members, doing whatever the member asked you even in the middle of the hallway. It was embarrassing and humiliating. I saw guys and girls running around to please their big sister/brother.

I have never been interested in sororities. If I have to jeopardize my education and sanity to get in then it is not for me. I remember in college this guy almost flunked out trying to juggle the demands of school, work and hazing. This one girl was so bruised from hazing and then kept it a secret how it happened like we could not figure it out.

My question is why hazing? Why such harsh measures to get into a group? Then these same folks talking serving the community. LOL.

I know I will probably take some hits from frats and sorors. But hey its my opinion.

West said...

I'm not down with humiliating myself for an institution that might OR MIGHT NOT let me know.

But that's up to the individual... except when people start damned fallin' out at band practice or ending up in the hospital because the "big brothers" or "big sisters" don't know when to quit.

That's where I draw the line between a simple preference and drawing up legislation.

I still feel kinda bad that these young men may go to jail (appeals are a'comin') but I guess they weren't thinking about that when they were beatin' hell out of that young man.

...and I doubt this was the first time.

Shai said...

When it passes into physical pain and endangering lives then I think legislation is appropriate. I know a guy who got paddled so much he could not sit down, had swollen behind, legs and bruises. SMY

TDJ said...

No, they weren't thinking at all. They probably fell into that awful thing called the mob mentality. When some serious shit is going down, weak folks join in instead of speaking up.

chele said...

I've seen it up close and personal and I know folks say it's voluntary ... but is it, really? It's an awful way to prove loyalty and it's a shame that these men have to go to prison but hazing (to this extent) needs to stop.

B. Good said...

I've seen it up close and personal as well, and its voluntary and its a choice. There's a lot of trust involved when it comes to joining a Greek organization, on both ends, hence why these rituals still exist. But with that trust comes great responsibility, and unfortunately, the ball was dropped something awful in this case.

West said...

I hear you, B. Good, but I wonder if it's a matter of starting off as a choice and then finding oneself in an environment in which that choice is (or is perceived to be) taken away.

Kind of like women who agree to go to the guy's hotel room, agree to get in the bed, but don't agree to have sex... or find themselves too afraid to object.

That last part is potentially less about the "perpetrator" than it is about the "victim," I admit.

Liz said...

Hazing is why I didn't pledge. I figured, why in the world would I PAY someone to beat me when I had a momma right at home who had an extension cord just waiting for me. Plus, all that stupid crap like telling me I had to cut my hair, clean up members rooms, saying I couldn't wear makeup, and had to break up with my boyfriend and try to get him to sleep with someone else? To me, that wasn't sisterhood. A good friend who was pledging Q would come home and piss blood because he'd been beaten so much. Another friend who was pledging Sigma Chi (a white frat) would have to eat hot dogs out of a toilet. It's just all silly, even if someone agrees and feels the pressure to do it.

West said...

Pissing blood?
Toilet dogs?

I'd like to believe that, as someone esle suggested, these are just the inevitable, extreme, yet exceptional, negative examples of a long-standing tradition and practice that continues to have value.

My gut says it's total insanity.

Anonymous said...

I actually knew Michael Morton. As we were both studying engineering disciplines, we had a couple of classes together in our freshman and sophomore years. He was a good guy. I've also met Jason before.

That being said, he messed up. That hazing bs is wrong. I feel bad for him, but he chose to beat that guy. I do feel like he and Jason are to an extent victims as well. I don't see any indication that what they did was out of the ordinary for what these fraternities do.

West said...

Indeed. It's the culture that must be addressed.