Tuskegee University president says hazing can harm future of HBCUs



TUSKEGEE, Ala. (January 31, 2012) — Tuskegee University President Gilbert L. Rochon said that hazing can endanger the future of all Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and it will not be tolerated at Tuskegee. He said incidents like the suspected hazing-related death of a drum major at Florida A&M University have put all HBCUs under intense scrutiny by critics who believe such institutions are no longer necessary.

“All they want is anything that can be used as ammunition. We have to make sure that we don’t give them the ammunition that they are looking for,” Rochon explained during an anti-hazing forum for faculty and staff on Monday.

Rochon told the audience in the auditorium at the Andrew F. Brimmer College of Business and Information Science that, as advisers, they serve in the place of parents and have a commitment to students.

“Parents send their children to us with an understanding that we’re supposed to protect them,” Rochon said.

Rochon said it is important to change the perception that membership in a student organization should mean suffering or performing demeaning tasks. He said organizations should strive to promote a level of positive excellence so potential members can demonstrate their commitment to the values of that group. He said the university community also should work to instill a lifelong love for this institution that will spread among students.

“We don’t want them to leave with the impression that they were treated unfairly by the staff, faculty or students,” he said.

Failing to report is a crime

The session also included remarks and presentations from Darryl Crompton, university general counsel and vice president for legal affairs; Warren Duncan, director of bands; Tamara Lee, university attorney and associate vice president for legal affairs; Cynthia Sellers, vice president for student affairs and enrollment management; Peter Spears, dean of students; and John A. Williams, vice president for institutional research assessment and planning. 

Lee gave the audience a brief overview on hazing, the university’s policy and the Alabama law. She told the audience that, as advisers, they have an obligation to report any reasonable information about hazing and failing to do so is against the law. According to Lee’s presentation, Alabama is one of six states in the U.S. that has a “Duty to Report” clause in its anti-hazing law.  She also urged the audience to realize that hazing on or off campus still must be reported.

“It does not let us off the hook because it does not happen in our gates,” Lee said.

Anti-hazing strategies

Williams said it is important for advisers and faculty to stay abreast of what is going on with students and their organizations. Also, he encouraged the use of social media to help find out about activities.

“Stay up with them. Don’t let them get ahead of you,” Williams said.

Crompton said many lawsuits can actually be prevented by paying closer attention to employees and students.

“One of the good tenets of prevention is listening,” Crompton said. “We have to do a better job of listening to our students and hearing our students’ concerns.”

Duncan, who was a part of the Florida A&M University band during his undergraduate studies, said advisers not only need to know about hazing and their responsibilities, but need to have a system to address it in place. He used the anti-hazing policies and mandatory membership agreement forms of the Tuskegee marching band as examples. He also said advisers need to talk to students and let them know that they don’t have to participate in any demeaning, divisive or unlawful behavior.

“You have to sit down with your students and monitor that kind of behavior,” Duncan said. “…You have to have something in place so they understand where you are coming from.”

Where to report:

To report information about hazing, contact Peter Spears at 334-727-8421.

Tuskegee University President Gilbert L. Rochon speaks to faculty and staff about hazing.

Faculty and staff listen during anti-hazing workshop.

Tamara Lee, university attorney and associate vice president for legal affairs, explains anti-hazing policies.

Warren Duncan, director of bands, displays an anti-hazing agreement for band members.

Darryl Crompton, university general counsel and vice president for legal affairs, speaks to the audience during workshop.

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