Four Greek letter organizations are under investigation following reports of hazing, according to Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Brandi Hephner LaBanc.
“I can’t speak any further on that right now because of the investigations, but I can confirm that is the case,” she told The Daily Mississippian on Tuesday evening.
Hephner LaBanc said she is happy the issues are being reported.
“We’re taking (the reports) seriously, and, frankly, we are happy that people are reporting,” she said. “We want people to elevate that this risk is occurring so we can intervene quickly and eliminate or drastically reduce those risks, with the goal being elimination.”
She said the administration wants these issues to be reported both to take care of the university community and to be used as an educational opportunity to let people know hazing is not tolerated on campus.
“It’s not like this is a new trend. We’ve received reports in the past, but I think that because of the amount of effort that we’ve put into pushing out a clear message, we’re seeing a response to that,” Hephner LaBanc said.
Hephner LaBanc said the university has taken new steps to prevent hazing, including requiring education workshops for potential new members before they went through the recruitment process. The workshops addressed violence prevention, which includes hazing prevention, and alcohol and drug use.
A team of faculty members attended a hazing prevention institute over the summer to help reevaluate the current policies and practices and see how they could be revamped. The mandatory education requirement came from that.
The administration also invited representatives from each of the Interfraternity Council’s national organizations to be on campus during the last few days of recruitment, Bid Day and a few days after.
“We were in that critical zone,” Hephner LaBanc said. “We wanted them to be around to reinforce the national policies. We had really good engagement.”
Most of the organizations had a national representative present.
Other resources used in the university’s fight against hazing include the LiveSafe app and a form on the umatter.olemiss.edu website through which students can anonymously report cases of hazing. Updates have been made to the event registration process, as well.
“Some people look at Penn State and LSU and think it won’t happen here, but it absolutely could happen here, and that’s what we don’t want to occur,” Hephner LaBanc said. “We want our community to take the safe approach.”
“ … You also cannot deny that hazing and high-risk drinking have haunted our organizations and marred the values our organizations claim to uphold. We suspect (and hope) that fear has moved your organizations and our community to a place of action,” the letter reads.
The letter said it should serve as a reminder that these risks of hazing and high-risk drinking do exist but have no place on campus. It was shared with parents, advisers, current IFC and Panhellenic members and others. The letter will be reissued to National Pan-Hellenic Council organizations when they begin taking in new members.
Hephner LaBanc said the university also wants to develop a hazing steering committee by the end of this semester.
“I think the thing is for folks to know how serious we take hazing,” Hephner LaBanc said. “We’ve done our due diligence to get a clear message out there, and we appreciate the reports so that we have the opportunity to intervene and keep students safe.”
– Lana Ferguson