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Friday March 30, 2001

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Senate committee advances anti-hazing bill

By Eric Swedlund

Arizona Daily Wildcat

PHOENIX - A Senate panel yesterday approved a bill that would require all public educational institutions to establish anti-hazing policies.

The Senate Education Committee voted 6-1 in favor of the measure. The same committee killed a bill in February that would have made hazing a criminal offense.

The bill would require every public educational institution to "adopt, post, and enforce a hazing prevention policy."

The bill further defines hazing as "a situation that causes a victim to experience mental or physical discomfort, embarrassment, harassment or ridicule for reasons including initiation, pre-initiation and discrimination."

The University of Arizona's Student Code of Conduct already prohibits hazing and prescribes sanctions against violations.

Arizona State University sophomore Joseph McCallum, a member of Kappa Alpha fraternity, told the committee that "hazing is seen as a harmless practice that if accepted develops into dangerous behavior."

He added that the "culture of hazing" relies on tradition, with members of each successive class giving more extreme treatment than they received. The problem is further compounded by the willingness of victims to submit themselves to potentially violent initiation practices.

"I've seen the stigma that fraternities have for being hazing organizations," McCallum said, adding that the legislation would create the first tool necessary to battle hazing on all levels.

Sen. Tom Smith, R-Phoenix, was the only committee member voting against the bill.

"This could create more problems than it solves," Smith said, adding that he thinks schools can take care of themselves.

The House of Representatives has already passed the bill, sponsored by Rep. Steve May, R-Paradise Valley.