After a two month internal investigation, the Ohio State University has fired its Band Director, Jon Waters, for permitting and encouraging hazing abuse. The Office of University Compliance and Integrity found that “the marching band’s culture facilitated acts of sexual harassment, creating a hostile environment for students” and that “Jonathan Waters, the Marching Band’s Director, knew, or reasonably should have known about this culture but failed to eliminate the sexual harassment, prevent its recurrence, and address its effects.”
In the eyes of the public, and Ohio State University faithful, the internal investigation’s report on violations of hazing abuse law and policies is damning for the Marching Band, but a Hazing Abuse lawyer will tell you that this is only the tip of the iceberg facing the Ohio State University.
The University’s investigation began when the parent of a Marching Band member told the University Compliance Office that the parent’s child, the Marching Band member, was subject to sexual harassment. According to several witnesses, the Marching Band would routinely engage in the sexual harassment of younger band members, and in some cases, would ostracize members who did not participate. Examples of hazing abuse, cited in the internal investigation report, include:
- having first-year band members strip off their clothing as they boarded the bus for road trips;
- Assigning first-year band members inappropriate and derogatory nicknames; and
- Encouraging first-year band members to mimic sex acts.
Like many other Colleges and Universities, Ohio State has a No-Hazing policy. Thankfully, the Marching Band was caught. Firing the Band Director is a step in the right direction. But the damage has already been done. It only took one student to launch the investigation, but according to the report, there are many others who have been subject to the same hazing rituals for decades. Depending on the University’s enforcement of its policies and procedures that are designed to address and prevent hazing abuse, or the lack thereof, the Ohio State University may now be subject to institutional liability for hazing.
Investigation The Institution – College Hazing Abuse
Hazing abuse is not an overnight occurrence. Generally, hazing is practiced and accepted under the guise of long standing ritual. In other words, the perpetrators fall back on the excuse of “we’ve always done things this way.” A Hazing Abuse Attorney will uncover the history of the Abuse at issue.
After reasonable investigation, a Hazing Abuse Lawyer can identify past instances of hazing where people in positions of power knew, or reasonably should have known, that the hazing was occurring, and didn’t do enough to stop it. If Directors or Managers of an institution knew, or should have known, about hazing practices– and did not make reasonable efforts to end or prevent the abuse– they can be held liable for victims’ physical, emotional, and psychological injuries.
Types of Hazing and Related Injuries
Hazing can occur in a number of ways, including:
- Alcohol abuse, or binge drinking;
- Beating and/or physical abuse;
- Branding, marking;
- Eating gross or inedible foods;
- Public humiliation; and
- Sexual abuse;
Unfortunately, hazing rituals sometimes continue until someone is badly hurt. Often, hazing goes unreported by victims for fear of retribution or retaliation. Fear of receiving pushback or threats from their peers forces victims to endure additional trauma by keeping their emotional and psychological issues bottled up. Victims may live in fear, and simply accept the abuse that they have endured. But that is only for the victims who are lucky enough to survive hazing rituals.
It is not uncommon for group hazing to lead to accidental or wrongful death. Only recently, a 19 year old man died from head trauma after being blindfolded and repeatedly tackled during ritual hazing abuse performed by a Baruch College fraternity. In other cases, the emotional trauma associated with hazing leads victims to take their own lives. In a case involving Penn State Abington, a young Pennsylvania man described by many as kind and gentle took his own life during his college spring break after leaving an off-campus fraternity house. The young man was a victim of physical and emotional hazing abuse who sought counseling from those close to him, only days before taking his own life.
It is important to seek treatment for physical and emotional injuries resulting from hazing abuse. If you are a victim, and do not know how to reach the appropriate physician, or how to obtain the necessary treatment, contact your primary care physician, tell the doctor what happened, and ask for a referral to a specialist. Do not be afraid to contact the local authorities and tell them your side of the story. The road to justice will not be easy — make sure that your story is heard.