Samuel Goldberg has been a Massachusetts criminal defense attorney for 20 years. Prior to that, he was a New York state prosecutor. He has published various articles regarding the practice of criminal law and frequently provides legal analysis on radio and television, appearing on outlets such as the Fox News Channel, Court TV, MSNBC and The BBC Network. To speak to Sam about a criminal matter call (617) 492 3000.

BOSTON UNIVERSITY HAZING HITS THE NEWS ONCE AGAIN (Part One)

Unlike Bullying, Massachusetts hazing is actually illegal.

Not that all cases involving hazing are prosecuted. This one will be, though.

Our story hit the media in the wee hours when Boston police began their investigation into a possible hazing incident that occurred at an unsanctioned Boston University fraternity.

The officers responded to a newly-renovated Allston home just after midnight on Monday. The call came from neighbors who said they heard yelling coming from the house. According to one such neighbor, the shouting contained “‘Yes sir,’ like somebody’s giving somebody orders and they have to obey”.

Upon arrival, the officers apparently discovered five young men stripped down to their underwear. They “were covered head to toe with all sorts of condiment type substances. All five were shivering and had horrified and fearful looks of their faces. They were all tied together via duct tape wrist to wrist to form a human chain.”

Upon cleaning the various sauces off their bodies, the officers saw that all five gentlemen had red welts and markings all over their backs.”

The men were asked if they were okay and, according to the officers, one of them “looked right at officer and with tears coming down his face shook his head…indicating no.”

It turns out that the building is sort of an undercover fraternity home of sorts; there are no fraternity letters outside it. However, police point out that they found framed photos of members of the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity inside. There were also apparently a dozen other college students scattered around the two-story home. Some, officers say, were hiding, or pretending to be sleeping. Further, neighbors say that mainly Boston University students live there.

One such neighbor stated that the incident was not surprising, “…but it’s definitely unfortunate. And I guess it’s even more unfortunate that I’m not surprised.”

The first reaction by Boston University was that the incident was being investigated for possible hazing. The University’s spokesperson also indicated that Alpha Epsilon Pi is a national fraternity, but not one recognized by B.U.

Attorney Sam’s Take On Hazing

There have been quite a few incidents of hazing in the press of recent years. Further, this is not the first time this year in which B.U. has been at the center of one such incident.

Like bullying, hazing can include various activities, some which are, per se illegal. For now, however, let’s look at the legal setting when it comes to hazing in its own right.

Like most Universities, Boston University has its own printed policy about hazing. It states as follows:

Boston University Hazing Policy

Boston University hazing policy will be in accordance with the laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts at all times. (See below for the Commonwealth statute on hazing.) Moreover, the University’s standards of personal conduct substantially exceed the minimum expectations of civil law and custom. Student organizations and individual students found in violation of Massachusetts hazing laws will be subject to University disciplinary action.
In accordance with Chapter 536, section 19, the Student Activities Office has developed the following procedures:
1. At the time of registration, the president of each student group, team, or organization shall receive a copy of the law and will be required to sign a statement acknowledging that he or she has received such copy of the law, that he or she shall distribute a copy of this law to every member, plebe, pledge, or applicant for membership of the organization, and that the group, team, or organization understands and agrees to comply with the provisions of this law.
2. This statement will be kept in the group, club, or organization’s permanent file in the Student Activities Office.
3. The Student Activities Office will make available to each group, team, or organization as many copies of the law as necessary both when the group, team, or organization registers for the year and throughout the year as necessary to ensure that the organization can comply with its responsibilities as outlined in section

The Massachusetts General Laws states as follows in M.G.L. Ch. 269(17):

Section 17 Hazing; organizing or participating; hazing defined Whoever is a principal organizer or participant in the crime of hazing, as defined herein, shall be punished by a fine of not more than three thousand dollars or by imprisonment in a house of correction for not more than one year, or both such fine and imprisonment.
The term “hazing” as used in this section and in sections eighteen and nineteen, shall mean any conduct or method of initiation into any student organization, whether on public or private property, which wilfully or recklessly endangers the physical or mental health of any student or other person. Such conduct shall include whipping, beating, branding, forced calisthenics, exposure to the weather, forced consumption of any food, liquor, beverage, drug or other substance, or any other brutal treatment or forced physical activity which is likely to adversely affect the physical health or safety of any such student or other person, or which subjects such student or other person to extreme mental stress, including extended deprivation of sleep or rest or extended isolation.
Notwithstanding any other provisions of this section to the contrary, consent shall not be available as a defense to any prosecution under this action.

“Sam, aren’t things like whipping, beating forcing food and so on already illegal in and of themselves?”

One would think. However, one would be wrong.

“What? What about the laws against assault and battery for example?”

There is a key difference between the laws prohibiting such behaviors and the hazing law.

Do you know what that key difference is? What action will Boston University and/or the Commonwealth take in this case? Does the involved fraternity face any other repercussions?

For the answers to these, and maybe even a few other, questions, check out the net Boston Criminal Lawyer Blog

For the original story upon which this blog was based, please go to http://www1.whdh.com/news/articles/local/boston/12007172208448/bu-students-under-investigation-for-possible-hazing/ ; for the two legal and policy statements, please turn to http://www.bu.edu/greeklife/mission/hazing-policy/ and http://www.malegislature.gov/Laws/GeneralLaws/PartIV/TitleI/Chapter269/Section17

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