Hazing in state educational institutions is prohibited by both state law (Sections 51.936 & 37.151 et seq., Texas Education Code) and by the Regents’ Rules and Regulations (Series 50101, Section 2). Individuals or organizations engaging in hazing could be subject to fines and charged with criminal offenses. Additionally, the law does not affect or in any way restrict the right of the University to enforce its own rules against hazing.
A person commits an offense if the person:
- engages in hazing;
- solicits, encourages, directs, aids or attempts to aid another engaging in hazing;
- recklessly permits hazing to occur; or
- has firsthand knowledge of the planning of a specific hazing incident involving a student in an educational institution, or has firsthand knowledge that a specific hazing incident has occurred, and knowingly fails to report that knowledge in writing to the dean of students or other appropriate official of the institution.
An organization commits an offense if the organization condones or encourages hazing or if an officer or any combination of members, pledges, or alumni of the organization commits or assists in the commission of hazing.
The term “hazing” is broadly defined by statute to mean any intentional, knowing, or reckless act, occurring on or off the campus of an educational institution, by one person alone or acting with others, directed against a student, that endangers the mental or physical health or safety of a student for the purpose of pledging, being initiated into, affiliating with, holding office in, or maintaining membership in an organization. Hazing includes, but is not limited to:
- any type of physical brutality, such as whipping, beating, striking, branding, electronic shocking, placing of a harmful substance on the body, or similar activity;
- any type of physical activity, such as sleep deprivation, exposure to the elements, confinement in a small space, calisthenics, or other activity that subject the student to unreasonable risk of harm or that adversely affects the mental or physical health or safety of the student;
- any activity involving the consumption of a food, liquid, alcoholic beverage, liquor, drug or other substance that subjects the student to an unreasonable risk of harm or that adversely affects the mental or physical health or safety of the student;
- any activity that intimidates or threatens the student with ostracism, that subjects the student to extreme mental stress, shame or humiliation, that adversely affects the mental health or dignity of the student or discourages the student from entering or remaining registered in an educational institution, or that may reasonably be expected to cause a student to leave the organization or the institution rather than submit to acts described in this subdivision; and
- any activity that induces, causes, or requires the student to perform a duty or task that involves a violation of the Penal Code. The fact that a person consented to or acquiesced in a hazing activity is not a defense to prosecution.
The University of Texas System Board of Regents’ Rules and Regulations, Series 50101, Section 2 provide that:
- Hazing with or without the consent of a student is prohibited by the System, and a violation of that prohibition renders both the person inflicting the hazing and the person submitting to the hazing subject to discipline.
- Initiations or activities by organizations may include no feature which is dangerous, harmful, or degrading to the student and a violation of this prohibition renders both the organization and participating individuals subject to discipline.
Activities which under certain conditions constitute acts that are dangerous, harmful, or degrading, in violation of Rules include but are not limited to:
- calisthenics, such as sit-ups, push-ups, or any other form of physical exercise;
- total or partial nudity at any time;
- the eating or ingestion of any unwanted substance;
- the wearing or carrying of any obscene or physically burdensome article;
- paddle swats, including the trading of swats;
- pushing, shoving, tackling, or any other physical contact;
- throwing oil, syrup, flour, or any harmful substance on a person;
- rat court, kangaroo court, or other individual interrogation;
- forced consumption of alcoholic beverages either by threats or peer pressure;
- lineups intended to demean or intimidate;
- transportation and abandonment (road trips, kidnaps, walks, rides, drops);
- confining individuals in an area that is uncomfortable or dangerous (hot box effect, high temperature, too small);
- any type of personal servitude that is demeaning or of personal benefit to the individual members;
- wearing of embarrassing or uncomfortable clothing;
- assigning pranks such as stealing; painting objects; harassing other organizations;
- intentionally messing up the house or room for clean up;
- demeaning names;
- yelling and screaming; and
- requiring boxing matches or fights for entertainment.
In an effort to encourage reporting of hazing incidents, the law grants immunity from civil or criminal liability to any person who reports a specific hazing event in good faith and without malice to the Dean of Students or other appropriate official of the institution and immunizes that person for participation in any judicial proceeding resulting from that report. Additionally, a doctor or other medical practitioner who treats a student who may have been subjected to hazing may make a good faith report of the suspected hazing activities to police or other law enforcement officials and is immune from civil or other liability that might otherwise be imposed or incurred as a result of the report. The penalty for failure to report is a fine of up to $1,000, up to 180 days in jail, or both. Penalties for other hazing offenses vary according to the severity of the injury which results and include fines from $500 to $10,000 and/or confinement for up to two years.