New legislation makes hazing a criminal act

first_imgNew legislation makes hazing a criminal act New legislation makes hazing a criminal act Mark D. Killian Managing Editor Florida lawmakers passed what many consider one the toughest anti-hazing statutes in the nation this year.The Chad Meredith Act, now awaiting the governor’s signature, makes hazing in high schools and colleges a crime — even if the victim is a willing participant.Kill or injure someone in a hazing incident, go to jail for up to five years. Even if no one is hurt, the hazer could face up to a year in prison for the act. Meredith, a University of Miami student, drowned in 2001 in a hazing incident.Rep. Adam Hasner, R-Delray Beach, said he filed the legislation to stem what he considers a “growing epidemic” on school campuses.“There is no reason any student should have to risk life or limb in order to gain entry into an organization,” said Hasner, a lawyer who served in leadership positions with Phi Delta Theta while at Florida State University and after he graduated. “It is very narrowly tailored to prohibit and criminalize hazing that results in substantial physical injury.”The act defines hazing as “any action or situation that recklessly or intentionally endangers the mental or physical health or safety of a student” and includes “pressuring or coercing the student into violating state or federal law, any brutality of a physical nature, such as whipping, beating, branding, exposure to the elements, forced consumption of any food, liquor, drug, or other substance, or forced physical activity that could adversely affect the physical health or safety of a student.. . . ”“I will make myself available to visit any college campus in Florida — at my own expense — to educate the students at the universities on this issue,” said Hasner, adding current law did not do enough to discourage “these senseless acts.”The bill was two years in the making, Hasner said, because he had to educate his legislative colleagues that the administrative remedies available on campuses weren’t strong enough to stem the problem. Even when students were hurt in hazing incidents, he said, perpetrators were able to use the consent of the victims as a defense, which hampered prosecution for what might otherwise be considered battery.Sen. Skip Campbell, D-Tamerac, sponsored the Senate companion measure.Miami lawyer David Bianchi, who represented the Meredith family in a civil case, said he saw a newspaper story on the hazing bill and called Hasner to see if he could help.Chad Meredith was 18 years old when he enrolled at UM and pledged for Kappa Sigma Fraternity. On November 4, 2001, while in the company of the fraternity president and two upper-class fraternity brothers, Meredith drank alcohol until his blood alcohol level was nearly two times the legal limit. Then, at the urging of the president and fraternity brothers, Meredith jumped in a campus lake. As the group swam across, Meredith fell behind and drowned. Chad’s parents sued those involved and the jury’s verdict included an award of $14 million for the mental pain and suffering for William and Carol Meredith as a result of the death of their son. The jury found the fraternity president 45 percent at fault and the former fraternity vice president 45 percent at fault. The jury found Meredith, the decedent, 10 percent at fault. While the case was being appealed, the sides entered into a confidential settlement, according to Bianchi.“The more I learned about how prevalent hazing was in this country the more upset I got about the fact it was still going on. I was also, frankly, upset that nothing was really done [criminally] with the two students we sued who were involved in Chad’s death,” Bianchi said. “The fraternity didn’t do anything to them; the university didn’t do anything to them; and the state attorney’s office didn’t do anything. Had it not been for the lawsuit, they would have escaped scot-free. That really bothered me.”Rep. Hasner invited Bianchi to review the bill and together the two lawyers crafted language which specifically addressed issues raised by defense lawyers in the Meredith civil case that Bianchi knew would also be raised in any criminal prosecution of hazing incidents. The result was a provision that specifically spells out that it is not a defense to a charge of hazing that consent of the victim had been obtained; or that the conduct that resulted in the death or injury was not part of an official organizational event or sanctioned by the organization; or that the activity that resulted in the death or injury was not done as a condition of membership.Bianchi and the Merediths also testified before legislative committees in support of the bill.“Until now there has not been enough in Florida law to discourage fraternity members from hazing pledges,” Bianchi said, adding he hopes the new law will be thoroughly discussed in every fraternity and sorority house in the state this fall.Hasner insists the law is not anti-fraternity and contends hazing is out of line with Greek values.“Hazing in itself is not the type of activity that I believe creates brotherhood and creates friendships,” he said. “It’s demeaning and demoralizing and in many instances dangerous and potentially deadly.”The bill, which cleared both chambers with only one dissenting vote, also picked up the support of some national fraternal organizations.“The legislation takes the same zero-tolerance approach to hazing that Sigma Chi announced when we unveiled our own anti-hazing policy on February 1, 2005,” said Sigma Chi International President Lee Beauchamp. “We support all efforts to end hazing that demeans or physically threatens any individual. While hazing has been characterized as a tradition by critics of fraternities, we believe there are better ways to instill a sense of brotherhood within our organization. We fully support the Florida legislation.” June 1, 2005 Managing Editor Regular Newslast_img read more

Law school to host immigration clinic

first_imgFor Nazeli Khodabakhsh, a second-year student at the USC Gould School of Law, finding opportunities to give back to the community has proved difficult. However, USC Gould has been in the process of developing clinics — one of which is focused on immigration — throughout Los Angeles for students like Khodabakhsh to apply legal knowledge from her classes.USC Gould School of Law will be hosting the immigration clinic on Feb. 24 in partnership with the Armenian Youth Federation Burbank Varak chapter and the Armenian Cultural Foundation. Photo from the AYF West website.The Gould Immigration Clinic will be hosting a Citizenship Clinic on Feb. 24 with the Armenian Youth Federation Burbank Varak chapter and the Armenian Cultural Foundation. The clinic, which will be held at the ACF Burbank Youth Center, will assist legally permanent residents with their naturalization applications. According to Khodabakhsh, a member of the AYF Central Executive, citizenship clinics are just one of the projects the Gould Immigration Clinic facilitates. “The idea is to have students have hands-on experience working with real clients,” Khodabakhsh said. “We’re all supervised by our professors and for the immigration clinic, each one of us gets maybe 10 clients that we’re responsible for throughout the year. We help them file for immigration benefits, different kinds of visas, people seeking asylum — we help with all of that.”While planning the upcoming clinic, Khodabakhsh served as a liaison between the AYF Burbank chapter and the Gould Immigration Clinic. Khodabakhsh added that the partnership between the two organizations allowed them to reach a broader range of people who may be interested in naturalization. “We have sort of like a small army to reach out to individuals and ask, ‘Are you a citizen? Are you interested in becoming a citizen? We have this free project that can help you,’” Khodabakhsh said. “We have different contacts within our communities, so USC is maybe 15 miles away from Burbank but it seems like two different worlds — we really focus on the Burbank area and reaching out to people there but USC has its own contacts and its own people who have been interested in these clinics in the past.”According to Dulce Sanchez, the USC Gould Immigration Clinic’s program manager, the outreach process for clinics begin a month or two in advance. Sanchez was in charge of coordinating citizenship clinics throughout the L.A. area. “We put together the flyers, send them to the community centers, to libraries, churches, adult school community colleges, and share it with folks that may be interested in naturalizing,” Sanchez said. “If there are lawful permanent residents in the area interested in naturalizing, they’ll give us a call at the number listed on the flyer.”Sanchez said that during this process, they also screen the lawfully permanent resident for eligibility to waive an application fee and provide resources for those who cannot afford them. “We have had a lot of folks come to a previous clinic who have expressed interest in naturalizing for some time, but for whatever reason didn’t have the financial means to pay the $725 fee so we’ll go ahead and assist them,” Sanchez said.Sanchez said that the clinic’s other co-sponsor, the ACF, have also helped with outreach, especially throughout the Armenian community. “They’re more tapped into that community, whether it be families that come to their center or are in surrounding areas,” Sanchez said. “I’ve been supervising our students so that they can conduct outreach in the areas nearby, such as Glendale [and] North Hollywood, just so that we can expand this service to as many people as possible. Khodabakhsh said that she finds immigration law fascinating and hopes to help as many people naturalize as possible due to the rights and civic responsibilities that come with becoming a citizen. For example, once someone becomes a citizen, they are granted voting rights and do not have to undergo the risk of getting deported.“Once you have a green card, or [become a] lawful permanent resident, that also allows you to stay, but if you commit certain crimes or anything you could be deported,” Khodabakhsh said. “But a lot of people don’t necessarily know that, and so they’re like, ‘I can stay with a green card forever, I have legal status.’”According to Sanchez, the Gould Immigration Clinic is a resource that is available to all students at USC, especially those who have questions regarding citizenship or are undocumented and are seeking help. Sanchez said that all students can volunteer at the Gould Immigration Clinic and was “in awe” of the work students have been doing, such as helping their community to gain more substantive knowledge on immigration laws.“[Students] are interested in pursuing a career in immigration law, so this has given them a preview of what a career in that field may look like,” Sanchez said. “It’s been a great opportunity for students and I hope that many more students will consider volunteering at our future clinics.”last_img read more

USC cruises to victory at Bruin/Wave Invitational

first_imgAfter 36 holes of play ended on Monday, the USC women’s golf team held the lead by five strokes over crosstown rival UCLA at the Bruin Wave Invitational. In yesterday’s final round at El Caballero C.C. in Tarzana, Calif., the Women of Troy continued their strong performance to capture the championship by a total of 13 strokes over No. 15 Pepperdine. Though USC junior Doris Chen did not repeat her stellar 5-under round that she posted during the second round of play, the experience of USC sophomores Kyung Kim and Annie Park, the team’s top two ranked players, proved to be too much for the remaining teams on Tuesday. Head coach Andrea Gaston was ecstatic about the victory.Consistent effort · Sophomore Kyung Kim strung together scores of 2-under and 1-over to overcome teammate Doris Chen and claim victory. – Courtesy of USC Sports Information“I’m really proud of the team for coming back this week and dominating at this course,” Gaston told USC Trojans. “It’s one of the most difficult courses we’ll play all year.”The Women of Troy finished strong, posting the lowest overall effort of the final round at 2-over par. Erynne Lee of UCLA grabbed a hole-in-one on hole six, but the Bruins struggled to capitalize on Lee’s inspiring shot. In the final standings, Pepperdine finished second after a 7-over par final round, No. 2 UCLA failed to impress with their worst execution of the tournament carding a 20-over par on the final day and No. 10 Arizona rounded out the top four with a 17-over par posted Tuesday. After having lost to UCLA last week in New Orleans, this victory should be a significant boost to the team’s morale. Gaston was clear about the reasons behind her team’s success.“The key to our win this week was staying patient, especially during the 36-hole day,” she told USCTrojans.com. “It’s easy to have a few tough holes on such a difficult golf course, but we did everything we could to encourage our players to stay in the moment and focus on each shot. That second-round 11-under was incredible.”Though Park struggled during the first round of play Monday, posting a 5-over 77, her final two rounds were vital to the team’s win. Park, Kim, and Grace Na of Pepperdine each conquered tough final round conditions, finishing with rounds of 69, 73, 71, respectively, on Tuesday. This marked Park’s ninth round in the 60s, setting a school record. She broke the previous record of eight rounds set by two USC women, Jennifer Song in 2010, and Irene Cho in 2006.Individually, the Women of Troy could not have asked for a better finish to the tournament, as Kim placed first, and Park and Chen finished right behind her in a tie for second. Gaston was impressed with Kim’s consistent performance throughout the tournament.“I was also excited to see Kyung hang in there down the stretch and get the individual win, along with Doris and Annie tying for second,” Gaston told USC Trojans. “We had little time to prepare, and had to practice between rainstorms, but they got it done.”Kim echoed her coach’s sentiments.“I’m very excited for my team to come back and win this week,” she told USC Trojans. “This was a test for me to play well on such a demanding course. I’m happy that I was able to stay patient.”Senior Sophia Popov also completed the tournament strongly in 13th place, and is the only member of the USC women’s golf team to have not finished outside of the top 20 in any event this season.With their next round not scheduled until March 24 during the SDSU Farms Invitational in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., the Women of Troy hope to take this momentum with them throughout this long break. One could say the USC women’s golf team deserves this break, however, after notching their sixth win of the season after yesterday’s victory.last_img read more