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B.2.c. Policy Against Hazing

Last updated September 10, 2021

Middlebury’s General Conduct Standards include promoting healthy, safe, and balanced lifestyles. Student organizations and athletic teams can play a vital role in this process, and can provide transformative opportunities for friendship, leadership, and personal growth and discovery. Hazing of any kind is antithetical to these goals; therefore, Middlebury prohibits hazing activities, whether by an individual or an organization. In keeping with Middlebury’s prohibition of any kind of hazing, training and educational activities are periodically conducted with appropriate staff who support students and campus life. 

1. Policy Statement

Middlebury prohibits hazing activities of any kind, whether by an individual or an organization, and including passive participation in hazing activities. Because of the socially coercive nature of hazing, implied or express consent is not a defense under this policy (or under state law). Passive participation in hazing may include witnessing hazing taking place as a group member, affiliate or guest, or participating in or being present in person or via technology in discussions where hazing is planned. Hazing activities violate this policy whether or not they involve alcohol, and whether or not they occur on a Middlebury campus. Hazing activity may lead to disciplinary proceedings against individuals and/or organizations, including but not limited to disciplinary consequences for individuals, and/or the probation, suspension, or termination of a student organization or athletic team. Culpability for any violations of this policy may be attributed to active and passive participants, the student group and/or its members, and elected or appointed officers. 

Hazing activity is subject to additional penalties or fines and/or criminal prosecution by the state of Vermont; See 16 V.S.A. Sec. 570k & 570l; see also Referral to Law Enforcement, below.

The student leaders of all registered student organizations and athletics programs are required to acknowledge annually that they will comply with the terms of Middlebury’s Policy Against Hazing. Retaliation against any individual, directly or indirectly, for making or participating in a complaint about hazing is prohibited under Middlebury’s general Retaliation policy.

2. Definitions

For purposes of this policy, hazing is defined as any act committed by a person, whether individually or in concert with others, against a student in connection with pledging, being initiated into, affiliating with, holding office in, participating in, or maintaining membership in any organization or team that is affiliated with Middlebury; and that is intended to have the effect of, or should reasonably be expected to have the effect of, humiliating, intimidating or demeaning the student or endangering the mental or physical health of the student. Hazing also includes planning, soliciting, directing, aiding, or otherwise participating actively or passively in the above acts.  

Activity or conduct that furthers legitimate curricular, extracurricular, or military training program goals is not considered to be hazing, provided that:

(i) the goals are approved by a Middlebury official who oversees the activities of the organization or team (e.g., coach or director of student activities); and

(ii) the activity or conduct furthers the goals in a manner that is appropriate, contemplated by Middlebury, and normal and customary for similar programs at other educational institutions.

"Organization" means an athletic team, association, corporation, order, society, corps, cooperative, club, student organization, or other similar group, whose members primarily are students at Middlebury, and which is affiliated with Middlebury.

"Pledging" means any action or activity related to becoming a member of an organization.

"Student" includes but is not limited to any person who is enrolled in or pursuing a degree or credit in any Middlebury program.

a. Examples

Middlebury policies include the prohibition of many activities that have traditionally been associated with hazing, such as illegal substance use and abuse, vandalism, theft, verbal or physical abuse or threat of harm, sexual harassment, and other forms of harassment. In addition to those activities and conduct expressly prohibited elsewhere in this Handbook, examples of prohibited individual/group activities that may constitute hazing when otherwise falling within the definition above include but are not limited to the following:

i. Encouraging the use of alcohol or illegal drugs

ii. Shaving, tattooing, piercing or branding

iii. Engaging in or simulating sexual acts

iv. Threatening or causing physical restraint

v. Nudity

vi. Throwing substances or objects at individuals

vii. Assigning unreasonable chores or acts of servitude

viii. Forcing or coercing consumption or use of any substance

ix. Causing excessive exercise, sleep deprivation or excessive fatigue

x. Interfering with adequate time for study

xi. Requiring the wearing of apparel or acting in a way that is conspicuous and not within community norms

xii. Blindfolding

xiii. Subjecting students to abusive or demeaning conduct

3. Policy Violation Review Process

a. Authority
The Vice President for Student Affairs or an appropriate designee (hereinafter referred to as “VPSA”) monitors the implementation of this policy and imposes sanctions for violations. Any questions concerning the interpretation or application of this policy should be referred to the VPSA.

b. Reporting
All Middlebury community members are expected to report activities believed to be hazing to a Student Life Dean, director of Athletics, associate dean for student activities, or the VPSA. See contact information below.

c. Process
i. When an allegation of hazing or related retaliation is made, the VPSA or appropriate designee will determine initially whether the report or complaint alleges conduct that is prohibited by this policy and whether an investigation should be initiated. The VPSA may also suspend the activities of the organization or the activities of individual members thereof pending the outcome of the investigation.

ii. If the VPSA determines that an investigation should proceed, an investigator(s) will be appointed to conduct an investigation. The investigator is authorized to contact any and all individuals with potentially relevant information, and to access relevant records and documents. The nature and scope of the investigation is within the discretion of the investigator and/or the VPSA.

iii. All participants in the investigation are expected to cooperate fully by providing complete, accurate, and truthful information, including documents, evidence, statements, etc. Participants may be asked to keep the substance of their interview with the investigator confidential.

iv. After the investigation is completed, the investigator shall issue a report to the VPSA that includes recommended findings, based on a preponderance of the evidence standard, i.e., whether it was more likely than not that this policy was violated. The report may be issued in a form appropriate to the nature of the investigation, including oral reporting, and will be accompanied by all evidentiary material considered in the investigation.

v. Prior to the VPSA’s determination, the VPSA will provide a summary of allegations to the student leaders of the organization under investigation, and the organization will have an opportunity to provide a responsive statement by a deadline established by the VPSA. 

vi. After review of the investigator’s report, the evidentiary material and the responsive statement, if submitted, the VPSA shall issue a determination as to whether hazing occurred, based on a preponderance of the evidence standard. The complaining party, if identified, and the responding party under investigation will ordinarily be notified of the VPSA’s determination as to whether there was a policy violation. 

4. Sanctions

a. Sanctions for organizations may range from permanent suspension of recognition or authorization to operate, through cancellation, termination or restriction of activities and events, and other sanctions tailored to the particular circumstances. 
b. Sanctions for individuals may include all of the usual sanctions under Middlebury’s disciplinary policies, fines and restitution, as well as other sanctions tailored to the particular circumstances. The VPSA may refer hazing allegations concerning individual students to a judicial affairs officer for review, adjudication and sanctioning under the General Disciplinary Process.

5. Additional Policy Violations

Reported incidents may be referred to a judicial affairs officer, human relations officer, or other Middlebury official, as appropriate to the circumstances, to address alleged violations of other Middlebury policies, including but not limited to Middlebury’s General Conduct Standards and Non-Discrimination Policy.

6. Referral to Law Enforcement

Middlebury will ordinarily report allegations of hazing to law enforcement authorities when, in the judgment of the VPSA, the nature of the allegations suggests that the hazing activity, if it occurred or is occurring, presents a risk of serious harm to students or other persons, or involves a potentially serious violation of law.

7. Contact Information

Department of Public Safety
Emergency: 802.443.5911
Non-emergency: 802.443.5133

Vice President for Student Affairs
Smita Ruzicka

Director of Athletics
Erin Quinn

Dean of Students
Derek Doucet

Student Life Deans
Scott Barnicle:  802.443.3350
Matt Longman:  802.443.3350
Emily Van Mistri:  802.443.3340
Jennifer Sellers:  802.443.3340