Page 6 - Minnesota Vol 8 No 4
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BRANDON E. VAUGHN | Civil Litigation
When Friendship Goes Wrong: Using Civil Litigation to Hold Fraternities and Sororities Accountable for Hazing
Most college campuses across America charter fraternities and sororities.  ese orga-
nizations tout they represent broth- erhood and sisterhood and philan- thropic ideals. Unfortunately, there can be a very ugly and dangerous side tothem:theinitiationritualsassociat- ed with membership.  ese rituals of- ten cause those seeking membership (called “pledges”) to subject them- selves to embarrassment, harassment, and ridicule, and such rituals place a pledge at risk of emotional and/ or physical harm.  ese acts of ini- tiation are more commonly known as hazing, practices that have accounted for death on a U.S. school campus ev- ery year since 1961.
While almost every state has en- acted legislation criminalizing haz- ing, criminal prosecution rarely oc- curs unless the injuries to the victim are catastrophic or lead to death. Even in those instances, the penalties have seldom resulted in jail time or sig- ni cant  nes. Additionally, the codes of student conduct for most colleges and universities include anti-hazing language that gives these institutions the ability to hold students account- able should they choose to do so. Fi- nally, many fraternities and sororities themselves have adopted anti-hazing policies.
Despite these mechanisms that attempt to deter and punish indi- viduals for engag- ing in hazing, the
reality is, most incidents of hazing go unreported to authorities. A study conducted on hazing on college cam- puses, “Hazing in View: College Stu- dents at Risk,” reported that 55 per- cent of college students involved in clubs, teams, and organizations stated they had experienced hazing. Fur- thermore, in 95 percent of the cases where college students identi ed their experience as hazing, they did not re- port the events to campus o cials. In short, hazing continues as common- place on college campuses but is al- most never reported.
Because hazing incidents continue regularly at colleges and universities throughout the country, civil lawsuits have become one way to hold frater- nities and sororities accountable for the actions of their members. With thorough investigation and some knowledge of the practices to look for, you can establish a pattern and prac- tice of hazing activities within these societies.
 e investigation usually begins with an informant, who can be dif-  cult to get. Because of the expec- tation that hazing activities remain secret, hazers and the hazed typically stay silent. Even victims of hazing who experience catastrophic injury are unlikely to report how the in- jury occurred. O entimes, friends, family members, signi cant others, teammates, or school personnel are critical witnesses who may ultimately disclose information. It is not uncom- mon for a victim of hazing to con de in one or more people.  e con dant
These rituals often cause those seeking membership (called “pledges”) to subject themselves to embarrassment, harassment, and ridicule, and such rituals place a pledge at risk of emotional and/or physical harm. These acts of initiation are more commonly known as hazing, practices that have accounted for death on a U.S. school campus every year since 1961.
Brandon Vaughn is a dedicated advocate for those who have been injured or lost a loved one due to another party’s negligence. He is committed to championing his clients’ interests, understanding the challenges they face, and helping them to secure compensation for their losses. In addition to his medical malpractice and personal injury practice, Brandon has provided pro bono representation to clients in the areas of family law and immigration law. He currently chairs Robins Kaplan’s recruiting/hiring committee and has also served as co-chair of the  rm’s diversity committee.

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