Gov. Edwards sends letter to higher ed. system presidents requesting review of hazing, other policies

Source: WAFB
Source: WAFB
Source: WAFB
Source: WAFB
Source: WAFB
Source: WAFB

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Governor John Bel Edwards has released the letter he sent Thursday to Louisiana college and university system presidents asking them to review their policies on hazing and drug and alcohol abuse among groups on campus.

He specifically mentioned Greek organizations in the letter as being one of the groups officials should review policies on.

"It is up to us to do everything within our means to ensure that the students who attend a Louisiana university are safe from harm," the governor stated. "Maxwell Gruver and students across the country who died before him deserve our best effort to re-examine our policies, make necessary adjustments, and engage with our students to prevent these instances from happening in the future. We can only confront this often discreet problem if we are open and honest about the progress we've made in tackling it and the areas where we absolutely must improve."

Last week, President F. King Alexander suspended all Greek activities at LSU during a news conference as a death investigation, possibly linked to hazing, was launched at the school. Some of those activities are beginning to get reinstated, but school leaders say there will be major changes.

"Hazing is dangerous, irresponsible, and unacceptable and it will not be tolerated at LSU. Period," Alexander said at the news conference.

Southern's president, Dr. Ray Belton, responded to the governor's letter in a statement Friday, saying in part, "Southern University System campuses have zero-tolerance hazing policies and encourage responsible behavior through providing anti-hazing, drug and alcohol awareness education. Students participating in student organizations, and advisors are required to regularly attend seminars and workshops geared toward hazing prevention and healthy living."

Director of Student Life at Southern Jonas Vanderbilt says a series of workshops called "divine intervention" wrapped up Friday on the Bluff. Now in it's fifth year, the program is mandatory for any student looking to go Greek.

"It's a risk management issue and we like to be proactive about it," said Vanderbilt. "The program is basically geared to pre-teach students who want to become Greek about risk management and anti-hazing."

Akai Smith with Student Affairs says their anti-hazing message is pretty clear, but at the governor's request, there are some areas they might be able to re-work. "The policies that we have are pretty straight forward," said Smith.

With more than 600 students registered this year, Smith says it's the largest divine intervention ever, but while students in attendance were interested in Greek life, she believes those who are not should hear the same message.

"It is to let them know what hazing looks like and what harassment looks like. Things like that, we need to educate those students on and so we may need to revisit the policies that we have in place," said Smith.

As they examine those policies, Smith wants parents to know student safety is their number one priority. "We are going to protect your students or your children by any means possible and I do believe that education is the first line of defense," Smith added.

The governor has given university presidents until October 29 to respond to his request with an update and possible changes to their anti-hazing policies.

Click here to read the letter in its entirety.

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