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UJC gives look into its “Chamber of Secrets” in Harry Potter-themed hazing mock trial

The trial was the first event of Judiciary Week, a week of events designed to increase the UJC's outreach

<p>The hazing mock trial was designed to demonstrate an example where Student Affairs sent a potential hazing case to the UJC for further consideration.&nbsp;</p>

The hazing mock trial was designed to demonstrate an example where Student Affairs sent a potential hazing case to the UJC for further consideration. 

UAs a part of its ongoing Judiciary Week, a week of programming that aims to increase student trust in the University Judiciary Committee, the Committee held its first ever public, hazing mock trial Monday. The mock trial was an attempt to increase transparency surrounding how UJC processes hazing cases. With the intent to both inform and entertain, the hypothetical student organization “Dumbledore’s Army” was found guilty of hazing and sanctioned by a UJC trial panel, putting the typically private UJC case process on full display.

When an organization is accused of hazing, the report is first reviewed by the Office of Student Affairs. If Student Affairs determines that hazing took place, it can immediately implement a sanction — like termination of a Fraternal Organization Agreement in the most severe cases — or send the case to the UJC for an investigation and a trial.

The hazing mock trial was designed to demonstrate a scenario where Student Affairs sent a potential hazing case to the UJC for further consideration. In Monday’s mock trial, the fictional Dumbledore’s Army, based on the “Harry Potter” series, was accused of hazing by forcing new members to “ride brooms” with no shoes on in the rain. Other aspects of the allegations included that, when the fictional members protested, they were instructed to continue, and that alcohol consumption and “absurd chants” were also involved.

The event took place in the Newcomb Hall trial room, running for nearly 80 minutes. Around 25 people were in attendance.

While the scenario designed by the UJC’s hazing subcommittee was completely fictional, Allison McVey, hazing subcommittee chair and second-year College student, says the alleged violations were based on real details from past hazing cases. The UJC created the hazing subcommittee after receiving feedback from organizations that the procedures for hazing cases were unclear, and planned the mock trial to increase transparency. According to McVey, using details from past cases in the mock trial gives organizations an idea of what they can feasibly expect from UJC trials.

The mock trial also aimed to highlight that a variety of behaviors and circumstances can constitute hazing. McVey said that whether or not physical injury took place or alcohol was present, there can be psychological harm that leads to degradation or humiliation.

“One of the common trends that we saw was organizations were surprised that they had committed hazing because there was no physical harm that happened,” McVey said. “It's more about a nuanced, subtle power dynamic than actual tangible harm.”

Because similar cases have been heard by the UJC, the mock trial was able to accurately demonstrate what a hazing trial looks like. 

The first trial that takes place is the trial for guilt, where each side is represented by a UJC counselor and has an opportunity to present its case, call and cross-examine witnesses and make a closing statement. The trial for guilt in the mock trial only showcased the closing arguments to conserve time.

At the end of the trial for guilt, the judge panel made up of five elected UJC representatives deliberates to determine if the accused is guilty, and delivers the decision. If found guilty — as Dumbledore’s Army was — the trial for sanctioning begins.

The trial for sanctioning is structured the same way as the trial for guilt, but the arguments are more centered around what the organization has already done to compensate for the hazing accusation, which could include actions such as internal punishment of offending members or suspension of social events. Typically, a dean or representative from Student Affairs will testify to provide information from the office’s initial investigation of the incident in question. 

In the mock trial, several testimonies were given to emulate a conventional UJC case. The “dean” from Student Affairs who reported Dumbledore’s Army testified in the trial for sanctioning, as well as supposed student members and leaders of the group. 

The trial revealed that Dumbledore’s Army had made internal changes — like bylaw alterations and increased risk management precautions — prior to the trial, and that these efforts enabled the trial panel to render more rehabilitative sanctions. This result demonstrated that organizations which respond proactively to instances of hazing, by changing the internal structures that enabled the hazing to take place, are more likely to receive softer sanctions that reinforce those changes as opposed to harsher sanctions like suspension in abeyance or mandated education. 

McVey said that sanctions and punishments will be proportional to the scale and severity of any hazing violation.

“I hope that today showed that in these more mild cases of hazing, all that really happens is we build upon the institutional reforms that we hope an organization has already started to make,” McVey said. “We are not interested in sparking fear within organizations.”

The most egregious hazing cases typically do not reach the UJC, as seen with the recent suspension of Kappa Sigma fraternity’s FOA. The University is currently investigating the fraternity for an alleged hazing incident that left one student seriously injured. Following the alleged incident, the University’s Inter-Fraternity Council chose to suspend all in-person recruitment and social events for three weeks.

McVey said that if an organization is worried that its practices may technically constitute hazing, it can reach out to the UJC for guidance. This opportunity exists because the UJC does not have the jurisdiction to adjudicate a case unless a formal complaint is filed with the UJC’s executive committee, a process that is typically undertaken by Student Affairs. 

“We’re extremely forthcoming about our process.” McVey said. “This was for answering questions. That’s why the hazing subcommittee exists.”

Fourth-year College student Mary Margaret Lea said she sees a clear attempt at transparency from the UJC from this mock trial. 

“I was very impressed with their diligence and commitment to accessibility,” Lea said.

The full recording of the mock trial will be added to the UJC’s website.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the Kappa Sigma fraternity’s FOA was terminated pending an investigation into an alleged hazing incident. The FOA has been suspended, not terminated. This article has since been updated to reflect this change. 

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