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Salisbury University Hazing Incident Prompts Bill Increasing Penalties

In Maryland, a new bill on the senate floor in Annapolis aims to make hazing a jailable offense, legislation that was prompted by a scandal at Salisbury University on the Eastern Shore.

Hazing is technically already a crime in Maryland, but state Sen. Jamie Raskin has introduced a bill to give the law a lot more teeth.

"You could serve up to a year in jail, and currently the criminal fine is just $500 and we want to increase that to $5,000 dollars," he explains.

Hazing became a crime in the 1980s, but it's rarely enforced because and it says that if a pledge is hazed by members of a fraternity, that pledge essentially consented to the things involved in the initiation process. The new bill would eliminate that argument.

"In other words, if someone says 'OK, I'm going to join your fraternity,' and they do to you what they did to Justin Stuart, that isn't a defense," says Raskin.

Justin Stuart was a student at Salisbury University in 2012 pledging the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity. He claims that his brothers took him outside in freezing temperatures, submerged him in a huge bucket of frigid water before throwing him in a dark basement for nine hours as death metal blared on loud speakers and fraternity brothers took turns beating him.

Stuart has since transferred to the University of Maryland, and the fraternity recently had its suspension extended by Salisbury University.

Raskin calls Stuart a hero for coming forward, and hopes this bill will stop the culture of hazing at college campuses in Maryland.

"Assault is assault, rape is rape, and sexual assault is sexual assault, and just because you are in a fraternity or sorority doesn't give you a get-out-of-jail-free card," he says.

Salisbury University officials have expressed their support for the bill.

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