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Richmond IndyMedia Live! Every Tuesday, 12:30 - 1PM on 97.3 WRIR LP-FM, and streaming online from wrir.org!

LOCAL News :: [none]

VMI Hazing Photos Surface

Photos anonymously posted to Richmond Indymedia by “CBC? appear to depict hazing practices at the Virginia Military Institute (VMI). Cadets are seen strapped to chairs, taped-up, dressed in mock-homosexual costume, and posing with a confederate flag. One cadet is seen apparently being dragged across a bathroom floor.

StopHazing.org defines hazing as “any activity expected of someone joining a group (or to maintain full status in a group) that humiliates, degrades or risks emotional and/or physical harm, regardless of the person's willingness to participate.? Virginia has laws banning hazing, as do any other states, but some critics say the law is too weak...
More photos can be seen at richmond.indymedia.org/newswire/display/9894/index.php


Photos anonymously posted to Richmond Indymedia by “CBC? appear to depict hazing practices at the Virginia Military Institute (VMI). Cadets are seen strapped to chairs, taped-up, dressed in mock-homosexual costume, and posing with a confederate flag. One cadet is seen apparently being dragged across a bathroom floor.

StopHazing.org defines hazing as “any activity expected of someone joining a group (or to maintain full status in a group) that humiliates, degrades or risks emotional and/or physical harm, regardless of the person's willingness to participate.? Virginia has laws banning hazing, as do any other states, but some critics say the law is too weak.

For many the photos are no surprise.

These photos follow another set in which cadets dressed as Nazis, donned black face to mimic starving Africans, and parodied gays. Other photos that did not surface at that time reportedly showed a VMI cadet dressed as a Klansman. The Story broke here at Richmond Indymedia in January and the massive volume of traffic on the site that resulted when national media picked up the story shut us down for a few days. But because of pressure from an outraged public, VMI has recently punished 5 upperclassmen for their role in the offenses. The punishments ranged from 1000-word essays to 50 minute penalty marches. The weakness of these punishments, lie in their lack of severity, and the individualization of the problem.

Virginia’s anti-hazing statute declares, in part that “It shall be unlawful to haze, or otherwise mistreat so as to cause bodily injury, any student at any school, college, or university.? Sound a little weak? What about the mental and emotional trauma that can be caused, you might ask. Well in Virginia, our laws are happy to pronounce that here, men are men. They can only be hurt physically, and have no need for emotional or mental protection. Or at least, that’s what it implies…

Virginia’s anti-hazing law, passed in March 1928, is largely a symbolic statement. To prosecute an offender, the hazing has to include mistreatment resulting in "bodily injury", or what constitutes it. Compared to other states, this is an unusually high bar to pass, and does not take into consideration the effects of emotional and mental trauma. West Virginia, for example, has an anti-hazing law that includes, among other things, whipping, branding, forced consumption of any substance, sleep deprivation, and extreme embarrassment. In Vermont “‘Hazing’ means any act committed by a person… which 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 a student.? Eileen Stevens, the president of Committee to Halt Useless College Killings (CHUCK), states that “The mental and emotional aspects of hazing are incorporated into practically every hazing statute?.

The effects of gender constructs are represented strongly in Virginia’s anti-hazing law. In a law that was constructed to protect male youth from hazing activities at colleges, the manifestation of a socially imposed masculinity is very acute. According to the anti-hazing law, only “bodily injury? is a legitimate form of harm. If a VMI cadet were to complain of the emotional or mental pain he suffered during hazing, he would have no legal recourse, and, in the eyes of his peers and the administration at VMI, no legitimacy in his claims. Most likely, he would be ridiculed and ostracized for not being “man enough? to handle hazing. This legally imposed masculinity dehumanizes men in Virginia, denying them the legitimacy of emotional and mental trauma.

Virginia’s anti-hazing statute is very short and to the point. No bodily harm. This statute is part of a visible trend in states with strong military or military school presence tending to have weaker anti-hazing laws. South Carolina, another strong military state, is in league with Virginia on the low end of hazing protection. The weakness of this law sets a standard for cadets at VMI. It essentially legitimizes emotional and mental torture in the minds of these cadets who so often look to the law for moral guidance. Denying cadets at VMI (future leaders of U.S. Military) the legitimacy of emotional pain, and reducing the ability of a soldier to sympathize with others has implications not only for Virginia, but also for Afghanistan, Iraq, and around the world. The logic is as follows: if it was ok to submit the “rats? at VMI to emotional torture, and mental anguish, then it would certainly be ok to go much further to Middle Eastern “terrorists? in prisons like Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay.

If you think that the behavior of these young men, soon to be officers in charge
of soldiers in a war zone, is unacceptable, contact Col. Susan H. Barr, VMI Chief
Information officer. She has supervision over "training and investigations," which
administers "civility" policies. Email her the link to this site, to allow her to view the photos.

Her contact information:

Susan H. Barr, Colonel
Chief Information Officer
Ph.D. - University of Virginia
Phone: (540) 464-7380
Fax: (540) 464-7025
EMail: BarrSH (at) vmi.edu

Website providing info on Hazing
www.stophazing.org/index.html

Article on Virginia and Hazing
www.roanoke.com/roatimes/vmi/v52.html

Punishments from Halloween pictures:
www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A8807-2005Mar4.html

Halloween Article
richmond.indymedia.org/feature/display/9193/index.php
 
 


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