Hazing Ad-page-001In December 2006, Michael Morton, a Florida A&M University honor student, was sentenced to two years in prison after being convicted of hazing. Nine years later, Morton dedicates his life to speaking to students on how one choice can affect your future. Morton will speak at Dillard University’s Lawless Chapel on Sept. 24, 2015, at 7 p.m. This event is free and open to the public. Morton was a college student who had it all in 2006. He was president of the student body senate, president of the Alphi Xi Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc., and a straight-A student majoring in industrial engineering. All of his accomplishments were erased when Morton and four of his fraternity brothers repeatedly struck Marcus Jones, a pledge, on his butt with wooden canes during a four-night, unauthorized initiation rite as a part of a long standing tradition. Severe bruising required Jones to undergo surgery. Morton and Jason Harris were both charged with felony hazing. The judge presiding over this nationally publicized case sentenced Morton and Harris to two years in prison due to their substantial role in hazing Jones; the other three fraternity brothers pleaded no-contest and were
placed on probation. Following an appeal, a judge reduced Morton’s and Harris’s conviction to a misdemeanor, and after serving 614 days in prison, they were released.

“The entire experience was damaging to my future and reputation. I was unable to finish my undergraduate degree and lost all of my potential job offers,” Morton said. “In addition to these consequences, the worst of all was missing the birth of my daughter.” After his release in 2009, Morton said he returned to FAMU and completed his undergraduate studies. He then earned a master’s in industrial engineering from Rutgers University. Because of the second chance he was given, Morton said his passion is now to give back to the community and share his experiences with college students.

“My story is not just about being punished for hazing, but it is about almost losing all of the opportunities I had due to a poor decision that I made,” Morton said. When Morton speaks at Dillard’s annual Brain Food Series on Sept.24, he said he will let students at New Orleans HBCUs know it is important to always consider the outcome of their actions before they
partake in them.The event coincides with the National Hazing Prevention week from September 21-25. Xavier and Dillard participate in the week’s activities each year, and this year Southern University-New Orleans joined the education effort.

“We are educated black men and women, what W.E.B Dubois calls the ‘Talented Tenth’ and there is nothing about joining an organization that should put our lives in danger,” said Joseph Byrd, Xavier’s vice president of student activities. Dillard University President Dr. Walter Kimbrough added that the time has come for HBCUs to have a conversation about the pledging process.

“The premise for hazing is simple: New people have to prove that they deserve to belong. There is a pre-established power dynamic that says, ‘I am the established person, you are the new person, so for you to belong you must prove yourself, Kimbrough said. “Regardless, hazing is a nondiscriminating problem and has to be stopped.” Xavier sorority member Arkevia Hayward agrees that hazing incidents undermine the value of participating in Greek life.

“As a member of Delta Sigma Theta Inc., we try our best to always have a positive role in our community,” said Hayward, who is president of the Gamma Alpha chapter and a biology/pre-med senior. “I am always disheartened when I hear of an incident within a Greek organization involving hazing.” Kimbrough said education efforts need to begin before college.

“This year we wanted to expand the platform for the event by not only having a combined event with Xavier University and SUNO, but also involving local high schools. By expanding our reach, we are able to provide awareness not only to our students but to our community,” Kimbrough said. More information about this event can be found at www.dillard.edu.

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