Phi Beta Sigma fraternity launches anti-hazing campaign in Charlotte

by: Tenikka Smith Updated:

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Phi Beta Sigma fraternity is taking a hard stance against hazing.

Organization leaders launched a nationwide summit targeting hazing. It kicked off Friday in Charlotte.

Jimmy Hammock is the international president of Phi Beta Sigma fraternity. He said he's heard several accounts of hazing from college students in fraternity and sororities over the years.

That, coupled with the news that Florida A&M drum major, Robert Champion, was beaten to death during an alleged hazing incident, prompted his decision to launch a national anti-hazing initiative starting with his own organization.

Eyewitness News anchor, Tenikka Smith, also spoke to a college student in the Carolinas who said she was a victim of hazing while pledging with a sorority. She did not want to be identified. The student said, "Looking back, I probably would have never done it, and that's sad because there's a lot of good things about sororities." She told us she hoped to give back to the community through a sorority, but that goal was never realized. The student said within hours on her first day of the pledging process the hazing began. She said the sorority sisters yelled and cursed at the pledges repeatedly. "They made us hit ourselves." She said, "We had to keep slapping ourselves in the face over and over again until they felt like it was hard enough."

The student said the hazing continued daily for nearly a month. She said the sorority members also limited their food and rest and put them on grueling and unpredictable schedules. She said she finally reached a breaking point and walked away from the sorority. She told us the lack of food and sleep coupled with the physical and psychological stress had already taken its toll. She had to be hospitalized for two weeks and had to take time off from school.

"There's a huge human cost in hazing," Hammock said.

He is pushing to eradicate hazing within Phi Beta Sigma and hopes to partner with other fraternities and sororities to expand the anti-hazing campaign. During the two-day Serious Sigma summit that started today in Charlotte, Phi Beta Sigma brothers will get training against hazing. Hammock said new members joining the fraternity will also have to sign forms promising to report if they are victims of hazing.

"If somebody is breaking the law it's okay to tell us," Hammock said.

Consequences for those that break the rules are harsh. Right now, Hammock is working to permanently expel 13 members of the fraternity from two college chapters in South Carolina.

"Someone has to step up and say enough is enough," said Hammock.

The student who opened up to Eyewitness News is relieved to know that the problem of hazing is being exposed, and she hopes it can be eliminated.

"It's not just about letters, it's not just about being involved because when it comes to hazing, it is about life and death," she said.

Phi Beta Sigma has also teamed up with the Rev. Al Sharpton's National Action Network. Sharpton, who was a member of the fraternity, will be in Charlotte Saturday to talk about hazing, violence and other community issues.