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      WIU student receives top honors for hazing awareness

      Michael Anderson's a junior at WIU.

      A student at Western Illinois University has received a national ranking for his work in the greek community.

      Michael Anderson was one of two people in the country to receive the Hank Nuwer Anti-Hazing Hero Award this year. Anderson received the award during an annual fraternity and sorority conference this month. He was chosen in front of 115 fraternity and sorority groups from across the country.

      We asked Anderson what compelled him to speak out against the issue.

      "I'm appalled. Some of the allegations I've heard about hazing ... I just can't understand why anyone would subject themselves to it or why anyone would participate. Why would you want to do something to physically hurt someone just to make them a part of your organization?" Anderson said.

      That mindset got Anderson thinking about ways to approach the issue on the WIU campus.

      He's currently in charge of house rituals at his fraternity, Sigma Chi. The house along with the WIU campus has a zero tolerance policy for hazing. So does the state of Illinois.

      According to StopHazing.org, hazing is illegal in 44 states, excluding Alaska, Hawaii, Montana, New Mexico, South Dakota and Wyoming.

      Anderson says he's never witnessed hazing himself, but felt it important to educate his classmates on the issue.

      "Stereotypically, you will hear greeks and hazing kind of go together, but if anything, it's probably the furthest thing from the truth, in the sense that we're really against that," Nick Katz, assistant director of WIU's student activities in greek life said. "There was a time in the 90s early 2000s when we did have some groups that were removed for hazing."

      "If there's allegations that happen, generally, they get removed from campus and it takes a period until most of the people that were involved have graduated, that they can come back," Anderson said.

      Anderson originally wanted to bring an hazing awareness week to campus.

      "Do I act or do I react? Do I wait for something to happen or do I try and fix a problem before there is one?" Anderson said.

      His advisors acknowledged that his ambitions were a bit high for the first time around. So he started looking at a day focused on hazing awareness.

      "When I started planning it, they told me to book a room for about 30-50 people. I told them I was going to have the whole community there," Anderson said.

      In October, A WIU professor spoke to more than 225 people at the event. That's more than a fourth of WIU's greek community.

      Anderson says it was a step in the right direction. But educating the community on hazing is far from over.

      The most recent hazing incident in Illinois took place last December at Northern Illinois University. The death of a Pi Kappa Alpha pledge after a night of drinking closed down the fraternity and left dozens of students facing expulsion or suspension from the school.