In July Ohio’s Senate signed a bill that is designed to stop hazing, and this bill went into effect on October 7. This bill was also a huge part of National Hazing Prevention Week which was September 20-24. This year’s week featured five days of presentations and conversations to teach “about hazing prevention that will empower attendees to raise awareness and promote prevention,” according to HazingPrevention.org
Monday’s feature was centered around Collin’s Law and featured guest speaker Molly Shea Davis, Ohio University (OU) Panhellenic Association’s Vice President of Development. Collin’s Law (also called Senate Bill 126) is known as Ohio’s Anti-Hazing Act which aims to stop hazing and any other cultural aspects that could allow for hazing to exist. This bill was signed into the Ohio Legislature on July 6, 2021. Collin’s Law makes several changes to the legal definitions and punishments for hazing:
- Expanded the definition of hazing and specifies that hazing may include “coercing another to consume alcohol or a drug of abuse.”
- Increased the penalty for hazing to a 2nd degree misdemeanor.
- Expanded the list of officials required to report hazing.
- Widened the scope of those who can be punished for participating in or permitting hazing. (A violation that results in serious harm is a 3rd degree felony.)
- The bill now requires that those aware of hazing report it to authorities, with penalties up to a 1st degree misdemeanor for failing to do so.
- It also now requires the Ohio Department of Higher Education to implement a statewide anti-hazing plan.
- Staff and volunteers at colleges and universities are now required to undergo training on hazing awareness and prevention.
The bill is named after Collin Wiant a pledge of OU’s Sigma Pi fraternity who had died due to hazing in 2018, but signed in memoriam of Collin Wiant and Stone Foltz, who died earlier in the year from a hazing-related incident with the Pi Kappa Alpha (PIKE) International fraternity at Bowling Green State University.
This bill introduces more severe penalties for sorority and fraternity members accused of hazing pledges or initiated members. If you believe that you or someone you know has been hazed on Ohio Northern University’s campus, resources are provided below to learn more about how to report the incident(s).
In continuing with Anti-Hazing Week, National Hazing Prevention Organization also hosted several other guest speakers such as Michael Rafo, M.A., who is the Coordinator of Fraternity & Sorority Life at Florida Gulf Coast University. He presented on the topic of “Breathe, Nolan, Breathe” which was a documentary about Nolan Burch who was a freshman at West Virginia University in 2014 when he pledged Kappa Sigma (an unsanctioned fraternity) and was then hazed. He was blindfolded and taken to a remote location and then was made to chug a bottle of 100-proof bourbon (which police have said would be the equivalent of drinking 17 mixed drinks). By the time 911 was called, Burch’s blood alcohol content was 0.493, or six times the legal amount of a motorist in West Virginia.
The next event hosted was titled “How “Innocent Fun” Gets Out of Tune Fast” and the speaker was Archie Messersmith-Bunting from Archie Cares, LLC. His speech was on ways to break the stigma surrounding mental health and addiction disorders. In turn, this lack of stigma can allow for those suffering to receive the help they need. This could also lead to a decrease in alcohol use in hazing events.
Another event, National GORDIEday, also focused on the correlation between alcohol and hazing. This story features Lynn Gordon Bailey “Gordie” who was a pledge of Chi Psi fraternity at the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2004. On his “bid night” he and his fellow pledges were encouraged to drink 6 bottles of wine and four handles of whiskey within 30 minutes. Upon arriving at the fraternity’s house he was left to “sleep it off” on a couch, while initiated brothers wrote on him in permanent marker as a way to embarrass the pledges that passed out. Ten hours later he was found face down on the floor, dead. Since his death in 2004, a center has been established in his honor to help educate people about hazing and what they can do to stop it, as well as what can be done to help if someone you know has had too much to drink.
The final event of the week was titled “Hazing Prevention and Intervention Strategies and Early Warning Signs” and this was talked about by Pietro Sasso, Ph.D., Assistant Professor at Stephen F. Austin University & Piazza Center Research Fellow; and Brian Joyce, Ph.D., Director of Fraternity and Sorority Life at George Washington University & Piazza Center Scholar. This event was primarily focused on the signs of hazing and how to determine if you or someone you know may be being hazed, and how to get out of that situation and also report the hazing to your university or national headquarters.
The webinars and guest speakers wrapped up with an event on Oct. 3, called “Love Mom and Dad” that was hosted by the Anti-Hazing Coalition. This webinar featured a variety of families that have been affected by the dangers of hazing and sought to be an educational and also precautionary tale of what can happen if you partake in hazing activities.
Unfortunately, a small school like ONU isn’t pardoned from having hazing incidents occur. In years past, several fraternities have been suspended from being on campus, and a few have even had their charter revoked decades ago and are finally free to re-establish themselves here on ONU’s campus. Sisters of the Delta Zeta sorority actually had to attend a virtual meeting with a representative from Delta Zeta Headquarters reviewing what Collin’s Law is and how it will affect the sorority and Greek Life here on campus in years to come. The sorority went over how to report hazing, the consequences of knowing that hazing is occurring and not reporting it, and how participating in hazing activities could impact both the sorority as a whole and also the members as individuals. The sorority was also encouraged to share their knowledge on hazing because hazing is “any activity expected of someone in joining or participating in a group that humiliates, degrades, abuses, or endangers them regardless of a person’s willingness to participate.” While most think of Greek Life when they hear the word, it can, unfortunately, happen in any organization. This means any student here on ONU campus can experience hazing no matter what organization(s) they may be part of.