COLUMBUS, Ohio — Hazing is now a felony in Ohio.
That’s after Collin’s Law went into effect on Thursday. The law, signed by Governor Mike DeWine back in July, also makes failure to report a misdemeanor.
Colleges and universities also will now be required to come up with their own plans to address hazing, including anti-hazing education and training and transparency in reporting any hazing incidents.
“Today I woke up not knowing how I would feel today, and I was surprised that today I woke up really happy and joyful about this,” said Kathleen Wiant, mother of Collin Wiant. “I just keep thinking that, if Collin had received education on hazing that students now will be receiving because of Collin’s Law, that he would be alive today.”
The law was named after Collin, who died in November 2018 after a hazing incident at Ohio University.
“You know, if he knew what hazing looked like, how to identify it, why small acts of hazing are dangerous, only because they lead to larger acts of hazing that can be dangerous or deadly if he knew all that, I think he would have walked away, and I think he’d be alive today,” Kathleen said. “So I’m really excited that all these students now going off to college in Ohio now will be given that information.”
Along with the criminal consequences laid out in the law, state colleges and universities also will have to come up with their own anti-hazing plans. There are nine main requirements:
- Public affirmative statement that hazing is prohibited.
- A stand-alone hazing policy that pertains to all members of the campus community and volunteers for recognized and sanctioned campus organizations.
- Description that will guide the institution in responding to reports of hazing or hazing activity including incidents that are occurring off-campus or at non-sanctioned events. » Including how the policy will be distributed to the campus community and shared via its publicly accessible website.
- Potential sanctions
- Description regarding how the policy will be enforced.
- Operational definition of hazing that is compliant with 2903.31
- Clear guidance to the entire campus community and volunteers on how to identify hazing and where and how to report it including anonymous reporting options if offered.
- Reference to the duty of the institution to create a report that captures reported incidents at least five years prior to the effective date of the law, the dates when an updated report will be posted (August 1 & January 1), and where to find the report.
- How the campus will provide training and education and the consequences for an individual who does not attend the training provided.
Ohio Department of Higher Education Chancellor Randy Gardner says Collin’s Law may now mean that Ohio has the most comprehensive anti-hazing strategy in the country.
“Some people have said that hazing is a longtime tradition, and I think today, with all due respect, that tradition ends,” he said. “I’m confident that this is a really important next step toward making our colleges and our universities, our communities, as safe as possible.”
As for how to quantify whether the law is actually working on down the line, Gardner admits that may be tough to do. But he’s confident there will be anecdotal evidence to support its success.
“I don’t want the impression to be that no one took hazing seriously in Ohio,” Gardner said. “They did. There were some positive, anti-hazing policies. But this just says, for all of Ohio, no more, it’s not tolerable, and we’re going to altogether do something significant about it. And so, I think that’s what October 7th says to me.”
Gov. DeWine also spoke about Collin’s Law while on an unrelated visit to Bowling Green State University on Thursday.
“It should not be acceptable or part of the culture to have hazing,” the governor said. “Hazing is not what we want, hazing can be lethal. We’ve seen it be deadly here on Bowling Green campus. We never want to see another family go through that ever again.”
Gov. DeWine was referring to Stone Foltz, who died after a hazing incident at an off-campus party at BGSU earlier this year. His family helped to push for the passage of Collin’s Law.
“There really cannot be any tolerance for hazing,” DeWine said. “Anybody who’s associated with hazing needs to be off the campus. Gone.”
Meanwhile, Kathleen Wiant is not planning to stop her anti-hazing fight anytime soon. She already has been lobbying on Capitol Hill for federal legislation.
“When I think of working at the federal level, I do get overwhelmed, I’m not going to lie, I think that’s going to be a longer road,” she said. “It’s all I have to do. It’s the most important thing I have to do, so, yes, I won’t give up on that. I’ll be working on that till the day I die, for sure.”
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