Ohio college presidents are in unanimous support of stronger hazing legislation, President Diacon says

The crests of several Greek life organizations on a wall near the dining hall known as the Hub in the Kent Student Center. Collin’s anti-hazing law in Ohio will criminalize hazing by any organizations, including campus Greek life.

Ian Jameson Reporter

Kent State President Todd Diacon reaffirmed the position of Kent State and other state universities regarding hazing followed by his support of more strict anti-hazing legislation. 

“As leaders, we all condemn this behavior. As parents, we don’t want to receive that call at 3 a.m.; we don’t want anyone else to receive that call at 3 a.m.,” Diacon said.

The suspected hazing incident involving a sophomore at Bowling Green State University prompted state universities and the state government to speak out and take action.

On March 4, Stone Foltz was at a Pi Kappa Alpha event when he was hospitalized due to a suspected alcohol-related hazing incident. He died in the hospital days later on March 7. Officials have looked into the situation and the fraternity has been placed on interim suspension by the university. 

Gov. Mike DeWine expressed sympathies to the Foltz family on Monday. In his condolences, he also said he talked with state legislators that have been working on strengthening state hazing laws. 

On Tuesday morning, DeWine talked with state university presidents about legislation in response to the Bowling Green hazing incident. All Ohio public university presidents who were on the Tuesday call, including Diacon, have expressed support for the strengthening of state laws regarding hazing. 

In 2018, there was a similar response to the hazing death of an Ohio University student. 

An anti-hazing and bullying bill, known as Collin’s Law, was created after the death of Collin Wiant, but the bill was never passed and instead stalled in the Ohio Senate Education in December. If Collin’s Law would have passed, it would have created a tiered system for classifying hazing charges, even pumping some charges up to felonies. 

On Wednesday, State Sen. Stephanie Kunze, (R-Hilliard), announced that Collin’s Law would be reintroduced and revamped. The updated bill would focus solely on hazing as opposed to Collin’s Law which also included sections focusing on bullying in K-12 schools.

Universities in Virginia, New York, Pennsylvania and others have experienced hazing-related deaths in recent years. Forty-four out of 50 states have anti-hazing laws, but the specifics of each varies per state.  

“About a dozen other states have similar hazing laws,” Diacon said in reference to Collin’s Law. “I think it’s time for Ohio to have this kind of legislation as well.” 

No fraternal organization at Kent State has been suspended for hazing since 2013. Diacon believes there hasn’t been an incident for several years because of Kent State’s adherence to educating students about the dangers of hazing.

“We continue to work to educate our students. We do so in our first-year experience courses for our freshmen,” Diacon said. “We particularly do so with our sorority and fraternity leaders.”

Diacon also said he believes hazing is behavioral and is founded on culture and history, and he feels education is the main way to address it. 

“Stronger legislation counteracting hazing is one more important tool in our belt, but it’s not the panacea,” Diacon said. “It’s a behavior that’s reflected in history and culture and has to be addressed through consistent and constant education.”  

Diacon said DeWine didn’t specify what colleges should do to combat hazing, but he suspects Kent State will have to address this further in the future. He also believes Lamar Hylton, vice president for student affairs, will create a dialog with students. 

“Vice President Hylton is in contact with all student leaders in our organizations,” Diacon said. “I’m sure they’ll turn this into another opportunity to do the educating we all want to do.”

When it comes to dealing with hazing at Kent State, Meghan Factor-Page, associate director of leadership development and programming in the Division of Student Affairs, said over an email that Fraternity and Sorority Life members should be knowledgeable about what hazing is, tactics for intervening and how to report these instances.

“It is important for students to know that reporting is confidential. It is most helpful to our office when people who report leave contact information for us to follow up,” Factor-Page said. 

Depending on students’ comfortability, they can reach out to several places, including the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life, the Dean of Students Office, the Office of Student Conduct and the Kent State Police.

They can also reach out at Hazing Prevention.org, or by calling the Hazing Prevention Hotline at 1-888-NOT-HAZE (1-888-668-4293).

Ian Jameson covers the Statehouse. Contact him at [email protected]