Eradicating Hazing on College Campuses

By Todd Shelton, North American Interfraternity Conference —

Hazing threatens the health and safety of students in high school and college and undermines an institution’s educational mission. At least 50 percent of high school students participating in extra-curricular clubs and organized sports have been exposed to hazing activities, and 18 percent of all Americans report being victims of hazing in high school. In college, hazing may be combined with forced alcohol and drug consumption to create life-threatening, risky situations for students. As values-based organizations run by and for students, fraternities and sororities are the leading source of anti-hazing educational programming on college campuses nationwide, but we still see instances where our members violate our values by hazing fellow students.  Fraternities and sororities must take the lead in upholding those values and eradicating hazing in every campus organization where it exists today.

The recently formed Anti-Hazing Coalition (antihazingcoalition.org) is a collaboration of the North American Interfraternity Conference (NIC), National Panhellenic Conference (NPC) and parents whose children were tragically killed by acts of hazing. The Coalition is working to eradicate hazing through aggressive student educational outreach, new state-level efforts to strengthen criminal and civil penalties for hazing, and federal advocacy to use transparency to make lasting cultural change in student organizations and on university campuses. Every student has the right to learn and thrive in a safe and healthy campus environment.

The Anti-Hazing Coalition is currently asking Congress to amend the pending reauthorization of the Higher Education Act to include two bills that would help transform campus culture and demand accountability for collegiate hazing by requiring ongoing disclosure about hazing and other student conduct that threatens student health and safety on each campus.

In addition to advocacy work at the federal level, the Coalition is pursuing state-based anti-hazing legislation that delivers greater transparency through stronger hazing reporting requirements, strengthens criminal penalties and encourages prosecution, calls for university accountability for bad actors, provides amnesty to encourage people to call for help and calls for student education. We have seen legislation pass in Texas, Louisiana, Florida and Pennsylvania. States with current advocacy include Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee and Wyoming.

Educational Notification and Disclosure of Student Actions risking Loss of Life by (END ALL) Hazing Act (H.R. 3267). The END ALL Hazing Act requires each institution of higher education that receives federal student aid to maintain and update biannually a website page that discloses student organization violations of the institution’s code of conduct that threaten the safety of students. The report would detail the corrective measures imposed by the school on the student organization. This would allow students and parents to make more informed decisions about which student organizations are safe to join. States such as South Carolina and Pennsylvania have already adapted similar laws, but it would be more effective for federal law to include these disclosures to cover all schools. There are 16 bipartisan cosponsors in the House. END ALL has been introduced in a bipartisan fashion in the Senate (S. 2711).

Report and Educate About Campus Hazing (REACH) Act (H.R. 662/S. 706). The REACH Act would require universities to include incidents of hazing in their Clery Act reporting and provide students with educational programming related to hazing. The REACH Act has 69 bipartisan cosponsors in the House and six cosponsors in the Senate.

Constitution Day focused on Freedom of Association

Today, fraternities and sororities provide over 800,000 undergraduate students a unique and special community of support unlike any other student organization. In recognition of the unique and historic role fraternities and sororities have played for hundreds of years, Congress amended Title IX in 1974 to ensure schools would not violate anti-discrimination laws if students belonged to these groups.

The gains realized from the passage of Title IX, and the support students feel today from being members of women’s-only and men’s only organizations are at risk today. We have seen a growing trend of students being punished for exercising the right to join single-sex organizations.

On Constitution Day in September 2019, more than 12,000 supporters of the fraternal experience voiced their belief in freedom of association by contacting members of Congress to urge them to sponsor and pass the Collegiate Freedom of Association Act (CFAA) (H.R. 3128). It was the single largest one-day grassroots advocacy effort in our history on behalf of fraternities and sororities.

CFAA seeks to preserve and protect students’ rights to freely associate by 1.) Prohibiting institutions of higher education from taking adverse actions against students for simply joining a single-sex organization; 2.) Providing equal treatment for all student organizations to retain autonomy in the time, place and manner of organizations’ membership recruitment practices; and 3.) Ensuring women’s-only and men’s-only organizations maintain their right to exist on campuses today.

Currently, the bill appears in the House’s Higher Education Reauthorization Bill known as the Collegiate Affordability Act (CAA). The CAA has passed out of the House Education Committee and is awaiting floor time to be considered by the full House.