Push to increase hazing penalties renewed after student dies
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A Bowling Green State University student’s death from alleged alcohol-related hazing last week is invigorating a push to increase criminal penalties for hazing in Ohio.
Joined by the mother of an Ohio University student who died after hazing in 2018, two Republican state senators said Wednesday they’re reintroducing a proposal to make alcohol- and drug-related hazing a felony if it causes serious harm to someone. They said the measure also would help ensure Ohio college students are educated about the dangers of such behavior.
The bill is aimed at “changing a culture where hazing is accepted and even expected” but often doesn’t get attention if the harm that occurs isn’t fatal, said Kathleen Wiant, whose son, Ohio University freshman Collin Wiant, died in 2018. His death after ingesting nitrous oxide led to criminal charges against fraternity members there.
“We don’t want another family to go through the pain and loss our family has experienced,” she said. “Sadly, another family has.”
BGSU sophomore Stone Foltz, 20, died after what a fraternity organization described as “an alleged incident of alcohol-related hazing at an off-campus event” that left officials “horrified and outraged.” As authorities investigate, some students have protested over the allegations, and the school has put the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity on interim suspension.
Sen. Theresa Gavarone, a BGSU alumna from Bowling Green, said she was shaken by Foltz’s death. She noted her son is the same age and at the same school.
“It really emphasizes the need to change culture on college campuses, and it’s not limited to Greek life,” Gavarone said. “Hazing goes on in other activities as well.”
A proposal that included some of the same anti-hazing changes, along with anti-bullying elements, didn’t make it all the way through the Legislature last year. Gavarone and Sen. Stephanie Kunze, of Hilliard, expressed optimism for bipartisan backing of their narrower anti-hazing bill this time around, noting there’s been support on the issue from university leaders and an interfraternity organization.
Republican Gov. Mike DeWine also voiced support this week for efforts to end hazing, calling it a problem that can’t be tolerated.