A bi-partisan team in Congress has stepped forward with legislation designed to help higher education begin to better tackle the serious challenge of hazing. Congressman Patrick Meehan (R-PA 7th) and Congresswoman Marcia Fudge (D-OH 11th) last week introduced the Report and Educate About Campus Hazing Act (REACH Act). The measure would for the first time require colleges and universities to track and report hazing by amending the Jeanne Clery Act, and would also require institutions to provide students with educational programming on hazing.
“Each year, college students across the country are subjected to dangerous incidents of hazing, the tragic death of Penn State student Timothy Piazza being just the latest example,” said Rep. Meehan. “The first step in combating this problem is understanding just how prevalent it is on campuses. By requiring colleges and universities to report hazing as part of their annual crime reports, we can both better understand the extent of the problem, and encourage administrators to partner with students to reduce risky behavior.”
Experts echoed the importance of capturing and actively using this information. “Since 1989 when my book Broken Pledges came out, I have urged passage of legislation that would make mandatory the reporting of cases of criminal or suspected criminal hazing,” said Hank Nuwer, an internationally recognized hazing expert and author of the forthcoming Hazing: Destroying Young Lives. “I now urge passage of such a bill and hope it is passed, not sidetracked into a committee to gather dust.”
The measure has already attracted broad-based support from Pennsylvania State University (Penn State), the Clery Center for Security on Campus, the North-American Interfraternity Conference, and the National Panhellenic Conference (NPC) as well as families of hazing victims. “We are very pleased that Congressman Meehan and Congresswoman Fudge have introduced this important legislation,” said Gary and Julie DeVercelly, whose son Gary Jr. died in a 2007 hazing incident at Rider University. “We know that this will save lives and make college campuses safer!”
“The Clery Act provides a framework for colleges and universities to report and disclose policy statements and crime statistics,” said Allison Kiss, Executive Director of the Clery Center for Security on Campus. “It also requires education on certain crimes to students and employees. The inclusion of hazing in the Clery Act is overdue and will include a clear definitions and guidelines for campuses and contribute to improved safety.”
The bill defines hazing as:
Any intentional, knowing or reckless act committed by a student, or a former student, whether individually or in concert with other persons, against another student, and in which both of the following apply:
(I) The act was committed in connection with an initiation into, an affiliation with or the maintenance of membership in any organization that is affiliated with such educational institution.
(II) The act contributes to a substantial risk of potential physical injury, mental harm or degradation or causes physical injury, mental harm or personal degradation.
“Hazing is a persistent and dangerous problem on campuses around the country that will only be solved if we become more proactive,” said Rep. Fudge. “We cannot act only after an unfortunate incident occurs. We need a strategy that will address hazing at its core. Accurate college reporting will provide the data we need to develop legislative solutions for administrators and faculty and protect our nation’s college students.”