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Pittsburgh editorial

Must-read editorial on need for additional hazing legislation: breaking news 

 

Excerpt

Despite this, deaths continue, here in Pennsylvania and elsewhere in the United States. Efforts are now underway to strengthen penalties for hazing at the federal level, a welcome development in an urgent effort to keep students safe.

Congress is considering bipartisan measures that would establish a federal definition of hazing, as well as require colleges and universities to act more decisively and with greater transparency to combat hazing.

The Report and Educate About Campus Hazing, or REACH Act, tackles the former issue, defining hazing as “any intentional, knowing or reckless act” committed as a condition of membership in a student group that could cause “physical injury, mental harm or degradation.” Establishing a clear definition of the act will make it easier for law enforcement to police dangerous activity that threatens the well-being and safety of students.

Another bill, the End All Hazing Act, introduced by U.S. Reps. Glenn Thompson, R-Pa., and Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, would strengthen schools’ requirements for reporting hazing allegations to the authorities. If an allegation involves serious injury or the risk of one, schools will have to report the matter to law enforcement within 72 hours.

The law would also require schools to maintain a web page, available to students, staff and parents, with up-to-date information on student organizations that have been disciplined for hazing and details of what the school has done to correct the matter.

Supporters of Greek life have long defended the groups’ contributions to campus life, tradition and alumni networking. But, as more students are injured and killed, this argument is quickly running out of runway. Some colleges and universities, like Ohio University, have taken drastic measures, such as suspending all fraternities and sororities, as a means of protecting students.

Passing the REACH and End All Hazing acts will not solve the problem overnight. But federal involvement will signal to colleges and universities, frats and sororities, and, most important, to students that hazing is an unacceptable danger that will be met with significant punishment.

By Hank Nuwer

Hank Nuwer is the Indiana-based author of Broken Pledges: The Deadly Rite of Hazing, High School Hazing, Wrongs of Passage and The Hazing Reader. He has written articles or columns on hazing for the Sunday Times of India, Toronto Globe & Mail, Harper's Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, The Chronicle of Higher Education and the New York Times Sunday Magazine. His new book is Hazing: Destroying Young Lives from Indiana University Press.

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