Ohio University President Duane Nellis on Wednesday, alongside 13 other state university presidents, signed a letter in support of renewed anti-hazing legislation in the Ohio Senate in the wake of a Bowling Green State University’s (BGSU) student’s death from an alleged hazing incident.
The letter, penned by the The Inter-University Council of Ohio’s Public University Presidents and addressed to Gov. Mike DeWine, Ohio House Speaker Bob Cupp and Senate President Matt Huffman, condemned hazing, calling it an unjustifiable practice that can lead to deadly consequences.
Stone Foltz, a 20-year-old BGSU student, died Sunday following what’s been described as an alleged instance of alcohol-related hazing at an off-campus event hosted by the Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity, often referred to as ‘PIKE,” according to Cleveland.com.
Foltz’ death renewed state government efforts to crack down on hazing on and around college campuses, with DeWine on Monday during a routine coronavirus press briefing calling efforts to drive hazing out of Ohio a “moral imperative.”
State Sens. Stephanie Kunze and Theresa Gavarone are expected on Wednesday to introduce into the Ohio Senate a revamped version of “Collin’s Law,” an anti-hazing measure passed in the Ohio House of Representatives last year in response to the 2018 hazing-related death of OU student Collin Wiant, a pledge of the now-expelled Sigma Pi fraternity.
While the original measure expired in the Senate last year due to a lack of action, the new bill, if adopted, would increase the criminal penalty for hazing, expand hazing education for college students and bolster transparency abilities for state universities, allowing them to report hazing information to parents.
“This bill has teeth, which we applaud. Those who engage in the hazing of others will know that their anti-social, bullying behavior will result in a felony conviction with real prison time if they cause harm to another through hazing,” the letter said. “This legislation will be a deterrent and should cause those who would seek to perpetrate these abhorrent activities on others to think twice before doing so and may even stop them from engaging in such aberrant behavior, altogether.”
Nellis on Tuesday took part in a call with DeWine and other state university presidents where they discussed strengthening anti-hazing laws following Stone’s death.
University spokesperson Carly Leatherwood said Nellis was an active participant in the call, but she didn’t share details about the discussion.
The two senators held a press conference Wednesday morning that featured Kathleen Wiant, Collin’s mother, and Athens County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn, who both played a role in formulating the original version of Collin’s Law, which also included anti-bullying provisions for K-12 schools.