Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine on Tuesday approved “Collin’s Law,” legislation that cracks down on hazing after two Ohio college students died in recent years as a result of the practice.
Officially Senate Bill 126, Collin’s Law is named for Ohio University student Collin Wiant, who died in November 2018 inside the alleged annex of the since-expelled Sigma Pi Epsilon fraternity chapter. The legislation increases the penalty for hazing from misdemeanor to a felony and expands the definition of hazing.
The law also requires universities to implement anti-hazing plans, train staff on hazing awareness, and share yearly reports of hazing violations. Each report must include the name of the offender, the date the offender was charged with a violation, the date of resolution, a general description of the violation, investigation and findings, and penalties imposed on offenders, according to a nonpartisan analysis of the law.
The law, which received bipartisan approval in June, also pays tribute to Stone Foltz, a Bowling Green State University student who died in March following an alleged hazing incident at an off-campus event hosted by the Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity, often referred to as “PIKE.” Foltz’s death reignited calls for legislative action against hazing after a previous version of Collin’s Law stalled in the Ohio Senate in 2020.
“Thank the Wiant and Foltz families for taking their grief and turning it into something very, very positive with the goal that no other families will suffer the horrible, horrible tragedies that they have suffered. And I can say from my wife Fran and my experience, there’s nothing, nothing worse than losing a child,” said DeWine, whose daughter, Becky DeWine, was killed in a 1993 car accident at age 22.
Members of the Wiant and Foltz families attended the signing at the Ohio Statehouse, along with representatives of from both OU and Bowling Green. Southeast Ohio attendees included Athens County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn, Ohio University President Hugh Sherman and state Rep. Jay Edwards (R-Nelsonville).
Wiant’s death led to a widespread investigation by the Athens County Prosecutor’s Office, which ultimately brought numerous charges against those involved. The tragedy also prompted the university to ramp up anti-hazing efforts, resulting in the 2019 suspensions of more than a dozen Greek life organizations.
At the Statehouse on Tuesday, Sherman said that OU immediately suspends and initiates investigations into student organizations once hazing is reported, no matter the severity of allegations. He added that several university organizations are currently suspended in response to reports of hazing.
“We just don’t tolerate hazing at Ohio University,” he said.
Efforts to curb hazing began brewing in the Statehouse shortly after Wiant’s death and continued as his parents, Kathleen and Wade Wiant, kept pressure on the legislature and state universities to effect change.
“Nothing can bring him back, which is so hard and so painful, but we also know that this really is going to save lives,” said Kathleen Wiant, who has become a voice of opposition to hazing. “I would do anything to spare another family from going through this.”
The Wiants have pursued several wrongful death lawsuits against organizations they alleged were complicit in their son’s death. Mrs. Wiant declined to comment when asked how she felt OU has addressed hazing in the years since her son’s death.