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October 7, 2021

Recently, the movement to strengthen state anti-hazing laws has gained momentum, sadly fueled by hazing tragedies. Currently, 44 states have anti-hazing laws in place, and they vary greatly in terms of scope and impact.

Today, the Ohio Department of Higher Education (ODHE) released its new hazing prevention guidance in light of Collin’s Law, Ohio’s new anti-hazing law, taking effect October 7th, 2021. 

Collin’s Law, legislation named for Collin Wiant, an Ohio University student killed by hazing in 2018, was finally signed into law in 2021 after another tragic hazing death in Ohio at Bowling Green State University where Stone Foltz was killed in March of 2021. 

We applaud the strengthening of Ohio’s new law that upgrades hazing penalties to second degree misdemeanors and third degree felonies for those participating in hazing and first and fourth degree misdemeanors for those aware yet fail to report hazing. In addition to the stiffer penalties, the law calls for the ODHE to develop an anti-hazing policy and share guidance with all OH institutions and stakeholders. OH institutions must share the policy with all (fraternity or sorority affiliated) organizations, report hazing incidents on their public websites, and provide all students and student-facing stakeholders (e.g,. faculty, staff, coaches, advisors) with an educational hazing prevention program — all measures recommended by StopHazing over the past decade in our work to advance the field of hazing prevention through research and data-driven policy and practice. 

Students, families, campus professionals, and community members are seeking, and deserve, answers. Yet, hazing prevention is a developing field of research and practice. As the field grows, its efficacy depends largely on the care with which policy-makers and professionals implementing those policies are attuned to cutting-edge research developments and are intentional about contributing to the field in ways that are thoughtful, deliberate, and informed by data. 

Does a college or university really want to prevent hazing? If so, they should be seeking to anchor their approaches in established research and seeking data-driven and evaluated strategies that can lead to more effective and sustainable hazing prevention rather than taking a “check the box” or compliance approach that will simply meet minimum provisions of a law.

In light of Collin’s Law, and in anticipation of more hazing accountability and prevention mandates in other states, we at StopHazing, offer the following insights for ensuring such efforts are aligned with current research about promising prevention practice and are carried out in a manner that is more likely to have an enduring impact: 

  1. Seek hazing prevention approaches and resources that are:
  • Grounded in an established theoretical framework
  • Guided by the research literature in public health and prevention science
  • Data-driven
  • Tested and/or evaluated
  • Intentional about centering cultural competence
  • Connected to a comprehensive and integrated approach
  • Coalition-based and/or developed with input from multiple stakeholders 
  1. Consider resources derived from The Hazing Prevention Consortium™ (HPC), the three-year research-to-practice initiative led by StopHazing. The HPC was developed to support colleges and universities in efforts to implement hazing prevention and to contribute to building an evidence-base for hazing prevention. The HPC and StopHazing Research Lab work in tandem with other partners to build a foundation for  data-driven and research-informed hazing prevention. 
  2. Utilize research-based frameworks. The Hazing Prevention Framework (HPF) is currently the only data-driven framework for campus hazing prevention. It derives  from the HPC and the work of scholars and practitioners over many years, is grounded in  SAMHSA’s Strategic Prevention Framework. The HPF is specific to hazing prevention in the context of higher education and was published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Student Affairs Research and Practice.
  3. Before adopting an approach or strategy (e.g., a training, speaker, workshop), ask questions about its development. Is the approach connected to established research? Is it grounded in assessment? Is it guided by theory? Has the strategy been tested and/or evaluated? If so, do results show promise for impacting behavior change? For example, these films were rigorously evaluated: We Don’t Haze made in collaboration with Clery Center, and Intervene from Cornell University with a focus on bystander intervention.

We share this blog as a brief summary for key stakeholders who are called on to lead hazing prevention. Start with the research and strategically plan for evidence-based approaches. We recommend utilizing the Hazing Prevention Framework and its accompanying HPF Toolkit. Use it as your foundation and apply all 8 components – commitment, capacity, assessment, planning, evaluation, cultural competence, sustainability, and implementation – to your campus, your organization, your team, your workspace.

While the strengthening of Ohio’s law is important for students attending colleges and universities in Ohio affiliated with fraternities and sororities, it also represents an opportunity to push Congress to pass federal hazing prevention legislation that supports students nationwide, regardless of the state or organization affiliation. The REACH Act is a bicameral and bi-partisan bill that will ensure hazing has a standardized definition, consistent and transparent public reporting structures, and that institutions provide research-based hazing prevention education programming. Contact your representatives today and urge them to cosponsor REACH.

In summary, we hope Ohio’s Collin’s Law will help catalyze awareness and strengthen commitment to hazing prevention. Using data-informed scholarship to inform practice with tools such as the the HPF, the Campus Commitment to Hazing Prevention: Action Guide, and more from StopHazing and collaborators can help make a difference in shifting campus hazing culture and ultimately, keeping students safe, healthy, and thriving while in school.