Tim’s Law requires colleges to make hazing incidents public

Allegheny College released the first Timothy J. Piazza Antihazing Law Report last week on its website under the Fraternity and Sorority Life page.

The report is mandated under the new Pennsylvania statute, Act 80 of 2018, created in response to the 2017 hazing death of Timothy Piazza, a sophomore at Penn State University.

Piazza died on Feb. 4, 2017, after he consumed 18 alcoholic drinks in 82 minutes in a hazing ritual for the Beta Theta Pi Chapter. His blood alcohol content, according to a grand jury report, reached 0.36, almost five times the legal limit. The statute, nicknamed Tim’s Law, was signed into law Oct. 19, 2018, by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf.

According to a 2008 study by the University of Maine, more than half of college students involved in clubs, teams and organizations experience hazing. Among the most common practices of hazing are alcohol consumption, humiliation, isolation, sleep-deprivation and sex acts.

Last fall, a student at Ohio University died of asphyxiation due to nitrous oxide ingestion during a hazing incident.

Under the new law, there are stricter, tiered penalties for hazing. Hazing that results in bodily injury can result in a third-degree misdemeanor, $2,500 in fines and imprisonment of up to one year. Hazing that results in serious bodily injury or death results in a third-degree felony with fines up to $15,000 and up to seven years in prison.

Tim’s Law defines organizational hazing as hazing occurring in groups such as fraternities, sororities, societies, clubs and/or associations whose members are primarily students.

Brittany Martin, assistant director of student leadership & involvement, was unavailable for comment and referred The Campus to Gretchen Beck, associate dean of students for wellness education.

“(Many people think that) hazing only applies to fraternities and sororities,” Beck said. “But it is applicable to athletic teams and all student organizations.”

The statute requires institutions and high schools to adopt a written policy against hazing and to report all violations of the anti-hazing policy online twice a year — Jan. 1 and Aug. 1 — or by Jan. 15, for 2019. Institutions are required to retain hazing records for five years.

Only one reported violation since Dec. 1, 2013, appears on Allegheny College’s public report.

In March 2017, Kappa Kappa Gamma engaged in hazing activities. The sorority was put on disciplinary warning and their new member program was reviewed by the chapter, Panhellenic Council and the director of Student Leadership and Involvement.

Beck said there have been years of issues in higher education with hazing and that until now, not all schools have been transparent about the issue.

“I think it’s good for institutions to be transparent about issues, about hazing. Some colleges are very good with being transparent, but others are not,” Beck said.” Tim’s Law levels the playing field across Pennsylvania.”

Lizzie Schumacher, ’20, president of the Panhellenic Council, said Tim’s Law has not prompted specific changes at Allegheny other than the published hazing report.

“There aren’t many school changes because, if you look at the report, we don’t have many (hazing) issues,” Schumacher said. “So, (we’d like) to do more with prevention and workshops with new members to establish a level of comfort where they know that they can reach out.”

Garrett Fenton, ’20, president of the Interfraternal Council, said there is not much IFC can do in regards to the law. He suggested IFC could implement some of the Tim’s Law provisions into their bylaws, but, since the law is already a part of the college’s policy, that supersedes IFC.

“We are unsure of our role as to what we could add to (the law) because it’s already all-encompassing,” Fenton said. “One thing we could do, if there was interest among the board, would be to pressure (the reporting process) to be anonymous and confidential.”

The process for reporting hazing incidents is not confidential. Students file a report of hazing to Joe Hall, assistant dean of students, with the name(s) of the victim(s) and the accuser(s).

“Something that was proposed at a meeting was an anonymous form,” Schumacher said. “(Students) would not have to necessarily come to a fraternity and sorority life adviser. They could submit a form and say ‘I heard/saw/had to do this.’ That could be anonymously sent and investigated further.”

Fenton was concerned about the definition of hazing. Tim’s Law defines hazing as an offense when “a person intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly, for the purpose of initiating, admitting or affiliating a minor or student into or with an organization.” It can include consumption of food, alcohol or drugs that can put students at harm, physical brutality, sexual brutality, or mental brutality.

“Almost anything under the sun can be considered hazing,” Fenton said. “I think there should be some speculation as to what harmful hazing constitutes and what non-harmful hazing constitutes. I think that it’s an important distinction to make.”

Schumacher said it is important for institutions to publish reports because reports could deter prospective members from joining an organization.

“I think it’s important (for colleges) to be transparent,” Schumacher said. “I think, moreso, it’s to establish a level of trust, and also, to set a bar that’s like ‘this is why we don’t do it again’ because it is public knowledge and (showing) that it’s wrong. Different organizations don’t want to have their name on (the report) because it stays on there for five years, and if potential new members can see that, that’s going to somewhat deter them from preffing that organization.”

Beck reiterated the importance of Tim’s Law in regards to Piazza’s 2017 death.

“We don’t want to ever see something happen like what happened to Mr. Piazza,” Beck said.