Written By Nik Koulogeorge
Update: This post has been updated for accuracy (related to the FSPAC's structure & fraternity lobbying) and clarity. Please keep in touch on Twitter @FraternityNik with feedback or corrections!
The Fraternity/Sorority Political Action Committee (FSPAC) often presents at major inter/national fraternity events. In these reports, a representative from FSPAC explains fraternity legislative priorities, victories, and/or current initiatives. This is the most that general fraternity members hear of the higher workings of fraternity lobbying efforts. Those who do not attend the conference might get an email.
Each year, a caravan of student and alumni fraternity members are herded to Washington D.C. for a legislative lobbying blitz. Those lobbying efforts couldn't take place this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, but one of the priorities was meant to be the END All Hazing Act.
Most of what we hear is that we should support these hazing bills because they will help stop or prevent hazing. So, let's look into the text of the END All Hazing Act (click to read the full bill, it's not long) and the REACH Act and figure out how they will - or will not - "end all hazing."
Here are what I consider to be the key points of the legislation:
Colleges would be required to create public web pages which list any violation of relevant rules or laws related to hazing. The report must also include "other conduct that threatens a student’s physical safety, including a violation involving the abuse or illegal use of alcohol or drugs."
Reports must be published every January 1 and July 1 after information collection begins on August 1, 2020 (if it were to pass). Reports will not include investigations that do not result in a "formal finding of the violation" or the personal information of any individual student(s).
Colleges will be expected to "prominently "feature the public webpage on their website. They must also provide printed notice to all incoming students of the report. Any violations included in the report must remain on the public website for five (5) academic years.
This bill would affirm, at the federal level, that "multi-institutional organizations," such as inter/national fraternity organizations, would not be held responsible for the actions of a component chapter.
The REACH Act and END All Hazing Act are promoted as complementary and equally important on FSPAC's website. Both amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 (which means a college would be denied federal financial assistance money if they do not comply). As for the differences:
The REACH Act would "define" hazing at the federal level. END has no definition incorporated into its main text.
The REACH Act would require that schools report incidents of hazing in their Clery Act reporting. END All Hazing would require the creation of a prominently featured, public web page.
The REACH Act includes a section requiring that colleges provide "a comprehensive program to prevent hazing." It includes five requirements for such programs. END All Hazing Act includes no educational component.
First, it is highly unlikely that either bill will do anything to stop or prevent dangerous incidents of hazing. Only immediate and consistent intervention can do that.
It also appears to me that these bills aim to reduce the burden of hazing on inter/national fraternity organizations. The END All Hazing act does a better job of this by explicitly stating local components of multi-institutional organizations are to be held responsible for incidents of hazing. That may be handy in hazing-related lawsuits.
The REACH Act goes a little further in "passing the buck," by requiring colleges to foot the bill for "hazing prevention education." Where will schools turn to for this money? Taxpayers. The question is, do the track records of modern hazing prevention programs warrant their cost? I am biased to say no.
Beyond that, I find it hypocritical that fraternity leaders claim that protecting free association is one of their key priorities, but lobby for federal legislation defining what colleges should teach and how they should teach it.
Between the two - the END All Hazing Act has a lower cost-to-benefit ratio, in my opinion.