How 2 Federal Anti-Hazing Bills Would Affect Reporting & Fraternity Liability

posted in: Fraternity Manifesto | 0

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 the PAC explains its legislative priorities, victories, and/or current initiatives. This all that most fraternity men 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 [not] “end all hazing.”

What’s In The END All Hazing Act?

Here are what I consider to be the key points of the legislation:

1. Reporting Hazing Incidents

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 which do not result in a “formal finding of the violation” or the personal information of any individual student(s).

2. Publishing the Report

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.

3. Inter-National Protections

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.

What’s Different From REACH?

A lot. To put it simply, the REACH Act and END All Hazing Act are complimentary and promoted as equal to one another on FSPAC’s website. Both amend the Higher Education Act of 1965. As for 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.

END or REACH?

Personally speaking, the END All Hazing Act wins over the REACH act if I were to pick between the two. The latter goes too far for what I expect to be little benefit. That said, neither bill will actually do anything to stop incidents of hazing from occurring. Only immediate and consistent intervention can do that.

It 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 which has proven to be a pricey, and yet totally worthless endeavor for inter/national fraternities. Where will schools turn to for this money? Taxpayers, and no taxpayer should be asked to pay for a proven failure.

Beyond that, I find it hypocritical that fraternity leaders proclaim”protecting free association” one of their key priorities, but then support the federal government defining what colleges should teach and how they should teach it.

For those reasons, and because the END All Hazing Act seems to be more in line with the actual purpose of this bill (lawsuit protection), I would not support the REACH Act. At the end of the day; however, I support neither bill.

Forget Hazing, Students Aren’t Even In School. It’s Time For CHIA

“Okay Mr. Cynic,” you say, “is there any Fraternity Man-approved legislative effort?”

I am glad you asked. Yes! The Collegiate Housing & Infrastructure Act! We were told it had strong bipartisan support and would pass “whenever tax reform happens.” Well, tax reform came and went, and CHIA was nowhere in sight. Then the hazing deaths of 2017 dominated the airwaves and fraternity leaders and their “coalition” of experts and parents went into overdrive to promote pacification anti-hazing bills.

But students are home from college, and we do not know how the coronavirus pandemic and the incoming recession will affect enrollment or health and safety codes. Many fraternity houses apparently fail to live up to existing city codes, and donations for the vast majority of what constitutes a fraternity house (non-educational rooms) are not tax-deductible.

CHIA would fix this at a crucial time:

  1. Most fraternity houses are not currently occupied
  2. Those least affected by recessions invest while the prices are low (i.e. donors get the most bang for their buck)
  3. It would improve the living conditions for hundreds of thousands of college students

I know it won’t happen; there is no sense of urgency around tax write-offs for fancier fraternity houses. I am just upset that the only fraternity lobbying initiative worth a damn may never have its chance to shine.