Governor DeWine signs Collin’s Law to address hazing on college campuses
On July 6, 2021, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine signed a new anti-hazing bill intended to deter and punish hazing activities at Ohio’s colleges and universities. The new law, commonly referred to as Collin’s Law, expands the definition of hazing, increases the penalties for hazing, requires the Ohio Department of Higher Education (ODHE) to develop a statewide educational plan for preventing hazing at institutions of higher education, directs colleges and universities (with assistance from ODHE) to adopt an anti-hazing policy and begin training on hazing awareness and prevention and imposes penalties on officials and staff who “recklessly permit” hazing activity.
The law is named for Collin Wiant, a freshman student at Ohio University who died of asphyxiation in 2018 after inhaling nitrous oxide and collapsing at a fraternity house.1 Collin’s parents, Kathleen and Wade Wiant, have been working with lawmakers to pass anti-hazing legislation in Ohio since shortly after their son’s death. While initial legislative efforts failed in late 2020, another hazing-related tragedy revived the issue this spring. In March 2021, Stone Foltz, a sophomore student at Bowling Green State University, died of alcohol poisoning after he was allegedly required to drink a full bottle of alcohol in order to join a fraternity. The legislation was renewed a few days after Stone’s death and eventually received unanimous approval from both the Ohio House and Senate.
Expanded definition and increased penalties
Under current Ohio law, hazing is defined as, “doing any act or coercing another, including the victim, to do any act of initiation into any student or other organization that causes or creates a substantial risk of causing mental or physical harm to any person.” Currently, offenders may be penalized with a fourth-degree misdemeanor charge. See Ohio Revised Code, § 2903.31(A) and (D). When Collin’s Law takes effect in early October 2021, the new definition of hazing will cover acts of hazing intended to “continue or reinstate membership in or affiliation with any student or other organization,” and will specify that hazing includes coercing others to consume alcohol or drugs, which may result in a felony charge. The act also explicitly prohibits administrators, employees, faculty members, teachers, consultants, alumni or volunteers at the institution from recklessly permitting the hazing of any person associated with an institutional organization.
The penalty for recklessly participating in the hazing of another person – or for recklessly permitting the hazing of another person in the case of administrators, employees, faculty members, teachers, consultants, alumni or volunteers – will be a fourth degree misdemeanor, increased from a second degree misdemeanor. This means that the potential penalty increases from a possibility of 30 days in jail and/or a fine of $250 to a possibility of 90 days in jail and/or a fine of $750. See Ohio Revised Code, §§ 2929.24 and 2929.28.
The penalties are more severe for hazing incidents which involve “coerced consumption of alcohol or drugs of abuse resulting in serious physical harm to that person.” According to Collin’s Law, hazing incidents in this new category may result in a third degree felony charge for the hazing participants, as well as those who recklessly permit hazing involving coerced consumption. In these cases, offenders face a prison sentence and/or a fine of $10,000. See Ohio Revised Code, §§ 2929.14 and 2929.18.
New statewide educational plan, policy, and training requirements
Collin’s Law also directs Ohio’s Chancellor of Higher Education to develop a statewide educational plan for preventing hazing at institutions of higher education within the state. The plan must include, at a minimum, two separate components: a model anti-hazing policy for colleges and universities and guidelines for anti-hazing education and training.
ODHE’s model anti-hazing policy will prohibit on and off-campus hazing when the hazing activity occurs between two or more people affiliated with the institution. The model policy must also include each of the following:
- Rules prohibiting hazing;
- A method to enforce the policy; and
- Sanctions for violations that may include fines, the withholding of diplomas or transcripts, revocation of permission for an organization to operate on campus as a recognized campus organization, and individual penalties like probation, suspension, dismissal or expulsion.
Ohio colleges and universities must then develop their own anti-hazing policies that comply with the requirements of the model policy, and must provide a copy of this policy to each organization within the institution and post the policy on the institution’s publicly accessible website.
The second component of the new statewide educational plan for preventing hazing requires that the Chancellor of Higher Education develop guidelines for anti-hazing education and training for students, administrators, faculty members, employees and organizations recognized by or operating under the sanction of an institution (“recognized organizations”). Institutions will then be required to provide this anti-hazing education and training to their community members.
Reporting violations of hazing policy
Beginning next year (the 2022-2023 academic year), Ohio colleges and universities will be required to maintain a report of all violations of the institution’s anti-hazing policy or other state law regarding hazing that are reported to the institution. These reports must then be posted on the institution’s publicly accessible website on a semi-annual basis, beginning on January 15, 2023. After the initial report is posted, updated reports must be posted on August 1st and January 1st of each year. These reports must include the following information:
(a) The name of the subject of the report;
(b) The date when the subject of the report was charged with a violation of the institution's policy or other state law regarding hazing;
(c) A general description of the violation, any investigation and findings by the institution and any penalties imposed on the subject of the report;
(d) The date on which the matter was resolved.
The new law further specifies that these reports “shall not include personal identifying information of an individual and shall be subject to the ‘Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974,’ 20 U.S.C. 1232g.”
In the initial report required by January 15, 2023, institutions must include information about reports of hazing received during the previous five years, to the extent the institution has retained such information.
Steps to take now to prepare for compliance with Collin’s Law:
- Watch for ODHE’s model anti-hazing policy and guidelines regarding anti-hazing education and training.
- Review your institution’s current policies regarding hazing. After updating your policies and reviewing the model anti-hazing policy from ODHE, make sure to:
- Disseminate the policy to each organization within your institution
- Post the policy on your institution’s publicly accessible web site.
- Identify the individual on your campus who will track reported incidents of hazing.
- Identify the individual on your campus who will track student attendance for anti-hazing educational programming.
Steps to take in the future to ensure compliance with Collin’s Law:
- Beginning in the 2022-2023 academic year, maintain a report of hazing incidents reported to the institution.
- The initial report of violations must be posted on the institution’s publicly accessible website no later than January 15, 2023.
- Thereafter, this report must be updated on January 1st and August 1st of each year.
- Each institution must retain reports for five consecutive years.
- Provide students with educational programming (online or in-person) on hazing, including hazing awareness, prevention, intervention and the institution’s anti-hazing policy.
- Students must be offered at least one opportunity to complete the program during new student orientation and attendance must be verified by the institution.
- If a student does not complete this educational programming, they must be prohibited from participating in a recognized organization until the programming is completed.
- Make it clear to your institution’s recognized organizations that they cannot accept or initiate any person who has not completed the educational programming on hazing.
- Adopt rules requiring that all recognized organizations conduct mandatory training on hazing for any volunteer who has contact with students.
- Provide all staff and volunteers who advise or coach a recognized organization, and who have direct contact with students, with mandatory training on hazing, including hazing awareness, hazing prevention, and the institution’s anti-hazing policy.
- Ensure that all administrators, faculty members, and employees receive anti-hazing education and training.
1 Hendrix, Sheridan and Mike Wagner, “’Drive hazing to the ground’: Ohio Gov. DeWine signs anti-hazing act Collin’s Law,” The Columbus Dispatch, July 6, 2021, last accessed on July 19, 2021.
This is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be legal advice and does not create or imply an attorney-client relationship.Download PDF