Ohio University is in collaboration with 16 other colleges across the state on programming to increase awareness about hazing and the newly reintroduced Collin’s Law.
Ohio University will lead a letter-writing campaign alongside other Ohio colleges in support of Collin’s Law, with the official campaign beginning Monday at 8 p.m. through Zoom. The event will be composed of presentations from Ohio Sen. Stephanie Kunze, Ohio Sen. Theresa Gavarone, Kathleen Wiant and students from various universities in Ohio. The letter-writing campaign will take place April 5-9 at Baker University Center and allow those in favor of Collin’s Law to show their support.
Collin’s Law was originally introduced during the last legislative session following the death of Ohio University student Collin Wiant. Wiant was a freshman at OU and a recent pledge of Sigma Pi when he died of asphyxiation at Sigma Pi’s unofficial annex house in November 2018.
“It's been quite a process. We initially introduced this in the fall and got to connect with …. senators, got very positive feedback,” Collin’s mother, Kathleen Wiant, said. “It was all going really well. The problem was really we ran out of time because of COVID.”
The law would increase hazing charges from a misdemeanor to a felony when drugs and alcohol are involved, Director of Fraternity and Sorority Life, Ariel Tarosky said.
“By raising hazing to a felony when it includes alcohol and drugs, I think that will also show communities the seriousness of hazing as a power-based violence,” Tarosky said. “I think students understanding the seriousness of that will start to change cultures across campuses.”
The law was reintroduced in the Ohio General Assembly in early March and includes new requirements for universities and greek life organizations, according to a previous Post report.
Kathleen Wiant said shortly before the bill was reintroduced with new data, Bowling Green State University student Stone Foltz died of an alleged hazing incident, which further put hazing into the public spotlight.
“It's a very uncontrolled process. So, at some point, it's like you just hit a slippery patch and things spiral out of control and it goes downhill fast,” Wiant said. “And when it does, that's when it ends with these tragic stories of kids in the ER and kids who die.”
Tarosky said hazing is not isolated to college campuses. In some cases, hazing can start for students in the high school environment.
Tarosky hopes students will become educated on hazing and come into college with an understanding of their rights as new members in organizations or clubs, and how to have conversations regarding hazing.
Educating students about hazing is a large part of the letter-writing campaign OU is playing a role in, according to a university press release.
“I think it's important that universities are taking a leadership role in supporting this,” University Spokesperson Carly Leatherwood said. “I think it shows a lot of leadership in our state to put support behind something that's a problem across the nation.”
Over a five-day period, students will be outside Baker Center, educating others about Collin’s Law. Those students will also be providing any interested community members or students with the ability to email or mail a letter to their state legislator or senator regarding the law, according to the release.
Tarosky said she hopes legislators acknowledge the amount of support Collin’s Law has received statewide and the impact it could have on students' campus experiences.
“No matter what type of hazing is happening, it’s detrimental, it's dangerous and it affects lives,” Tarosky said. “I think that with this letter writing campaign, and hopefully with the passing of Collin’s Law, it will just continue to re-emphasize that.”
Kathleen Wiant is continuing to advocate against hazing and telling her son's story through various events and pushing for the passing of Collin’s Law.
“I'm really hoping to make a permanent change in hazing and how it's viewed,” Kathleen Wiant said. “I want to be part of so many of us who want to eradicate hazing.”