COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Tougher criminal penalties for hazing will take effect in Ohio this fall, nearly three years after the death of the college student for whom the legislation is named.
Republican Gov. Mike DeWine on Tuesday signed “Collin’s Law," named for Collin Wiant, an 18-year-old Ohio University freshman who died in 2018 after ingesting nitrous oxide at a fraternity house.
“Collin was a protector by nature,” Kathleen Wiant, who championed the legislation since her son's death, said Tuesday at the signing ceremony. “I can think of no greater way to honor him than a law in his name designed for the sole purpose of protecting others."
When it takes effect in October, hazing violations will be elevated to second-degree misdemeanors, and hazing involving forced consumption of drugs or alcohol that seriously harms someone would be a third-degree felony punishable with possible prison time. The measure, which cleared the Legislature with bipartisan support, also requires that college campuses provide anti-hazing training and online information about reported hazing violations.
DeWine signed the bill flanked by Wiant's family and the family of Bowling Green State University student Stone Foltz, whose death in March in another alleged fraternity hazing contributed to momentum for passing the new law.
“This is really a question of culture, and for decades, the culture of hazing has been accepted as something that is tolerated,” DeWine said. “This bill says that, going forward, hazing in the state of Ohio is simply not tolerated.”
Foltz's mother called it a step in the right direction but not the end of her family's fight to prevent hazing altogether.
“Our fight is zero tolerance,” Shari Foltz said.
Seven current or former fraternity members have pleaded not guilty to various charges in the Foltz case.
Seven people from a fraternity previously pleaded guilty to charges in the Wiant case.
DeWine thanked the Wiant and Foltz families for advocating for the new law and channeling their grief into something positive in the hope that no other families would experience what they did.
“We can't wait to get serious about this until we lose another child, until we lose another college student,” DeWine said. “The nature of life is that we sometimes only get serious about things when there is a great, great tragedy. And so we say with this law today that we're not only going to get serious when there's a death. We're going to get serious and say that hazing is wrong when there's no deaths — when everyone wakes up the next morning — that still is wrong.”