On Saturday, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed a long-awaited anti-hazing bill into law, which aims to curb hazing incidents at higher education institutions across the state, The Daily Texan reported.
Senate Bill 38, which was introduced in December by Senator Judith Zaffirini and sponsored by 11 other senators, will go into effect on September 1, marking the end of years of advocacy to have a stricter state law against on-campus hazing.
Since 2017, three students in Texas have lost their lives to hazing; Matthew Ellis from Texas State University, Joseph Little from Texas A&M, and Nicky Cumberland from the University of Texas.
The bill redefines the legal definition of hazing by including any activity that would intimidate or threaten a student that they could be ostracized if they don’t engage in the activity, or even give them a reason to believe they will be kicked out of an organization. It will make the offense easier to prosecute.
Those students who voluntarily report hazing incidents will receive immunity from the consequences. The law also states that universities must compile a report including the details of hazing incidents and the actions taken in response to them over the past three years, and place the report on its website for public access.
New hazing bill passes, holds Texas universities more accountable | The Daily Texan https://t.co/XuydbLMjNb
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“Some may dismiss (acts of hazing) as crude and mostly harmless rights of passage, or as team building exercises,” Zaffirini said in a speech to the state senate in April. “That supposedly innocent intent, however, often is perverted into acts of cruelty and degradation, including downright torture and life-threatening experiences.”
Many campuses across the nation have recently struggled to crack down on hazing incidents at fraternity and sorority parties. Last month, Ohio University expelled the school’s Epsilon chapter of Sigma Pi after a student died while pledging the fraternity in 2018. Similarly, the University of California, Santa Cruz dismissed its chapter of the Theta Chi fraternity following an investigation into an off-campus death of one of its members last year.