After College Student Dies from Nitrous Oxide, Ohio Lawmakers Pass Anti-Hazing 'Collin's Law'
Collin Wiant died of asphyxiation in 2018 during an off-campus fraternity gathering
Ohio lawmakers on Friday unanimously passed an anti-hazing bill named after an 18-year-old college freshman who died three years ago, in a case that brought widespread attention to misconduct in fraternities.
Every lawmaker from the state's House of Representatives voted to pass the bill Friday afternoon, one week after the state's Senate also unanimously passed the legislation.
The bill, also known as "Collin's Law," is now expected to be signed into law by Gov. Mike DeWine next week.
The anti-hazing legislation's namesake, Collin Wiant, died in November 2018 from asphyxiation after inhaling nitrous oxide - also known as a "whippit" - during a gathering with fraternity members at an off-campus Ohio University residence.
The fraternity Collin had been pledging, Sigma Pi, was subsequently expelled from the school.
Kathleen Wiant, Collin's mom, was in attendance at the statehouse Friday as lawmakers passed the legislation, according to local WCMH reporter Adrienne Robbins, who tweeted an image of her emotionally looking on from the gallery.
Anna Staver, a reporter for Gannett Newspapers in Ohio, wrote that both Republican and Democratic lawmakers gave a standing ovation Friday to the families of Collin and another student who died from hazing.
"This legislation will take meaningful steps to prevent the hazing tragedies we currently experience all too often," state Rep. David Leland said Friday.
Various former members of the Sigma Pi fraternity either pleaded guilty or were convicted of charges related to Collin's death, The Athens News reported, though the fraternity itself said in 2019 Collin was responsible for his own actions.
According to The Cincinnati Enquirer, the two students who were with Wiant when he died pleaded guilty last year to misdemeanor charges.
"We want kids to understand there will be serious consequences for hazing and engaging in that culture," said State. Sen. Stephanie Kunze, a Republican who sponsored the bill, according to The Columbus Dispatch. "Hazing is so damaging to young adults and many have suffered from its effects."
The new law makes hazing a second-degree misdemeanor and a third-degree felony for anyone who takes part in hazing that involves alcohol or drugs.
Until now, the Dispatch reports, a hazing offense was penalized by a fourth-degree misdemeanor "comparable to not paying a speeding ticket."
Parents of multiple hazing victims, including the Wiants, have testified in front of state lawmakers in recent months hoping to change that and raise awareness about what they've emotionally described as dangerous college rituals.
A multi-part investigation by the Dispatch found that at various times during his hazing, Collin was beaten and humiliated by fraternity members, who pummeled him with their belts and fists, poured hot sauce on him and had him strip to his underwear.
He also became enmeshed in a party culture involving drugs and alcohol and a troubling sexual encounter with a female student that saw him suspended from formal pledging activities.
At one point Collin told his older brother he was scared about what he was going through.
According to the Dispatch, the fraternity members waited nine minutes to call 911 after Collin was incapacitated by the nitrous oxide.
The parents of Stone Foltz, a Bowling Green student who died in March from excessive drinking during a hazing event, likewise delivered an emotional plea to lawmakers last month urging them to pass the bill.
"Our son will never come through the door of our home to give us a hug and a kiss," his father, Cory Foltz, said.
Cory added: "If hazing causes death or serious injuries, these kids need to know their behavior will follow them for a long time."
Kathleen, Collin's mother, choked up when a state Senate committee announced the bill named after her son had passed last Tuesday.
"He would say, 'Way to go mom,' " she told the Dispatch.
"My biggest fear when testifying last year was that another child would die, and that's what happened," Kathleen said, referencing Stone Foltz.
On a call in March discussing the legislation, Gov. DeWine vowed Ohio needed to become a "hazing-free state," according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Collin's Law will go into effect 90 days after the governor signs it into law, around the time of the next school year, according to the Dispatch.