Louisiana Legislature 2019: Hazing
The Senate voted 37-0 Wednesday to tighten hazing laws since incidents keep occurring on college campuses even though lawmakers took several steps to crack down on the problems last year.
Sponsored by Rep. Nancy Landry, R-Lafayette, the bill approved by the Senate would penalize universities and student organizations that fail to immediately report hazing incidents to law enforcement, and it would allow campus police to investigate off-campus hazing incidents.
The Legislature elevated hazing from a misdemeanor to a felony last year after LSU freshman Maxwell Gruver died of alcohol poisoning at a fraternity pledge event.
Since then, LSU has suspended other fraternities over hazing allegations. The Delta Kappa Epsilon chapter there was closed by its national chapter in January after a hazing investigation.
The bill passed by the Senate would repeal a law that allows student organizations and universities 14 days to investigate hazing allegations before calling police.
Landry's bill, which now goes back to the House to reconcile smaller changes, also would require student organizations to adopt no-hazing policies.
Under the bill, the Board of Regents would have to make information on hazing incidents available to the public so parents and students can determine which fraternities or sororities they might want to avoid, and university officials would have to document in writing their responses to hazing complaints.
Walter Kimbrough, the president of Dillard University in New Orleans, urged Landry on Twitter before the Senate vote not to rush the anti-hazing legislation without input from campus leaders, student affairs professionals and hazing experts.
"We were not consulted with the last legislation and as we all know, it didn’t work," Kimbrough, who is considered an expert on hazing issues, tweeted.
Sen. Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge, who presented Landry's bill on the Senate floor Wednesday, said it would provide "proper tightening of this law based on our experience."
"When we did the hazing criminal statute rewrite, we gave some of the organizations essentially a whole lot of time to get their story straight, and it's worked to the disadvantage of the district attorney's office and the others investigating this matter," Claitor said.
The Legislature last year adopted several laws to curb hazing or increase the penalties.
Last year's legislation mandated that participation in hazing that results in death where the victim's blood alcohol level is at least .30 can incur perpetrators up to five years in prison and fines up to $10,000.
That legislation also increased the fines for hazing in which no fatality occurs to a maximum of $1,000 from up to $100 and extended prison time to as much as six months.
Another proposal the governor signed last year requires universities to expel or suspend students involved in hazing.
Earlier this year, LSU placed three high-ranking university officials on leave amid allegations that they knew about hazing at the Delta Kappa Epsilon (DKE) fraternity and did not inform law enforcement.
The officials were later reinstated following an investigation conducted by an outside law firm that yielded no written report.
LSU's DKE chapter was closed by the national organization in January after a hazing investigation.
Last month, LSU's Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity was suspended until May 2023 following a university investigation that found the organization in violation of LSU hazing and alcohol policies.
The university's Pi Beta Phi Sorority was suspended last fall amid hazing allegations that arose from a milk chugging challenge.
In 2017, a Kappa Sigma fraternity pledge at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette was kept awake for three days due to hazing. He ended up falling asleep at the wheel of a car which struck and killed another student.
The student sued the Kappa Sigma fraternity and university officials. The university suspended the fraternity, and the Kappa Sigma national headquarters revoked the chapter's charter.