Louisiana House passes bill to increase hazing penalties

After unanimously passing in the Louisiana House of Representatives, House Bill 78 moved to the Senate floor. Also known as the “Max Gruver Act,” the bill defines hazing and aims to increase its penalties at colleges and universities in Louisiana.

Rep. Nancy Landry, R-Lafayette, proposed this bill after police determined Louisiana State University student Max Gruver had died as a result of hazing in 2017. This bill ups the punishment for individuals who haze and the organizations that knew about hazing instances but failed to report.

For individuals, the new bill would raise penalties to a maximum fine of $1,000, an imprisonment period of up to six months, or both. If hazing results in serious injury or death of an individual or forces alcohol consumption that raises the victim’s blood alcohol content to at least 0.25 percent, individuals involved can be fined up to $10,000 and imprisoned, with or without hard labor, for five years.

For the organization, if anyone serving as a representative or officer of an organization knew about hazing in his or her organization and failed to report it, the organization may be fined up to $10,000.

The organization could also lose any public funds received and “all rights and privileges of being an organization … for a specific period of time as determined by the court.” This period will be no less than four years if the acts results in serious injury or death or the victim having a BAC of at least 0.25 percent.

The definition of hazing per this bill is “any intentional, knowing, or reckless act by a person acting alone or acting with others that is directed against another when both of the following apply: The person knew or should have known that the act endangers the physical health or safety of the other person or causes severe emotional distress. The act was associated with pledging, being initiated into, affiliating with, participating in, holding office in, or maintaining membership in any organization.”

When this bill was proposed, Northwestern State University Director of Greek Life Shayne Creppel was asked by the UL System to review it and offer his thoughts.

“I strongly support the efforts to increase the penalties from the state for hazing of this type,” he said. “We have lost too many students to these horrible practices that we see far too often in our organizations.”

Creppel pointed to instances of students being killed in instances of forced alcohol consumption and physical violence as the reason for his support.

“We are talking about more than just causing physical or mental harm,” he said. “I think the state has a duty to do what it can to help not only keep these students safe but to penalize those responsible for causing harm, injury, or death.”

As for how this will affect NSU, Creppel doubts there will be a significant change. His main responsibility is to ensure the health and safety of students, and these efforts will remain the same.

Interfraternity Council President Chris Sanders wants to push toward more education if this bill becomes law in addition to preventative action currently taken by IFC. He plans to hold weekly meetings with new member presidents next semester.

“That will be a time to relay this as well to make sure they know that we will not tolerate any hazing,” Sanders said.

A student body survey showed that around 60 percent of respondents don’t think this bill will fix the issue in Louisiana.

Nevertheless, College Panhellenic Council President Taylor Rose hopes the Max Gruver Act and deaths of students nationwide inspire positive change, leading to significant drops in hazing-related injuries and deaths.

“Once other states and universities see this, they will hop on board, and we can all go back to our values that our student organizations were founded on,” Rose said. “No one else should become part of the hazing statistics.”

Progress on House Bill 78 can be tracked here.

Samantha Clark

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