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KSU President Joins Other Ohio University Leaders in Voicing Support for Hazing Reform

a photo of Kent State University
Kent State University
Following the hazing-related death of a Bowling Green State University student last week, Kent State University President Todd Diacon has come together with other university leaders around the state who want change.

University officials from around Ohio spoke with Gov. Mike DeWine Tuesday in support of hazing reform, as lawmakers in Columbus consider drafting a proposal to create legal penalties for hazing on college campuses.

DeWine included a plea to eliminate hazing in a regular coronavirus update Monday, following the death of a Bowling Green State University student who died during a hazing incident. The governor said he supports proposed changes to legislation from Sen. Stephanie Kunze (R-Hilliard).

“This tragic and senseless death should remind us all the moral imperative for us to drive hazing out of the state of Ohio,” DeWine said. “It is a moral imperative that we do this, that we not tolerate it.”

Kunze will hold a press conference Wednesday morning to discuss the specifics of the hazing reform proposal. A similar effort stalled out last year after failing to garner enough support.

But now presidents from public universities around Ohio want to see change, said Kent State President Todd Diacon.

“Hazing is a practice that we all condemn, and it is something that worries all university leaders,” Diacon said. “Honestly, it worries us both as leaders of universities but as parents as well. None of us want to receive a phone call at 3 a.m. informing us of trauma or death of a loved one.”

He says the university works to address hazing through education.

DIACON Hazing Education 030921.mp3
Diacon: hazing education

"We do so in our first year experience course for our freshmen. We do so at our summer orientation, and we particularly do so with our sorority and fraternity leaders who embrace that message as well. And so it's really about education," Diacon said.

Kent State has had no reported incidents of significant hazing in the last four or five years, Diacon said. But it still poses a risk for students. He said university officials regularly speak with students to educate them on the risks, and information is included in orientation and other first-year programming.

“It’s behavioral that’s based on culture and history. The way that we address that is with education,” Diacon said. “Our vice president for student affairs and our dean of students, in particular, meet consistently with our student leaders, including fraternity and sorority leaders. Hazing is always part of that conversation.”

Creating legal penalties for hazing in Ohio, including felony charges, might help diminish the activity, Diacon said. But universities need to do additional work to make a difference, he said.

“This proposed legislation facilitates prosecuting in these cases in a way that’s not facilitated under current legislation,” Diacon said. “Criminalization alone isn’t going to stamp out any behavior, and it’s not going to eradicate this behavior. And that’s why we have to commit to consistent and powerful messaging.”

Copyright 2021 90.3 WCPN ideastream. To see more, visit 90.3 WCPN ideastream.

Jay Shah is a broadcast journalist finishing her Master of Arts degree at Kent State University. She joined WKSU as a news intern in 2020 and now works as a freelance producer for Ideastream Public Media’s daily local news headlines.