Professor says Florida anti-hazing bill is part of higher education push to 'hold people accountable'

University of Maine professor Elizabeth Allan praised a new bill that recently cleared the Florida state Senate, saying the legislation is part of a broader movement in higher education to safeguard against hazing and hold people accountable.

“This bill and a number of other state initiatives as well as the federal initiative — the Campus Reach Act — are representing a very strong movement in higher education and in the general public to work to hold people accountable for hazing and to educate them,” Allan, who is also the executive director advocacy group Stop Hazing, told Hill.TV on Thursday.

“Ultimately, it’s about prevention,” she added.

Allan said hazing is still more widespread than what most people tend to assume, emphasizing that the practice doesn’t just happen in Greek organizations or among athletes.

“We also found that hazing was occurring in other types of clubs and organizations and group settings,” she told Hill.TV, referring to a 2008 study she conducted with fellow University of Maine professor Mary Madden.

“For example, a capella groups or other performing arts groups like marching band and in recreational sport clubs ... and even in some honor societies.”

More than half of college students involved in clubs, teams and organizations experience some form of hazing, according to Stop Hazing. The most frequently reported hazing behaviors include everything from participating in a drinking game to singing and chanting in a public situation or drinking potentially dangerous amounts of alcohol.

All but six states in the U.S. have enacted anti-hazing laws.

Florida is considered to have some of the toughest anti-hazing laws in the country, and this week the state passed a bill expanding its current law. A companion bill has also been introduced in the House.

The bill expands the definition of hazing and grants immunity to the first person to call 911 seeking medical attention for a hazing victim. The legislation also raises the maximum penalty for hazing to a third-degree felony, carrying up to five years in prison.

The legislation comes nearly two years after the death of a college student at Florida State University.

Andrew Coffee died of alcohol poisoning at a fraternity party. In 2018, Coffee's parents filed a civil lawsuit against those connected to his death, including the Pi Kappa Phi national chapter and nine students who were charged with criminal hazing. 

—Tess Bonn