With several high-profile deaths related to hazing on college campuses dominating Virginia headlines over the past few years, university officials, law enforcement and state legislators are no longer disposed to regard such initiation rituals as harmless fun. Several states are now cracking down, seeking harsher penalties for those who engage in hazing, especially if the initiate comes to bodily harm. 

The death of a 19-year-old student at Penn State University in 2017 has prompted the introduction of anti-hazing legislation in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, where the student hailed from originally. Pennsylvania signed its anti-hazing legislation into law in honor of the fallen student last month, and a New Jersey lawmaker recently introduced a bill to the state senate that would make hazing a fourth-degree crime and hazing that results in a bodily injury a third-degree crime that carries the potential penalty of jail time. The state senator hopes the bill will send a message to fraternities and other college organizations and hopefully prevent future hazing-related injuries or deaths. 

According to the authorities who responded to the call in 2017, the Penn State student had a blood alcohol level several times higher than Pennsylvania’s legal limit for driving, as well as severe injuries to his head and abdomen. During the party the night before, he had fallen down a set of stairs and spent an excruciating night on a downstairs couch, with security cameras recording the entire ordeal. Fraternity members took an extra 40 minutes to summon an ambulance for him after finding him unconscious on the first floor the next morning. 

With new anti-hazing legislation in place and authorities cracking down, a temporary lapse in judgment has the potential to destroy the lives of more young people. College students facing criminal charges of any kind may find it helpful to consult an attorney.