CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Friday, May 14, 2021

Swofford on Fraternity Hazing

Justin J. Swofford has posted The Hazing Triangle: Reconceiving the Crime of Fraternity Hazing (Journal of College and University Law, Vol. 45, No. 2, 2020) on SSRN. Here is the abstract:

For decades, legislators have struggled to deter fraternity hazing. In 2017, the hazing death of a Penn State sophomore garnered national attention and prompted legislators to amend Pennsylvania's existing antihazing law. In response, the Timothy J. Piazza Antihazing Law made hazing punishable as a felony offense and instituted reporting guidelines for educational institutions across Pennsylvania.

However, despite the Piazza Law’s enhanced criminal penalties against individual hazers, college administrators have pushed back against its institutional reporting requirements. Even more troubling, the Piazza Law’s penalties fail to acknowledge the immense power colleges and fraternities possess in propagating and concealing hazing. Consistent findings from legal, sociological, and psychological scholarship suggest that for legislation to best deter future hazing injuries and deaths, greater criminal and civil penalties must be placed upon schools and fraternities.

Drawing on an extended case study and scholarship from numerous disciplines, this note posits that host institutions, fraternities, and individual hazers form a “triangle” of hazing culpability that has been neglected or misconstrued by legislatures, leading to laws that fail to deter fraternity hazing. To rectify this issue, this note provides a blueprint for states to restructure their antihazing statutes to impose more meaningful penalties upon fraternities and their host institutions while maintaining criminal sanctions against individual hazers.

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