Senate approves adjusted anti-hazing law for institutions of higher education

MORGANTOWN, W. Va. (WDTV)-- SB 440 passed the Senate unanimously and is now in the hands of the House.

West Virginia passed the 4.25 billion dollar budget on Friday.

The anti-hazing law was re-worded to apply to members of organizations not affiliated with an institution of higher education.

"Five fraternities are actually off campus, so they're basically out of bounds. If any hazing activities would occur within those fraternities they wouldn't be subject to the current law. This basically, if they're a student of higher education, [would allow] the law to apply," said Monongalia County Senator Bob Beach.

The issue became a priority after five fraternities at WVU dissociated themselves from the school and formed an independent group.

Corey Farris, Dean of Students, says under their code of conduct, students can be punished regardless. However, if the changes become law, prosecutors can charge them as well.

"Our student code also has a definition of hazing, so that would take care of the student perspective. If it's criminal behavior then it [the adjusted law] adds tools to the toolbox that the prosecutor can use," said Farris.

Beach says all six Monongalia County senators sponsored the bill. He also says, WVU leaders expressed their desire to see the legislation become more inclusive.

"WVU had actually been working with the Mon County prosecutor in regards to one incident that occurred earlier that year. Because the language didn't apply to those fraternities off campus, their hands were really tied in how to apply the current hazing laws in the books," said Beach.

WVU leaders says the bill will also help minimize instances in the future.

"It's a safety issue and I know our legislators are concerned about safety of all people including students," said Farris.

"Perhaps some of these fraternities will think twice before getting into a hazing activity that occur typically every fall," said Beach.

Farris says if the law passes, it will apply to every organization, not just Greek life, and to all institutions around the state.