Update for Antihazing measure heads to Senate Judiciary

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The Senate Judiciary Committee now has a bill that seeks to update West Virginia’s Antihazing Law in the wake of changes to fraternity life at West Virginia University last year.

The antihazing law is, Trump said, a response to injuries suffered — both emotionally and physically — along with the 2014 death of then-WVU freshman Nolan Burch.

But five fraternities dissociated, cutting their ties with West Virginia University last September in the wake of disagreements over new in-house disciplinary measures.

Under the current law, those dissociated fraternities would not be subject to discipline or penalty — at least that’s the interpretation of Sen. Charles Trump IV, R-Morgan.

“The statute is worded in such a way under current law that the definition of hazing includes conduct prescribed that occurs in an organization operating under the sanction of or recognized as an organization by an institution of higher education,” said Trump Wednesday on MetroNews “Talkline” with Hoppy Kercheval.

The dissociated fraternities are still operating as an organization for interested WVU students, but are not affiliated with West Virginia University.

“There is a belief or concern that fraternities as they may exist now, dissociated from the university, are exempt from the hazing law,” Trump added.

The updated version of the bill includes 16 sponsors — an even split among Democrats and Republicans. Sen. Roman Prezioso, D-Marion, is the bill’s lead sponsor.

“It applies in any organization whose members include students of an institution of higher ed,” Trump said. “The fraternities wouldn’t have to be affiliated or sanctioned by the university in order for them to be subject to the antihazing law. It would require only that there members are students of the university.”

The one-page bill offers merely a single correction — changing “operating under the sanction of or recognized as an organation by” to “whose members include students of.”

“We think that would make it clear that the antihazing law applies to those organizations,” Trump said.

Senate Judiciary received S.B. 440 Jan. 28.

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