Rush at UGA Fall 2020

Fall 2020 Sorority Rush on campus of the University of Georgia

Credit: Grant Blankenship/GPB file photo

A bill requiring Georgia colleges and universities to report hazing incidents that happen in school clubs like fraternities and sororities passed in the General Assembly Wednesday.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. John Albers, R-Roswell, is a greatly stripped-down version of the original measure, which would have made it a felony with prison time and large fines for anyone who injures or contributes to killing someone through hazing, including by alcohol abuse or physical torture.

Albers, who has pushed the criminal-hazing penalties since last year, said the state House of Representatives made “substantial changes” to his bill after it passed unanimously in the state Senate in late February.

He pledged to bring back the felony proposals in next year’s legislative session.

“This bill is a down payment on the further work we’re going to do next year and the years in the future to make sure we honor Max’s legacy and keep kids safe,” Albers said from the Senate floor Wednesday.

Albers referred in his floor remarks to Max Gruver, a Louisiana State University student from Georgia who died in 2017 from alcohol poisoning after being hazed by members of the Phi Delta Theta fraternity. The bill was named in honor of Gruver.

With the overhauled bill, Georgia college administrators will need to publicly disclose hazing incidents involving forced consumption of alcohol, food or otherwise harmful substances within 15 days after the school has adjudicated the matter or there has been a criminal conviction.

Schools would also have to name the organization where the hazing took place, which House lawmakers who revised Albers’ bill said recently should be enough to scare groups like fraternities, sororities and sports teams into clamping down on dangerous ritual hazing.

“They are not going to want to be on a list like this,” said Rep. Bert Reeves, R-Marietta, who helped draft the bill changes in the House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee last week.

“They know that would be detrimental and that this would be something that would be very damaging for fraternities. I think it does help achieve a really good public-policy goal in that.”

Rep. Ed Setzler, R-Acworth, who also had a hand in the changes, said the revised bill is “focused on the organizational deterrents versus crime and punishment.”

The bill passed in the Senate unanimously on Wednesday and now heads to Gov. Brian Kemp’s desk for his signature.

Gruver, a 2017 graduate from Blessed Trinity Catholic High School in Roswell, was forced to drink liquor for failing to correctly answer fraternity-related trivia questions. His death led to the arrests of several fraternity members and a felony negligent homicide conviction of the ringleader.

This story comes to GPB through a reporting partnership with Capitol Beat News Service