Photo provided courtesy of Unsplash.com.
By Madeline Olds, Staff Writer
On November 12, 2018, Collin Wiant, a freshman at Ohio State University, went to the Sigma Pi fraternity house of Ohio State University for a party as part of the initiating class. That night, Wiant took a cannister filled with nitrous oxide and inhaled as part of a hazing ritual, known as a “whip-it.” Wiant fell unconscious and was taken to the hospital after the fraternity brothers called 911, waiting nine minutes after watching Wiant gasp for air. Wiant passed away, the coroner ruling Wiant died of asphyxiation due to nitrous oxide ingestion. He was buried in his hometown at 18 years of age.
What Wiant’s family did not know was the Wiant had been part of extreme hazing rituals as part of the Sigma Pi initiation, detailed in The Columbus Dispatch investigative report on Collin Wiant’s death titled “The Broken Pledge.” The report shows that Wiant was forced to drink excessive amounts of alcohol and forced into excessive drug use. Wiant was also forced to make regular trips to get food and cigarettes for the brothers and clean the bars and restaurants where the members worked, making him miss class. The report also showed Wiant was a victim of physical abuse where members punched him and beat him with belts. The hazing rituals were led by the brothers of Sigma Pi for the initiating class which Wiant was a part of.
Wiant’s death is not the first nor the last of deaths caused by fraternity hazing rituals. In the past 15 years, 80 college students have died from incidents connected to Greek life. Just in this week, another student from Ohio’s Bowling Green University, Stone Foltz, passed away during a hazing activity involving excessive alcohol consumption for the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity.
After the death of Wiant, the University of Ohio investigated the fraternity and found that there was hazing, hazing rituals, and bullying involved, leading the University to expel the fraternity from campus. The Ohio State Police also got involved and conducted a criminal investigation, charging nine Sigma Pi brothers of various crimes including felony possession of drugs, permitting drug abuse, misdemeanor hazing, trafficking harmful intoxicants, reckless homicide, tampering with evidence, obstruction of justice, and misdemeanor assault. Three of the brothers have been sentenced while the other six waits for their day in court.
When Wiant’s parents learned of the experience their son went through, they decided to work with lawmakers to create a law entitled Collin’s Law: The Ohio Anti-Bullying and Hazing Act, named for their late son. Collin’s Law would expand the definition of hazing in Ohio to include forced consumption of alcohol and drugs. The bill also requires that universities implement a state-created educational plan and maintain a report of confirmed hazing. The bill also increases the penalties for hazing and aggravated hazing. Hazing would rise from a fourth-degree misdemeanor to a second-degree misdemeanor and if alcohol or drugs were used during the process, the offense becomes a third-degree felony.
Collin’s Law has had support of many lawmakers, including Gov. Mike DeWine, Sen. Rob Portman and Sherrod Brown, State Sen, Stephanie Kunze and Theresa Gavarone, Athens’ County prosecutor Keller Blackburn and many more. Collin’s Law, as House Bill 310, passed in Ohio’s house the week of March 8, 2021 and is being moved to the State Senate to be voted upon.
Though the Wiant family has watched those involved with their son’s death be held accountable, they will never get to see Collin Wiant again. The hope of the Wiant family is to have Collin’s Law passed in order to prevent tragedies like the death of Collin Wiant and to bring understanding to the dangers of hazing.
 https://www.dispatch.com/story/news/2021/03/10/collins-law-reintroduced-ohio-senate-wednesday/6928136002/; https://www.athensnews.com/news/local/anti-hazing-collins-law-passes-ohio-house-heads-to-senate/article_abdcd726-b2e7-5ae1-a17b-b1ea12df3771.html