Thanks to the Seneca Journal for this editorial, which appeared Oct. 25, 2018.
State Rep. Gary Clary has announced plans to introduce anti-hazing legislation in the next session of the S.C. General Assembly that would increase penalties for those who cause serious injury or death in incidents related to hazing by college and university organizations that have initiations.
It is time to take hazing incidents more seriously.
A law passed in 1987 and amended in 2002 to include hazing causing physical injury at colleges and universities has penalties of a $1,000 fine and/or six months in jail. Clary’s proposed bill, which he says he will pre-file in December, will add a fine of $2,500 and/or five years behind bars for causing impairment of bodily function. An incident that results in death would be punishable by a fine of $10,000 and/or up to 15 years behind bars.
The law rightly treats instances of serious injury and death from hazing incidents more seriously. It requires leaders of these incidents who demand trust and respect to also show trust and respect — something that has sometimes been lacking.
There have been too many reports across the nation of hazing incidents that went too far, leading to injuries and in some cases, death.
And it has even happened close to home.
It has been a little more than four years since Clemson University student and fraternity pledge Tucker Hipps was found dead in the water of Lake Hartwell near the S.C. Highway 93 bridge. No charges have ever been filed in the incident, but Tucker’s parents and many others believe his death was related to fraternity hazing.
Few, if any, of us can begin to understand what Gary and Cindy Hipps have gone through in the four-plus years since their son’s death. They didn’t get to attend Tucker’s graduation, talk to him about his first job out of college or watch their son get married.
We would understand if they felt bitterness and anger over what Cindy Hipps called Tucker’s “senseless” death. Maybe they have had those feelings.
But they have also channeled their grief in ways they hope will mean that other parents may not have to feel the same grief.
As Clary announced his proposed legislation in Pickens on Tuesday, Gary and Cindy Hipps were there.
“We don’t want another parent to have a situation like we had with Tucker,” Cindy Hipps said.
Gary Hipps added, “We’re trying to enact some change to make sure this doesn’t happen anymore.”
Hopefully, the General Assembly will feel the same way.
Clary’s proposed bill doesn’t address every issue everyone concerned about hazing wants to see dealt with by government, but it does take another step to get more people — especially college and university students — to take the issue of hazing more seriously.
And that moves us closer to the goal of a time no other parent has to deal with that kind of grief.