Legislative Update—2019 to Focus on Hazing Prevention and Freedom of Association Rights
January 2019 brought the start of the 116th Congress, which will include 148 Greek Senators and Representatives. Even with a country divided nearly in half by political preferences—and divided control of Congress—we expect the next two years will address a number of issues that matter most to Greek life. Congress will spend a great deal of time considering passage of a new package of laws governing higher education. We hope to see two major priorities in that legislation when it emerges.
First and foremost, we will be working with Congress to ensure that the price of higher education does not include sacrificing your First Amendment freedom of association rights, especially the right to join a single-sex organization if you choose. We made great progress on that issue in the last Congress, and we will all be working to get that issue across the finish line in the next higher education bill.
In that same bill, we hope to include strong language on hazing prevention. I’m very proud to see the work the National Panhellenic Conference and the North American Interfraternity Conference have done together with the Anti-Hazing Coalition, a group of parents who have tragically lost their sons to collegiate hazing. Much of the work those groups are doing has to happen at the state level, where they are collaborating to strengthen hazing prevention education and make hazing a crime that puts more perpetrators in jail for a longer period of time. At the federal level, we will be working to improve transparency and accountability so parents and students know which organizations on campus had hazing incidents in the recent past, and what penalties/education has been imposed to fix that problem with the organization. It is an effort we hope will make a difference in ensuring every student is treated with the respect they deserve when they join our organizations.
We expect a divided Congress will still have a lot to say about the tax code, and we remain hopeful that the Collegiate Housing and Infrastructure Act (CHIA) will be something Congress will tackle as part of the college affordability problem. In fact, CHIA’s highest number of sponsors in the House (237 of 435) occurred when Democrats last had control.
We have a busy federal and state policy agenda the next two years, and you receive this newsletter because you are likely already a supporter of the Greek movement’s agenda in Washington. The Greek community will surely be asked in the next two years to call their Senators and Representatives on the issues that matter most to our students and alumni. I hope that you will find time to help us not just financially, but by raising your voice to Congress to help move our issues when we have the chance to do so.