CHIA Introduced in the House
In June of 2020, the Collegiate Housing and Infrastructure Act (CHIA) was introduced in the 116th Congress and became H.R. 7166. The two lead sponsors are Representative Marcia Fudge (D-OH/Delta Sigma Theta) and Representative Brad Wenstrup (R-OH). CHIA creates tax parity by allowing contributions to build and maintain not-for-profit student housing, including all fraternity and sorority housing, to be fully tax deductible.
At present, an individual can give directly to a university to support student housing construction or improvements, and that gift would be fully tax deductible. But the same individual could not claim that tax deduction if he/she donated to a Greek housing project. Providing this tax deductibility would encourage many donors to support more modern, safer, and ultimately more affordable housing for fraternity and sorority students.
With more than $7 billion in property assets, fraternities and sororities are the second largest collegiate landlord today—second only to the universities themselves. This bill has the potential to very positively impact the living conditions of more than 250,000 young men and women who live in Greek housing each school year.
CHIA is not new. It has been introduced in almost every session of Congress since the early 2000s and has always attracted broad bipartisan backing. CHIA has been passed by the full House of Representatives twice—in 2003 and 2018—as part of a more comprehensive tax package.
PPP ELIGIBILITY FOR HOUSING CORPORATIONS PASSED BY THE HOUSE
On May 15, 2020, the House of Representatives passed The HEROES Act which, among a host of financial relief provisions, included fraternity and sorority housing corporations as eligible entities to receive loans under the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Here’s the background on this important development.
The CARES Act was signed into law on March 27, 2020, and it authorized several forms of relief to individuals and businesses facing financial hardships from the Covid-19 pandemic. Among those was the PPP which would issue loans to small businesses to cover payroll costs and help defray other operating expenses.
Fraternity and sorority housing corporations are quintessential small businesses, and many were adversely impacted by the sudden departure of students from closed-down campuses this spring. Housing corporations own assets (more than $7B in property across the nation), have employees, maintain a balance sheet, and manage revenue and expenses like any other small business. In fact, these housing corporations are the second largest landlord on college campuses today, exceeded only by the host institutions themselves. These housing corporations provide a safe, secure, and frequently more affordable home to over 250,000 students every year.
Housing corporations are usually organized as either 501(c)(2) or 501(c)(7) nonprofit entities under the Internal Revenue Code, but the CARES Act only listed 501(c)(3) organizations as being eligible for PPP loan funding. Once the ineligibility of these housing corporations in the CARES Act was recognized, Greek leaders actively began advocating for inclusion, and success was not long in coming. The HEROES Act made all 501(c) organizations eligible to receive PPP funding. The scene has now shifted to the Senate which is not expected to adopt the HEROES Act but draft its own legislation instead. Consequently, advocacy has ramped up with Senators with the objective of all getting our housing corporations eligible for funding in their bill. If this eligibility is contained in the bills from both chambers, the likelihood it will be in the final negotiated bill sent to the President is markedly increased.
FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION ADVANCES IN THE HOUSE
Freedom of association is guaranteed for all in the first and fourteenth amendments to the Constitution……….and in that vein, the most significant, most monumental, and most vital piece of legislation in history for fraternities and sororities is now advancing in the House of Representatives.
Collegiate Freedom of Association Act
The Collegiate Freedom of Association Act (CFAA), introduced in the House of Representatives in 2019 by Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-NM/Sigma Chi) and Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY), and was written to:
- Preserve student choice
- Protect the single-sex experience
- Provide equal treatment for all student organizations
The CFAA (H.R. 3128) language in the bill hits directly at the crux of what has been perpetrated at Harvard and at other actions taken at some colleges across the country as well. More specifically, the bill:
- Assures a student’s right to join an organization of his/her choice including single-sex organizations
- Protects students in single-sex organizations from adverse actions based solely on the organization’s single-sex status
- Ensures that students in single-sex organizations are treated equitably in comparison to other students
- Prevents the imposition of recruitment restrictions on single-sex organizations which are not imposed on other student organizations
- Upholds the ability of a student organization to set its own membership criteria
It’s important to note that nothing in the CFAA requires an institution of higher education to recognize fraternities and sororities, and it doesn’t grant us the right to go to campuses where we currently do not exist. The CFAA also does not restrict institutions from taking adverse actions against an organization for violations of standards, regulations, and policies of that institution (alcohol, drugs, hazing, etc.), but they cannot take those actions solely because the organization is single-sex.
Leadership of the North-American Interfraternity Conference (NIC) and the National Panhellenic Conference (NPC) worked tirelessly with Congressional staff in the House to reach consensus on the bill’s language and to secure lead sponsors and co-sponsors.
It’s critical that a companion bill is introduced in the Senate. An effort has been launched by the NIC and the NPC to persuade Senators to sponsor that companion legislation.
As Congress moves to reauthorize the nation’s laws governing higher education, both the House and the Senate will have the chance to use the CFAA to ensure that the cost of a college education does not include sacrificing an individual’s freedom of association rights.
College Affordability Act
In October 2019 the House of Representatives Education and Labor Committee passed the College Affordability Act (CAA) (H.R. 4674) and sent it on to the full House for consideration. This CAA is a comprehensive update of the nation’s higher education law and it contains the key points and pertinent language from the CFAA. It also incorporates important elements of the REACH Act, and the END ALL Hazing Act (see details on these two bills below). It has become a principal piece of legislation to advance our most important bills in the House. Introducing and moving comparable legislation in the Senate will be a priority for the remainder of this session of Congress.
The fraternity and sorority community is a highly active participant in policy discussions at both the federal and state level to eradicate hazing. Hazing and bullying are major threats to the well-being of college students, and we want to ensure that those students are able to learn and thrive in a safe and healthy campus environment.
Fraternities and sororities are the leading source of anti-hazing educational programming on college campuses nationwide, but there are still instances where our members violate our values by committing acts of hazing. Additional partnerships are needed to stop hazing in all its forms.
One such partnership is the Anti-Hazing Coalition formed by the National Panhellenic Conference (NPC), the North-American Interfraternity Conference (NIC), and a group of parents who lost their children through hazing-related activities on college campuses. It is incredible to see the spirit of the parents who, despite their grief, are pulling together with fraternities and sororities to prevent other parents from having to endure such a tragedy. The Anti-Hazing Coalition promotes increased student educational outreach and strengthening criminal and civil penalties at the state level.
In addition, the Anti-Hazing Coalition advocates at the federal level to heighten transparency and accountability that will make lasting cultural change in student organizations and on college campuses. As an outcome of this advocacy, there are two anti-hazing bills active in Congress right now. They are the Educational Notification and Disclosure of Students risking Loss of Life (END ALL) by Hazing Act (H.R. 3267) and the Report and Educate About Campus Hazing (REACH) Act (H.R 662/S. 706). The REACH Act and the END ALL Hazing Act were both introduced in 2019.
Both bills take aim at reducing the number of hazing incidents by increasing the visibility and transparency of these incidents, thereby creating additional accountability for educational institutions as well as the groups that committed the acts of hazing.
The REACH Act would require universities to include incidents of hazing in their Clery Act reporting. The Clery Act stipulates that every university must issue an annual report that (1) provides campus crime statistics and (2) details efforts by the school to improve campus safety. Presently, hazing incidents are not included in that report even though almost every university has that information recorded. The REACH Act would make universities reveal the actual magnitude of hazing on their campuses and would also give schools a way to publicly track and show progress in reducing hazing.
The END ALL Hazing Act takes it one step further and would require schools to have a web page, updated twice a year, which would publicize information about student organizations that have been disciplined for hazing or other misconduct that threatened the well-being of students. That information would stay on the website for five years.
The visibility these two bills would mandate will go a long way towards curtailing hazing and improving safety for students. No university would want to be seen as failing to positively improve campus safety, and no fraternity or sorority would want its name on a web page for five years as a perpetrator of hazing.
Catch up on the latest FSPAC news by reading our spring anniversary issue newsletter. Inside you’ll find an update from President Phyllis Grissom, ΔΔΔ, political affairs update and more.