COLLEGIATE FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION ACT
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 making its way around the halls of Congress.
The Collegiate Freedom of Association Act (CFAA), introduced in the House of Representatives on June 5 by Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-NM/Sigma Chi) and Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY), has been written to:
- Preserve student choice
- Protect the single-sex experience
- Provide equal treatment for all student organizations
The CFAA (H.R. 3128) has gathered 25 bipartisan co-sponsors thus far and more are expected to sign on.
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. BUT THIS IS ONLY THE FIRST STEP!!
It’s critical that a companion bill is introduced in the Senate. A grassroots effort has been launched by the NIC and the NPC to persuade Senators to sponsor that companion legislation, and many fraternity men and sorority women have already participated in this grassroots campaign.
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.
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 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 was introduced in January, while the END ALL Hazing Act was introduced in June.
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.
The NPC and the NIC have been very actively promoting these bills through a series of very focused efforts. Thus far, these efforts are bearing fruit—The REACH Act has 71 bipartisan co-sponsors (House and Senate combined) and the END ALL Hazing Act has gathered 16 bipartisan co-sponsors in the House. Lead sponsors for the END ALL Hazing Act are currently being sought in the Senate.