by Carole Jurenko Jones, Alpha Delta (U of Alabama), 2019-2021 NPC Chairman
In May 2019 I wrote about the community-wide efforts of the Fraternal Government Relations Coalition (FGRC) and its commitment to protecting the fraternity and sorority experience and keeping our members and future members safe now and for generations to come through legislative efforts on Capitol Hill.
As a reminder, the FGRC is a collaborative effort between the National Panhellenic Conference (NPC), North American Interfraternity Conference (NIC), Fraternity and Sorority Political Action Committee (FSPAC) and Fraternity and Sorority Action Fund (FSAF). The FGRC collectively represents more than 90 single-sex* fraternities and sororities nationwide with more than 800,000 undergraduate members at over 9,500 chapters on almost 700 campuses, as well as more than 9.1 million alumni.
I am pleased to share that on Oct. 31, 2019, the U.S. House of Representatives Education and Labor Committee passed the College Affordability Act (CAA) (H.R. 4674), a massive higher education reauthorization bill. The CAA includes strong protections for students joining single-sex organizations and represents the most important action taken in Congress on this issue since Title IX passed in the 1970s. The CAA also includes the first federal effort to provide parents and students with information needed to steer clear of student organizations involved in hazing activities.
The freedom of association provisions in the CAA would prohibit institutions of higher education from taking an adverse action (for example, denying participation in any sports team, club or other student organization, including a denial of any leadership position in any sports team, club or other student organization) against a student solely because the student is a member of a single-sex organization. The CAA language on freedom of association is similar to the Collegiate Freedom of Association Act (CFAA) (H.R. 3128), which Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ/Sigma Chi) and Elise Stefanik (R-NY) introduced in June 2019 and which currently has 29 sponsors in the House.
Also included in CAA is the exact text of the REACH Act (H.R. 662) that Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH/Delta Sigma Theta) introduced in January. It would amend the Clery Act to require schools to include the number of hazing incidents that occurred on their campus in the last year as part of the institution’s Annual Security Report. This would allow for better tracking of hazing incidents at particular schools to determine what programs might make a difference in reducing hazing. It also would require institutions to provide students with an educational program on hazing, which would include information on hazing awareness, hazing prevention and the institution’s policies on hazing.
Lastly, the committee’s bill includes language similar to the END ALL Hazing Act (H.R. 3267), which Rep. Fudge and Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-PA) introduced in June. This bill would require institutions to provide detailed information listing student organizations found to have violated the institution’s code of conduct related to hazing. Schools will have to include this information as part of their Annual Security Report under the Clery Act as well as on a web page accessible for parents and students to make informed decisions about what organizations are safe to join.
While this is just the first step in the legislative process, it is also a significant one. We will keep you apprised of developments with CAA in the House, as well as any actions in the Senate. Please also stay tuned for messages from NPC and your member organization for ways you may be able to help encourage the passage of this legislation.