Public colleges in South Carolina would have to post semi-annual reports on serious student code violations by their sororities or fraternities under legislation headed to Gov. Nikki Haley.
House members voted unanimously Thursday in favor of the Tucker Hipps Act, named after a Clemson sophomore who died after falling from a bridge during a 2014 fraternity run. Hipps’ parents have since sued Clemson and the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity, claiming his death was hazing-related. But neither the school and Oconee County Sheriff’s Office have cited hazing as a factor.
“The goal behind the bill is not to identify any students names,” lead sponsor State Rep. Josh Putnam, R-Powdersville, said. “But we want to know the things that happened in accordance with fraternities and sororities, these social organizations.”
If the governor signs the bill, colleges would be required to post online the last five years of violations related to alcohol, drugs, physical assault, sexual assault or hazing at least 45 days before the beginning of each spring and fall semester. Technical colleges would be exempt. The requirement will sunset in three years, unless lawmakers renew it.
Senators had initially expanded the bill to cover all campus organizations at colleges, not just Greek ones. However, concerns that the scope would be too broad led them to reconsider. Senators did add the three-year sunset language and sent it back to the House less than an hour before the regular session expired at 5 pm Thursday.
Some opponents questioned if parents would even look at the reports, thinking it more likely the audience would be lawyers and media outlets.
“I don’t think, in the end, any parent is going to look at this website and alter the decision they made about sending their child to that university,” State Sen. Brad Hutto said during Thursday’s debate.
Putnam argued the act increases transparency for colleges and their Greek organizations. “I don’t understand why anybody would object to additional information,” he told South Carolina Radio Network. “I don’t think it’s going to hurt fraternities or schools because they’re going to do a better job of policing themselves.”
The Commission on Higher Education estimates ten colleges would be covered by the law, which does not affect private institutions. A fiscal impact statement attached to the bill projected it would cost the schools a combined $647,000 in additional staff and overhead.