The New Mexico Higher Education Department has introduced a bill Tuesday that would make hazing a crime, establish a statewide reporting portal and require training for all college and university employees.
House Bill 225, sponsored by Rep. Joshua N. Hernandez, was heard in the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday. The bill would make hazing a misdemeanor and create the crime of aggravated hazing as a fourth-degree felony. Coaches, faculty and other college and university employees could also be charged with a misdemeanor for failing to report hazing they knew occurred.
“From day one, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and the New Mexico Higher Education Department have been clear that hazing on college and university campuses is intolerable and inexcusable,” Higher Education Secretary Stephanie M. Rodriguez said. “It has become evident that campus-level policies and processes are not enough to protect students and hold perpetrators accountable. The state is stepping in to address this issue once and for all.”
The department is also asking for $500,000 to establish a statewide reporting portal for anyone to report incidents of hazing directly to the state and hire full-time staff. NMHED will work closely with the Department of Public Safety, campus officials and law enforcement as appropriate.
“I am committed to safeguarding the rights, dignity and safety of each of our students,” Hernandez, who represents Sandoval County, said. “An anti-hazing bill is not just a piece of legislation, it is a clear statement of our shared belief in respect for all. It is about fostering an environment that encourages growth and camaraderie, while sternly condemning any act that seeks to degrade or harm. We will not tolerate any form of hazing in our educational institutions — it is a non-negotiable stance that transcends party lines and speaks to the heart of our common humanity.”
The bill also requires the department to publicly report data on hazing incidents on an annual basis and requires all New Mexico colleges and universities to conduct mandatory hazing prevention and reporting training with all employees.
Lujan Grisham first announced her intentions to introduce anti-hazing legislation last April following a slew of allegations against New Mexico State University regarding the hazing and sexual assault of students in the men’s basketball program and lawsuits filed against the university.
“I am appalled by the allegations at New Mexico public universities involving hazing and abuse — outrage doesn’t go far enough. It is the responsibility of higher education leadership and governing boards to establish a safe, healthy environment for students, and I’m incredibly disappointed that it does not appear to be a priority at some of the state’s public colleges and universities,” Lujan Grisham said. “I — along with my administration — have zero tolerance for abuse of any kind, and I will root out cultures of hazing and abuse at every higher education institution in New Mexico.”
According to the National Consortium on Hazing Prevention, 55% of students involved in on-campus teams, clubs and organizations reported experiencing hazing. Of the respondents, 74% of those who participated in athletics experienced hazing, and 73% of fraternity and sorority participants experienced it.