CLEVELAND — Kathleen Wiant has made it her life’s purpose to save any other mother from the grief she has experienced.
She said that’s why hearing about the death of Bowling Green State University student Stone Foltz hits home. Foltz, 20, died after an alleged hazing incident involving alcohol consumption Thursday evening. He was a pledge for Pi Kappa Alpha.
“It was like a sucker punch,” she said. “Just thinking that another family had that news delivered to them, another family had that shock, another family had to tell someone, a child, that their sibling died, just all of that went through my head all over again.”
Kathleen Wiant’s son, Collin Wiant, was a freshman at Ohio University. He died in 2018 after members of the fraternity he was pledging forced him to take drugs, drink alcohol, and beat him.
“Collin was a blast and when he walked into the room you can really feel his energy. People always said he had this electric smile,” said Wiant.
She has advocated against hazing ever since, even hosting TED talks.
“Everyone thinks that they would never be the one to fall victim to that, and certainly, anyone who knew Collin would tell you that Collin Wiant would never be the type of kid who would fall victim to that. He was very strong and self-assured,” she said.
She has been working with lawmakers to pass anti-hazing legislation known as Collin’s Law. It has 3 facets to it, education, transparency and harsher penalties.
Any organization that recruits new members would have to go through anti-hazing education.
It would force groups to disclose any type of past code of conduct violations so that parents and students can look it up and find it easily before any type of recruitment.
And lastly, it would make any hazing conviction a felony as opposed to a misdemeanor.
“People start to see that hazing is taken seriously,” she said.
In a press conference Monday, Gov. Mike DeWine addressed Foltz’s death.
“His tragic and senseless death should remind us of the moral imperative for us to drive hazing out of the state of Ohio,” said DeWine.
He mentioned he would be talking to every president of every state university to address the issue.
Wiant said she’s hopeful that Stone’s death will be the last of this kind in the state and a catalyst to move Collin’s Law forward.
“There’s nothing in the world that could make me think that there’s justice for Collin, other than him walking through the door,” she said. “I know this can be used to save other families from this tragedy and I’m sorry it didn’t happen fast enough for Stone’s family.”