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Inside Hazing Legislation

Govenor Approves "Matt's Law"

By Matt Krupnick, MediaNews

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Friday signed into law a stiffer penalty for college hazing.

The bill increases the severity of charges for some hazing rituals, upgrading them from misdemeanors to felonies. It also for the first time gives prosecutors the ability to seek hazing charges against non-students.

Pleasant Hill resident Debbie Smith lobbied for the bill after her 21-year-old son - Chico State student Matthew Carrington - died last year when fraternity members forced him to drink gallons of water and do calisthenics in frigid air during an initiation. The new statute is known officially as "Matt's Law" in his memory.

The law also allows hazing victims or their families to sue organizations that sanction the rituals. Previously, suits were permitted against individual members.

"Parents should not have to worry about their children suffering ridicule or injury while they are away at college," Schwarzenegger said in a written statement. "Harsher penalties for hazing will protect students and help deter the senseless acts that have led to far too many injuries and deaths on our campuses."

Carrington's death in a filty basement spawned a strick crackdown on Chico's fraternities and sororities. University President Paul Zingg banned alcohol in chapter houses, raised academic requirements and postposed recruitment activities.