You may remember 19-year-old Arizona State University student Jack Culolias, whose body was found in Tempe Town Lake nearly 10 years ago. He had been drinking excessive amounts of alcohol as part of a senseless event to pledge an Arizona State University fraternity. He drowned in Tempe Town Lake.
It took 16 days to find Jack’s body. It’s taken a decade to find justice. I am Grace Culolias, Jack’s mother. And I am Pat McGroder, Grace’s attorney.
When Jack vanished, no one was giving any immediate answers. It was only when Grace searched the shores of Tempe Town Lake and found Jack’s red tennis shoe, that the truth of what happened began to unfold.
We have not forgotten about Jack or the tragic and needless way he died. In addition to holding the Greek system accountable, we also worked with state Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, on a new law that makes hazing illegal in Arizona. Arizona was one of only six states in which hazing is not a crime. Not anymore. This new law, Jack’s Law, goes into effect this month just as countless college freshmen consider joining a fraternity or sorority.
Our goal in getting this law passed was to keep tragedies like Jack’s death from happening again, as well as protecting the health and safety of this vulnerable population.
In addition to fatal outcomes, many hazing incidents leave young people with emotional scars and health complications that can last a lifetime.
An 18-year-old ASU freshman fraternity pledge nearly died following a series of hazing incidents during “Hell Week” by a fraternity at ASU in 2018. He was sleep deprived, tortured and forced to consume feces-laden candy and drink large amounts of alcohol. The experience left him with permanent physical injury.
National fraternities have promised no more hazing. ASU has done its best. And Jack’s Law will hold the guilty accountable if God forbid the system fails again.
The vile and cruel manner in which students have been hazed must end now! Will Jack’s Law guarantee that? We don’t know. We can only hope.
No parent should have to wander the shoreline at Tempe Town Lake wondering why her young son vanished. No young person should be left with permanent health problems for simply wanting to find friends at a vast university. No young person should be forced to pay such a horrible price for the privilege of “fitting in.”
We want to thank Rep. Kavanagh, Arizona lawmakers, and Governor Ducey for creating and passing Jack’s Law. If you have a child starting college, you should thank them as well.
College is supposed to be a place where young lives go to flourish, not perish. The price of seeking a little companionship should not be torture or death. It’s surreal that we need law to spell that out. But the reality is we DO need such a law on the books.
Grace Culolias is the mother of 19-year-old Arizona State University student Jack Culolias, whose body was found in Tempe Town Lake nearly 10 years ago after he had drunk excessive amounts of alcohol as part of pledging to join an ASU fraternity. Pat McGroder is Grace’s attorney.