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After Hazing Indictments, Collin Wiant's Mother Says ‘There Are No Winners Here’

 This June 12, 2006 file photo shows a gate with a historic marker on the Ohio University campus in Athens, Ohio. In October 2019, the university announced the blanket suspension of 15 fraternities in response to a hazing investigation on campus.
Joe Maiorana
/
Associated Press
This June 12, 2006 file photo shows a gate with a historic marker on the Ohio University campus in Athens, Ohio. In October 2019, the university announced the blanket suspension of 15 fraternities in response to a hazing investigation on campus.

Just over a year after the death of her son at Ohio University, Kathleen Wiant says the indictment of nine people is an important step toward finding justice.
“We hold no joy in someone else’s loss or pain or sorrow whatsoever,” Wiant told WOSU on Wednesday.

Collin Wiant, an 18-year-old Ohio University freshman, died last November inside a Sigma Pi fraternity house after prosecutors say he inhaled nitrous oxide from a canister known as a “whippit.”

Wiant was in the midst of pledging with Sigma Pi, and although he did not die during official pledge activities, his death sparked an investigation from local authorites. This week, an Athens County jury indicted several people, including multiple fraternity members, for involuntary manslaughter, reckless homicide, drug trafficking, hazing, and tampering with evidence.

“We know there are no winners here, and that is very heavy on our hearts,” Kathleen Wiant said. “We do know that justice needs to be served, and we know it’s a powerful catalyst for change and we are out to make a change and end hazing and save lives. We know it’s an important step in this process of doing that.”

Those charged include Elijah Wahib, the president of the local Sigma Pi chapter, and James Wanke, the general manager of the Athens store that sold the whippit suspecting of killing Wiant.

Wiant says Collin's death followed weeks of out-of-character behavior, including slipping grades, heavy drinking and drug use.

Despite her son’s death, Wiant says she does not hold a grudge against fraternity life in general.

“I think it was a good idea to put all Greek life on suspension just to get the opportunity to rethink and sort through who the bad apples were and who they weren’t, because there are a lot of good chapters with the Greek system without a doubt," she says. "I just wish they would have done it sooner. They should have done it immediately.”
 
Wiant says she's less focused on Greek life and more on hazing, which she points out happens in other sports, clubs and organizations.

“The problem is with the psychology of hazing, it’s a very slippery slope, and you never know when things will just spiral downward out of control very quickly like they did with Collin," she says.

Steve Brown grew up in nearby Richwood, Ohio and now lives there with his wife and sons. He started his journalism career as a weekend board operator at WOSU while majoring in journalism at Ohio State, where he also wrote for the student newspaper The Lantern and co-founded the organization Students for Public Broadcasting.