Hazing News

The death of Samuel Martinez, WSU ATO–Justice or a terrible state law?

Police in small-city Pullman, Washington, concluded that a death of a pledge involving alcohol does not meet the legal definition for a hazing death, They closed the case.

This makes it almost certain the university and national Alpha Tau Omega will look no further in their own investigations. One asks as a skeptical reporter if a factor in the quick rush to a conclusion by police was that the university is a major employer in tiny Pullman.

Typically, in a handful of cases like this, the tragedy is called an “unfortunate mishap,” never hazing IF THE PARENTS DO NOT SUE.  If the parents sue, testimony sometimes, and close to always, brings out some coercion to drink insisted upon by the membership.

Here are my questions WSU and national ATO must ask.

How long did it take for witnesses to phone for aid?

Did any member actually hand a bottle or drinks to Martinez?

Was this called a Family Night, Bottle Exchange, Hell Night or any other such scheduled event?

Was he asked to drink if he missed a trivia question?

How many people were there? How many pledges? Did others pass out?


For now, I’ll list it as a non-hazing death on the Hazing Deaths Page. Repeat, for now.

I have to wonder aloud if the Washington hazing law needs to be addressed NOW to remove the alcohol loophole.

But look at the DEFINITION and Other sanctions below. In my opinion, the police blew the call, and the local prosecutor needs to hold the police and ATO chapter accountable.  But yes, this death cries out for alcohol to be added to the definition.



Hazing: As used in RCW 28B.10.901 and 28B.10.902, “hazing” includes any method of initiation into a student organization or living group, or any pastime or amusement engaged in with respect to such an organization or living group that causes, or is likely to cause, bodily danger or physical harm, or serious mental or emotional harm, to any student or other person attending a public or private institution of higher education or other postsecondary educational institution in this state.

Contrary Definition (does not include)

“Hazing” does not include customary athletic events or other similar contests or competitions.


(1) No student, or other person in attendance at any public or private institution of higher education, or any other postsecondary educational institution, may conspire to engage in hazing or participate in hazing of another.


(2) A violation of this section is a misdemeanor, punishable as provided under RCW 9A.20.021.

Other Sanctions

(3) Any organization, association, or student living group that knowingly permits hazing is strictly liable for harm caused to persons or property resulting from hazing. If the organization, association, or student living group is a corporation whether for profit or nonprofit, the individual directors of the corporation may be held individually liable for damages.

See 28B.10.902

–Hank Nuwer


By Hank Nuwer

Journalist Hank Nuwer is the Alaska author of Hazing: Destroying Young Lives; Broken Pledges: The Deadly Rite of Hazing, High School Hazing, Wrongs of Passage and The Hazing Reader. He has written articles or columns on hazing for the Sunday Times of India, Toronto Globe & Mail, Harper's Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, The Chronicle of Higher Education and the New York Times Sunday Magazine. His current book is Hazing: Destroying Young Lives from Indiana University Press. He is married to Malgorzata Wroblewska Nuwer of Warsaw, Poland and Fairbanks, Alaska. Nuwer is a former columnist for the Greenville (Ohio)Early Bird and former managing editor of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner in Alaska.
Nuwer was named the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists columnist of the year in 2021 for his “After Darke” column in the Early Bird. He also won third place for the column in 2022 from the Indiana chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. He and his wife Gosia, recently of Union City, Ind., have owned 20 acres in Alaska for many years. “The move is a sort-of coming home for us,” said Nuwer. As a journalist, he’s written about the Alaskan Iditarod sled-dog race and other Alaska topics. Read his musings in his blog at Real Alaska Daily-- and in his weekly column "Far from Randolph" in the Winchester Star-Gazette of Randolph County, Indiana.

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