It is long past time to tame the booze culture that thrives on college and university campuses, including our own Washington State University.
Sunday’s Seattle Times published a unique, anguished op-ed piece that should be required reading for every parent who sends a child off to university, especially for every parent whose child may join a fraternity or sorority, and every legislator who votes on higher education legislation, especially budgets.
The headline shouts “JUSTICE FOR SAM.” It is a plea for the sanity to change alcohol abusive partying and end hazing in university cultures, especially at Washington State University where Sam died eight months ago.
Pullman news followers will remember Sam Martinez, the 19-year-old WSU freshman who was hazed to death in November 2019 during a Alpha Tau Omega (ATO) fraternity drinking ritual in which pledges had to drink large amounts of alcohol to demonstrate their allegiance.
Sam died of alcohol poisoning. His fraternity mates made no attempt to seek medical help when he passed out. He was left to die alone.
“Justice for Sam” was written by Sam’s mother, Jolanye Houtz, who sleeps with her son’s ashes beside her bed.
“Fraternities — and universities and corporate entities that profit from them — must face the same scrutiny and be held accountable for failing to protect the young people in their care,” Houtz wrote.
“Fraternities and universities have an unhealthy, symbiotic relationship that leads universities to look the other way despite a pervasive pattern of fraternity conduct.”
Houtz calls for “meaningful reforms, starting now.”
Among the reforms she suggests are:
Delay Greek recruitment until the sophomore year to protect underage drinkers, and I would add significantly increased penalties for underage drinking, with emphasis on prosecution of adults involved.
Require live-in adults on fraternity premises at all times.
University staff assigned to ensure supervision and accountability to protect students.
Make hazing a felony.
I call for additional, important reforms
Universities should require Greek organizations to have an adult over the age of 30 and a member of the fraternity or sorority present at bid night, pledge night and initiation parties to control dangerous and illegal activities, including binge drinking.
Bars should be heavily fined or lose their liquor licenses if they purvey drinking games. Only the naive would claim none of Pullman’s drinking establishments don’t.
Universities should be required to disclose contributions from companies involved in making, distributing and sales of alcohol beverages.
Universities should be required to annually report income derived in full or in part from alcohol industries.
Examples of reportable revenue would include payments received from beer companies to put the WSU emblem on beer delivery vans, sales of alcoholic beverages on university property or university sponsored meetings and activities.
And I would further suggest that the news media, all across the country, do serious investigative reporting on the nexus of university, Greek and alcohol industry with excessive alcohol consumption at universities.
Before I’m hog tied and branded as a prohibitionist trying to start a new temperance movement, I volunteer — as those who know me are aware — no alcoholic beverage has ever passed my lips, and never will.
My father died of delirium tremens when I was 10 years old, and from childhood I have considered myself an alcoholic who hasn’t had his first drink.
However, Prohibition (1920-33) isn’t the cure for intemperance.
It didn’t rein in demon alcohol, but it did promote a culture of lawlessness that still haunts America, and I earnestly believe that alcoholic beverages in moderation can be beneficial to society.
Terence L. Day is a retired Washington State faculty member and a Pullman resident since 1972. He encourages email to email@example.com.