There ought to be a tough law against fraternity hazing, and the Washington Legislature can make that happen.

Before taking this further, let me acknowledge that I have a pretty low opinion of college fraternities. My disdain is partly rooted in the experience I had as a University of Washington undergrad when I was invited to a fraternity party for prospective members. I will skip the details, but I found the event so obnoxious and weird that I climbed out a window to make my exit.

For years, I had a hard time understanding why any parents would let their son join a frat – until my son wanted to join one, and I unenthusiastically went along with his desire to give it a try. Luckily, he survived the useless academic year he spent in housing that reeked of beer and vomit, and went on to great success apart from the Greek system, but the failed experiment confirmed my negative assessment of these temples of immature antics and prodigious alcohol consumption.

It is a tragic scandal, though, that some young men do not survive their inductions into fraternity life. Year after year, there are fatalities that result from extreme hazing rituals at fraternities around the country. In this state, the most recent incident occurred in 2019 at Washington State University when 19-year-old Sam Martinez, a pledge at Alpha Tau Omega, died of acute alcohol poisoning following a night of hazing.

Martinez’s parents recently testified before the Legislature in support of two bills that would toughen legal penalties for hazing and educate campus organizations about the dangers of such punishing practices. His mother, Jolayne Houtz, a former Seattle Times reporter, vividly explained to legislators the urgency of this issue.

“Fraternities have proven again and again and again that they are not up to the task of putting an end to hazing by themselves,” Houtz said. “I can’t rest until we put in place safeguards to ensure no other family goes through the hell of losing their child to hazing.”

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