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WSU fraternities make new rules on drinking, partying after freshman’s death

UPDATED: Wed., Jan. 15, 2020

Bryan Clock Tower glows at dawn on the WSU Campus in Pullman. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Bryan Clock Tower glows at dawn on the WSU Campus in Pullman. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

The student council that oversees fraternities at Washington State University is imposing new rules on drinking after a 19-year-old freshman died of alcohol poisoning in November.

In addition to education and reporting requirements, the new rules from WSU’s Interfraternity Council include a ban on liquor at fraternity houses and fraternity-sponsored events.

“We, as a community, are looking to move away from hard alcohol and are trying to actively push back on hard alcohol because of its higher-risk nature,” IFC member Andrew Thomas said. “I think the most important part to understand is that the community is taking responsibility for our actions.”

The new rules were unveiled Monday, about two months after Samuel Martinez died during a party at the Alpha Tau Omega house in Pullman.

The Whitman County coroner determined Martinez died of alcohol poisoning around 4:30 a.m. on Nov. 12. The first 911 call came around 8:30 a.m. from a fraternity member who reported Martinez was unresponsive.

The IFC and the Panhellenic Council, which oversees sororities at WSU, have extended a moratorium on all social events involving alcohol until Jan. 27, and they are permanently banning alcohol at “big-little” events, which pair new Greek members with older mentors.

The councils also are requiring leaders of each fraternity and sorority chapter to attend a three-day leadership camp starting Jan. 24.

The IFC’s permanent alcohol policy specifies that drinks with an alcohol content of 15% or higher are prohibited at fraternity houses and parties, meaning beer and most wine will be permitted. Chapter members still can drink liquor elsewhere. Repeat violations of the ban may result in chapters being suspended or losing IFC recognition.

All chapters will be required to host educational presentations about responsible alcohol use and gather information about their members’ interactions with law enforcement.

Lastly, the IFC said it will establish a student committee to lobby the Legislature “on laws pertaining to hazing, furnishing alcohol and other items that affect the Greek community at Washington State University.”

It’s not the first time WSU’s Greek organizations have attempted to crack down on misconduct or curb drug- and alcohol-related accidents.

In 2016, the IFC and Panhellenic councils canceled all social events for a semester, citing concern over the number of “assaults, rapes, falls and hospitalizations due to the overuse of alcohol and/or drugs by Greek members in the community.”

Several WSU fraternity and sorority chapters are currently suspended or under investigation following allegations of misconduct, according to a database on the school’s website.

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