Committee works to eliminate hazing at WSU

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A new committee at Washington State University is bolstering hazing prevention efforts across the system by conducting a deep dive into how key units are working to address hazing and discussing how the university can provide more educational tools so everyone can identify hazing behaviors and intervene appropriately. 

WSU President Kirk Schulz appointed the system-wide Hazing Prevention Advisory Committee last fall in response to Sam’s Law, which the Washington State Legislature adopted in March 2022 after WSU first-year student Sam Martinez died in a hazing-related incident in 2019. The legislation, signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee in March 2023, requires all public colleges and universities in Washington to establish a hazing prevention committee and aims to increase transparency about hazing education and intervention.

WSU’s committee creates regular opportunities for representatives from around the WSU system who work with student groups, departments, and organizations to share hazing prevention strategies and learn from one another, said Jenna Hyatt, WSU interim assistant vice chancellor for Student Affairs, dean of students, and Hazing Prevention Advisory Committee chair. The committee includes ex-officio members from the Center for Fraternity and Sorority Life, the WSU Marching Band, WSU Police, Housing and Residence Life, Human Resource Services, student clubs and organizations, and ROTC.

“Each expert unit area approaches this work from different lenses, resources, and timing,” Hyatt said. “The committee’s discussions have pollinated ideas and infused stronger support for one another’s work, and it has happened because of this committee and the significant commitment to address hazing at WSU.”

Being part of the solution  

The makeup of the committee is set by Sam’s Law: at least 50 percent of the members must be students, and there must be at least one faculty or staff member as well as one parent of a current student. WSU’s committee has 12 members and includes faculty and staff, a representative from WSU Athletics, and a half-dozen students who represent multiple campuses and participate in sport clubs, WSU athletics, Greek life, and other activities. Hyatt said student positions on the committee are open for the next academic year and applications are being accepted until June 1.

“It is important to have strong student voices on the committee to have a first-hand understanding of the student experience,” said Sydney Warren, a WSU Pullman student and committee member. We have a shared commitment to help protect our fellow students.”

Also included on the committee is Jennifer Harland, a WSU alumna and mother of a current WSU student. Harland said she is passionate about helping to change the campus culture around hazing.

“Parents’ voices need to be part of the conversation because hazing impacts not only students, but those that love them,” Harland said.

A spot on the committee is also reserved for the assistant director in the Center for Community Standards — a new position funded by the state that will focus on compliance and hazing prevention. A search is underway to fill this position.

An important, ongoing conversation

In addition to requiring state institutions to establish a hazing prevention committee, Sam’s Law stipulates they must also publicly report actual findings of violations and establish hazing awareness and prevention training; it also requires fraternity and sorority organizations to notify the university when they initiate an investigation into hazing at a local chapter. WSU has these systems in place, and the committee will explore ways to improve and expand on them. 

“Hazing is extremely harmful and often includes a highly negative undercurrent of accepted peer harassment, influence, and control,” Hyatt said. “The establishment of this advisory committee is the foundation of critical work and a campus conversation that must be elevated.” 

Visit the Hazing Prevention Advisory Committee website to see links to reports, hazing resources, and the committee roster.

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