Sam’s Law is the name of new anti-hazing legislation recently adopted in Washington State. It is named after Sam Martinez, a freshman at Washington State University who died of alcohol poisoning at a fraternity party in November 2019. The new law updates the definition of hazing and requires institutions of higher education to implement anti-hazing programming for employees and students. It also requires institutions of higher education (IHEs) to publish an annual report identifying student organizations, athletic teams, and living groups found responsible for engaging in hazing.
New Definition of Hazing
The Act defines “hazing” to include the following:
“[A]ny act committed as part of a person's recruitment, initiation, pledging, admission into, or affiliation with a student organization, athletic team, or living group, or any pastime or amusement engaged in with respect to such an organization, athletic team, or living group that causes, or is likely to cause, bodily danger or physical harm, or serious psychological or emotional harm, to any student or other person attending a public . . . institution of higher education . . . in this state, including causing, directing, coercing, or forcing a person to consume any food, liquid, alcohol, drug, or other substance which subjects the person to risk of such harm, regardless of the person's willingness to participate. "Hazing" does not include customary athletic events or other similar contests or competitions.”
Types of Hazing
Some activities are clearly understood as hazing, but other activities may be less clear. It is imperative to consider that any act that subjects a specific student or group of students to conditions poorer than those of current members of the organization can be considered hazing. Listed here are various types of hazing:
Behaviors that have the potential to cause physical and/or emotional, or psychological harm.
Behaviors that cause emotional anguish or physical discomfort in order to feel like part of the group. Harassment hazing confuses, frustrates, and causes undue stress for new members.
Behaviors that emphasize a power imbalance between new members and other members of the group or team. These types of hazing are often taken-for-granted or accepted as harmless or meaningless. Subtle hazing typically involves activities or attitudes that breach reasonable standards of mutual respect and place new members on the receiving end of ridicule, embarrassment, and/or humiliation tactics. New members often feel the need to endure subtle hazing to feel like part of the group or team.
Examples of actions and activities which may constitute hazing include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Compelling individuals to consume alcohol or drugs.
- Paddling in any form, shoving or otherwise striking individuals.
- Compelling individuals to engage in sexual behaviors, sexual or racial harassment or
- slurs or exhibitionism.
- Compelling individuals to eat or drink unusual substances or compelling the consumption of undue amounts or odd preparations of food.
- Having harmful substances thrown at, poured on or otherwise applied to the bodies of individuals.
- Morally degrading or humiliating games or activities which make an individual the object of amusement, ridicule, or intimidation.
- Transporting individuals against their will, abandoning individuals at distant locations, or conducting any “kidnap,” “ditch” or “road trip” that may in any way endanger or compromise the health, safety, or comfort of any individual.
- Causing an individual to be indecently exposed or exposed to the elements.
- Requiring an individual to remain in a fixed position for a long period of time.
- Compelling an individual to be branded or tattooed.
- “Line-ups” involving intense shouting of obscenities or insults.
- Compelling individuals to participate in activities (pranks, scavenger hunts, etc.) which
- encourage the defacement of property; engage in theft; harass other individuals, groups of individuals or organizations.
- Excluding an individual from social contact for prolonged periods of time.
- Compelling an individual to engage in acts of personal servitude.
An organization consists of several persons who are associated with each other and have registered with the College as a student organization (such as clubs, club sports, or fraternities and sororities).
A group consists of a number of persons who are associated with the College and each other, but who have not registered, or are not required to register, as a student organization (including but not limited to athletic teams, musical or theatrical ensembles, academic or administrative units, and clubs not registered as student organizations).
Faculty, staff, learners, volunteers (e.g., advisors and volunteer coaches), organizations, groups, alumni, and consultants involved in activities sponsored by chartered or un-chartered college groups or organizations who hold events on- or off-campus.
A group or organization who completes a registration form and receives recognition from the College’s Associated Student Government Executive Body assigned to charter groups, clubs, or organizations, or similarly responsible college department.
A group or organization with involved college community members who gather to sponsor an activity or event who has not sought recognition from a College’s Associated Student Government or similarly responsible college department.