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Fraternity CEO called out by Anderosn Cooper over hazing policies on ‘60 Minutes’

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  • Anderson Cooper
    Anderson Cooper
    American journalist, television presenter and author

On 60 Minutes Sunday, Anderson Cooper spoke with the CEO of the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity organization, Wynn Smiley, on the topic of fraternity hazing. Cooper was reporting on former Washington State University freshman, Sam Martinez, who died of acute alcohol poisoning in 2019 while pledging the ATO fraternity.

After his death, it came to be known that the frat had been disciplined for hazing in both 2013 and 2018, and Martinez’ parents told Cooper that had some of that information been available on the fraternity’s website, perhaps they and their son could have been deterred from pledging. But Smiley wasn’t convinced.

“I don't think undergraduates look at websites,” Smiley, causing Cooper to burst into laughter.

Smiley went on to say that they were looking at doing more with the website, but said that there is no need for his organization to more closely supervise what he calls, “self-governing, independent organizations.” And Cooper pointed out that Smiley’s organization could do more in terms of “adult supervision,” but thinks that they are choosing not to embrace it.

“If we thought that that would be effective, we may consider that,” Smiley said.

In July, Alpha Tau Omega settled a lawsuit brought by Sam Martinez' parents in 2020, but without admitting wrongdoing. And Smiley says that while it was against the rules for fraternity members to provide alcohol to Sam, he wasn’t bullied or pressured into drinking the night he died.

“When push comes to shove, the pledges can stand up and say, ‘No,’” Smiley said, later adding. “Had he said, ‘No, I don't want to drink,’ I'm confident that he would not have had to have drank.”

Video Transcript

ANDERSON COOPER: Wynn Smiley says Sam Martinez wasn't bullied or pressured into drinking the night he died.

WYNN SMILEY: And when push comes to shove, the pledges can stand up and say no--

ANDERSON COOPER: Wait a minute, wait a minute. Come on.

WYNN SMILEY: I don't want to put that on them. I don't want to put that on them because that's not fair.

KYLIE MAR: Fraternity hazing was the topic on 60 Minutes Sunday where Anderson Cooper spoke with Wynn Smiley, CEO of the Alpha Tau Omega Fraternity Organization about the death of Washington State freshman, Sam Martinez. The young man died of acute alcohol poisoning in 2019 while pledging the fraternity, which had been disciplined for hazing multiple times in the past. And his parents say that had some of that information been available on the fraternity's website, their son could have been deterred. But Smiley wasn't so sure.

WYNN SMILEY: If we thought that would help--

ANDERSON COOPER: Why don't you think that would help?

WYNN SMILEY: Because I don't think that-- I don't think undergraduates look at websites, and I don't think--

ANDERSON COOPER: Wait a minute. You don't think undergraduates look at websites?

KYLIE MAR: Smiley went on to say that they were looking at doing more with the website but said that there is no need for his organization to more closely supervise what he calls self-governing independent organizations.

ANDERSON COOPER: You are making money from them, you can shut them down, you can go in and tell them that you're going to drug test. You do have a supervisory function. You just are not wanting to embrace it.

WYNN SMILEY: And if we thought that that would be effective, we may consider that.

KYLIE MAR: In July, Alpha Tau Omega settled a lawsuit brought by Sam Martinez's parents without admitting wrongdoing. And Smiley says that while it was against the rules for fraternity members to provide alcohol to Sam, ultimately, it's up to the kids how much they drink.

ANDERSON COOPER: You're saying if he had just said, you know what, no, that's ridiculous. They would have said, great, you can be a member of our fraternity. And that's great, that shows spunk on your part. You think that's what would have happened?

WYNN SMILEY: Had he said no, I don't want to drink, I'm confident that he would not have had to drink.