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Anderson Cooper grills fraternity CEO over hazing policies on '60 Minutes'

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

Fraternity hazing was one of the topics Sunday on 60 Minutes, where Anderson Cooper spoke with Wynn Smiley, CEO of the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity organization, about the death of former Washington State University freshman Sam Martinez.

The 19-year-old Martinez died of acute alcohol poisoning in 2019 while pledging the university’s Alpha Tau Omega chapter, which had previously been disciplined for hazing in both 2013 and 2018. Martinez’s 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 the national organization was looking at doing more with the website, but said his group refuses to more closely supervise what he calls “self-governing, independent” chapters.

Cooper suggested Smiley’s organization could do more in terms of “adult supervision,” but that they are choosing not to embrace it.

“And 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’s parents in 2020, but without admitting wrongdoing. 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.”

60 Minutes airs Sundays at 7 p.m. on CBS.

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