F-Bombing the Prez

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There are cameras everywhere these days recording your every utterance. Perhaps the Alabama football running back Bo Scarbrough should have realized that college athletes truly live in a fishbowl. On the day of the Championship game he may have been reacting to the televised image of President Donald Trump standing next to Reserve Officers Training Corps cadets while mouthing the lyrics to the National Anthem when he allegedly said “Fuck Trump!” in the tunnel that led to the field at the Mercedes Benz Stadium. Sporting News posted a video of his outburst.

Scarbrough has denied saying it. Kyle Rooney posted in HotNewHipHop “Alabama’s Bo Scarbrough Denies Yelling ‘F*ck Trump'”:

Despite the video evidence, Scarbrough has since denied making the anti-trump remark and says everyone simply misheard him.

After Alabama’s 26-23 overtime victory against Georgia, the junior running back quote-tweeted the video footage, “If y’all really listen I said Georgia smh about y’all people in this world.”

Trump was undoubtedly showboating in Atlanta. He was there, as the first President since Richard Nixon to attend a college football National Championship, to further his crusade against the professional football players who had “taken a knee” during the playing of the National Anthem.

Alan Binder and Michael Shear in the New York Times reported:

The president’s appearance at the game seemed intended to emphasize his furious critique of athletes for using football games as a place for protests. Neither team’s players went onto the field on Monday until after the anthem was played, as is standard at college football games.

Charles S. Bullock III, a University of Georgia political scientist who was not planning to attend the game, said he expected that the legions of Crimson Tide and Bulldogs faithful were more focused on the pigskin than the president.

Professor Bullock said he believed the stop in Atlanta — and any cheering from the stands — would probably serve only to stroke Mr. Trump’s ego.

“This is just a sideshow,” he said, “but for him, it’s important.”

ESPN, which televised the game and has been a target of Mr. Trump’s Twitter barbs for years, said it had requested an interview with the president for its broadcast and was turned down.

Tom Schad in USA Today wrote in his article “ESPN says interview with President Trump at national title game unlikely” that:

Trump plans to attend Monday’s game between Alabama and Georgia as a guest of Nick and Jamie Ayers; Nick Ayers is Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff and a Georgia native.

Somewhere along the line Trump’s role as a spectator in a sky box morphed into his being on the field surrounded by ROTC students from Alabama and Georgia while the National Anthem was sung.

Many in the stadium according to Andrew Joseph with MSN Sports had earlier booed Trump When he arrived at the stadium:

Trump didn’t receive a warm welcome as his motorcade pulled up to Mercedes-Benz Stadium. In anticipation of the president’s arrival, a stadium entrance was locked down for over an hour. That forced fans to wait in the rain. Mercedes-Benz Stadium isn’t the easiest stadium to get into for a typical Falcons game, so it’s easy to imagine that Monday’s scene outside was especially chaotic.

Joesph posted CNN’s Andy Scholes’ Tweet:

They locked down @MBStadium for @realDonaldTrump an hour ago and myself and a thousand fans have been waiting in the rain to get in. Let’s just say there were plenty of boos when Trump arrived.

The boos, perhaps from some of the people who had been forced to stand in the rain when the thermometer was registering 40 degrees, continued when Trump was escorted on to the field for the opening ceremonies. Trump left the stadium by halftime. Obviously his purpose for being there had been served.

The professional football player Colin Kaepernic was named as a GQ ‘Man of the Year’ and was depicted on the cover of the January 15th New Yorker with Martin Luther King, Jr.

Cody Benjamin of CBS Sports reported that the artist who created the cover illustration Mark Ulriksen said:

What would King be doing if he were around today? This is 49er country, and my mom and I have been going back and forth — she’s upset that players have brought politics into sports, but I say, How would you feel if you had to show up at work every day and salute a country that treats black people like second-class citizens? I’m glad that Colin Kaepernick and Michael Bennett are making it political. I’m sure that if King were around today, he’d be disappointed at the slow pace of progress: two steps forward, twenty steps back. Or ten yards back, as the metaphor may be.

Colin Kaepernic was quoted by Mark Sandritter in SB Nation:

I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.

Kaepernic has paid a heavy cost and jeapordised his career as a professional ball player because of his stance.

Many Alabama football fans are also followers of Donald Trump. To them Trump can do no wrong. They will be outraged that Bo Scarbough may have “F-bombed” the President.

Hopefully Alabama running back Scarbough will face no severe consequences if he expressed himself in a moment when he was unaware that he would be recorded or that it would be publicized. He might well have been expressing a sentiment that was widely shared by his fellow teammates.

 

 

 

 

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#1 Date Rape Drug!

Photo: © Europen Parliament/P.Naj-Oleari pietro.naj-oleari@europarl.europa.eu

David Robert Grimes’ in his article “Alcohol is by far the most dangerous ‘date rape drug'” in the Guardian wrote:

Alcohol is such an integral part of our culture we frequently underestimate its potency. Among its toxic effects are memory impairment, which typically begins after just one or two drinks. Alcohol-induced blackouts are common among young, social drinkers. A study in 1999 found that 35% of trainees in a large paediatric residency programme in the US had experienced an alcohol-induced blackout. Another study in 1995 found a third of first–year medical students had experienced alcohol-induced amnesia. An investigation of 2,076 Finnish males found 35% had had at least one blackout in the previous 12 months.

Research suggests that alcohol-induced blackouts are even more common among university students. A 2002 study in the US surveyed 772 undergraduates asking them if they had ever awoken after a night of drinking unable to remember things that they did or places they had gone. Just over half of drinkers, 51%, reported blacking out and later learning that they had engaged in a range of activities they could not recall, including vandalism, unprotected sex and even driving.

Despite males in the survey drinking significantly more, men and women experienced an equal blackout rate, probably as a result of gender-specific differences in alcohol metabolism. Other investigations suggest that women may be more susceptible than men to milder forms of alcohol–induced memory impairments. In a subsequent study, 50 undergraduates who had experienced at least one blackout were interviewed. While the blackouts were deeply disconcerting to both men and women, women were far more likely (59%) to change their drinking habits after such an episode than men (25%).

It is vital to remember that sexual activity with someone who cannot give informed consent is assault, regardless of the particular agent that rendered them incapacitated, and cannot be justified. Whether their becoming intoxicated is their own fault or someone else’s is irrelevant. The mentality that an inebriated victim is somehow “asking for it” should never be accepted.

In addition to its being the number one date rape drug alcohol is the third leading preventable cause of death in the United States.

Andrew Siddons in Roll Call wrote:

The most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on alcohol-related deaths come from 2006 to 2010, when each year on average there were 88,000 deaths from alcohol poisoning, traffic accidents or consumption-related chronic conditions. By comparison, drug overdose deaths are likely to be around 65,000 for 2016. The CDC estimates that in 2010, excessive drinking resulted in economic losses of $249 billion from lost workplace productivity and health care expenses.

Siddons quoted Philip J. Cook, a Duke University professor of public policy,  who addressing the impact of the 1991 excise tax on alcohol:

“What we know is that a higher tax reduces drinking. That’s perfectly clear compared to what it would be otherwise,” he said. “With reduced drinking comes reduced mortality both due to drunkenness and to chronic alcoholism.”

In a 2012 study, Cook and a colleague argued that the 1991 tax saved more than 6,000 lives in the first year it was imposed. Another 2012 study found that a hypothetical tax increase would mostly have the greatest economic effect on the heaviest drinkers, and would result in an 11.4 percent reduction in heavy drinking and a 9.2 percent reduction in drinking overall.

The University of Alabama is well aware of the consequences of drinking by under-aged students, yet it has allowed alcohol to be consumed on campus with very little enforcement of the law that prohibits such activity. And the University seems hamstrung when it comes to preventing under aged off campus drinking.

In 2013 University of Alabama student Natalie Baine lost her life while returning to campus from a football game in an accident that was fueled by drinking. More recently in 2015  a chain of events, which started when University honors student Megan Rondini was a patron of Innisfree Irish Pub, led to her suicide. Her family filed a lawsuit against the University of Alabama.

The University of Alabama has branded itself as The Capstone of Higher Education:

The University of Alabama, the state’s oldest and largest public institution of higher education, is a student-centered research university that draws the best and brightest to an academic community committed to providing a premier undergraduate and graduate education. UA is dedicated to achieving excellence in scholarship, collaboration and intellectual engagement; providing public outreach and service to the state of Alabama and the nation; and nurturing a campus environment that fosters collegiality, respect and inclusivity.

The University of Alabama should emphasize the dangers of alcohol consumption by undergraduate students to help achieve a safe and healthy campus environment. It could do so by enforcing its own policy on campus alcohol consumption and under aged student drinking. Then it truly might be considered a capstone of higher education.

 

 

 

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Frat Life Forever?

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Kalhan Rosenblatt’s NBC News article “Colleges are suspending Greek life. Don’t expect the ban to last.” reported on the spate of incidents that have led to the banning of Greek activities on campuses throughout the country:

This year alone, the deaths of four pledges in alcohol-related incidents and various hazing infractions have led to the closing down of some or all Greek life activities on several college campuses and the filing of criminal charges against more than two dozen students.

While college administrators, for the most part, have acted quickly after the most recent deaths, it is still highly unlikely that any would move to permanently ban fraternities outright, experts say.

In the last two months, Florida State University, Louisiana State University and Texas State University all suspended Greek life activities after each had a fraternity pledge die. (LSU later allowed Greek life activities to resume.)

Penn State University implemented new regulations for its Greek life and suspended some fraternities after the death of a sophomore pledge, Timothy Piazza, after an alcohol-filled hazing ritual in February. Prosecutors filed charges in the case last week against 17 people linked to the fraternity. A school spokeswoman said the university president will meet with his counterparts at other colleges in the Big 10 conference next year to discuss potential solutions.

In his post Rosenblatt refers to the writing of John Hechinger who has described “‘the unholy trinity of fraternity life’: racism, deadly drinking, and misogyny” in his recent book “True Gentlemen: The Broken Pledge of America’s Fraternities.”

Hechinger gave the account of a SAE fraternity’s Royal Caribbean Cruise where, to the tune of “If You’re Happy and You Know It”, chapter members sang: “There will never be a nigger at SAE, You can hang him from a tree, but he’ll never sign with me. There will never be a nigger at SAE.”

In Slate,  Jake New’s “The Ugly, Racist, Deadly History of Sigma Alpha Epsilon” gave the perspective of Matthew Hughey:

“We have to remember that the Greek letter system in the United States was founded on pretty harsh and legally supported exclusionary practices,” Matthew Hughey, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Connecticut who studies the issue, said. “There’s a normal, mundane type of racism that functions every day, but it’s harder to see.”

New also wrote:

Despite the fact that its members agree to memorize and follow a creed known as the True Gentleman, SAE has frequently been accused of racist and discriminatory behavior over the years. Now the largest fraternity in the country, SAE seems to have played a disproportionate role in some of the most offensive incidents in recent decades, yet it remains a house in good standing at more than 200 campuses.

Tasneem Nashrulla, in a Buzz Feed News article “A History Of Racism At Sigma Alpha Epsilon”, wrote:

Sigma Alpha Epsilon was born, in secret, on March 9, 1856, “in the late hours of a stormy night” by the “flicker of dripping candles” in a mansion in Tuscaloosa, home to the University of Alabama. The original intent of the eight founding members, an SAE brother wrote decades later, was “to confine the fraternity to the southern states.”

In 2012 Ben Flanagan’s AL.com article covered a temporary suspension of Greek life at the University of Alabama:

As a result of several hazing allegations and investigations, the University of Alabama has suspended several fraternity privileges and all pledgeship activities as of 1 p.m. on Thursday.

UA Media Relations says the university has issued interim suspensions to one former member of Pi Kappa Alpha and two active members who engaged in hazing activities at an off-campus location. Students may not attend classes or participate in UA activities until they have appeared before Judicial Affairs and a decision is made on whether they can be reinstated and return to campus.

Merely suspending the “privileges and pledgeship activities” of a few fraternities at the University of Alabama is not equivalent to the campus wide bans on Greek activities that are occurring nationwide.

It might be thought that the University of Alabama Machine‘s stealing a municipal school election in 2013 might have justified a ban. Bribing Greeks with booze and limo rides, as reported by Al.com’s Melissa Brown, to elect a former student to a position on a local school board was a blatantly undemocratic act.

Who knows? Given the right circumstances even the University of Alabama might ban Greek life on campus…at least for a little while.

 

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It’s All Greek To Me

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The University of Alabama has a unique dependency on the Greek system on campus. That may be why Greek mansions seem to dominate the campus’ landscape.

A post by Harrison Lee in Total Frat Move lists the University of Alabama as one of the top nine schools for Greek life in the United States:

A trip to Tuscaloosa is like visiting a Greek oasis. You’ll never have a bad time hanging out with these motherfuckers. Twenty-nine IFC fraternities and 18 Panhellenic sororities. They come from all over too, Texas, Georgia, Virginia, Alabama, Mississippi, etc., so you get a good mix of cultures and women.

Their gaudy houses match their gaudy lifestyles. Since 2005, twelve existing fraternity houses have been renovated or constructed. In fact, my boy Danny Regs had the opportunity to chat with Chancellor Witt during a visit. Witt went on to tell him that he wanted kids to come to Alabama for their Greek life. Having the support from your University’s Chancellor means that your Greek life is one of the best in the nation.

To be sure Alabama with 34 percent of the undergraduate student body affiliated with the Greek system is not among the schools with the most students who are Greeks. But the University is unique in the clout that Greeks weld.

The University’s Student Government  Association (SGA) has been traditionally controlled by The Machine, an underground organization of traditionally white fraternities and sororities. Even when a black student who was not affiliated with The Machine was elected as SGA President, AL.com’s Melissa Brown reported in 2015 that he met resistance in appointing a Chief of Staff.

More recently a Greek sponsored candidate was elected as SGA President and was immediately embroiled in controversy.  The following account of the resignation of the student elections board was given in  Ben Flanagan’s AL.com article “Alabama SGA Elections Board resigns following historic presidential race”:

The University of Alabama’s Student Government Association Elections Board unanimously resigned this week, writing in an op-ed for The Crimson White that it can no longer be a “viable entity for ensuring fair elections” in the aftermath of the 2017 presidential election on campus.

“We believe there is no place for corruption, coercion or secrecy in democratic elections, and that our student leaders must be given a fair chance, through fair and legitimate elections, to create change on this campus,” the op-ed says. “Sadly, our experience as a Board has caused us to lose faith in the possibility of that fair chance.”

In the piece, called “Elections Board: Our Resignation Letter,” the group writes that the spring 2017 SGA election cycle presented “an unprecedented degree” of “dangerous disrespect” to the SGA democratic process.

It is difficult to imagine that the campus wide sanctions against Greeks which have recently taken place at Florida State University and the University of Michigan could occur at the University of Alabama.

Nick Roll in Inside Higher Ed posted:

The University of Michigan has suspended all social events for its fraternities and sororities. The move comes amid multiple reports of hazing and sexual assault.

About 1,000 miles away, Florida State University’s chapter of Pi Kappa Phi was ordered by its national chapter to cease operations and shut down. While police are still investigating the death of a fraternity pledge there, the national office of the fraternity has determined that the Florida State chapter had violated fraternity policies.

All Greek life at Florida State was suspended Nov. 6, following the pledge’s death.

Dominating the University of Alabama’s landscape are the huge Greek mansions that are located on state owned property that is leased to the Greek organizations for a nominal amount.

Likewise the Greeks seem to be dominating the University of Alabama’s Board of Trustees and its Administration. That’s why a blind eye is turned on under-aged drinking on campus, in spite of the University’s strict policy on this activity.  The lack of an immediate response from the University when The Machine was instrumental in electing a member of the local school board is also indicative of this dominance.

As Ed Enoch reported in The Tuscaloosa News:

Allegations of voter fraud and shady tactics by members of the University of Alabama Greek community in races for Tuscaloosa City Board of Education seats have inevitably sparked conversations about the Machine, a specter that has overshadowed campus politics for nearly a century.

The confederation of some white fraternities and sororities — whose existence is rarely acknowledged by its members — consistently turns out a Greek voting bloc for the candidates it backs.

The power to deliver Greek votes has allowed the Machine to dominate UA Student Government Association elections since the SGA’s founding in 1914.

Just as the University of Alabama’s football team will usually dominate its opponents. the Greeks on campus also hold sway over the University’s Board of Trustees and its Administration. And that’s not likely to change anytime soon.

 

 

 

 

 

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Banning Greek Life at the UofA?

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Could it ever be conceivable that the University of Alabama would take the drastic step that Florida State University (FSU)  has taken and ban Greek life? Just what circumstances could possibly lead to such a measure?

At FSU it was reported by Bryon Dobson in USA Today that the FSU Administration had banned Greek life after the death of a fraternity pledge.

Florida State University President John Thrasher has announced a ban on all fraternities and sororities following the death of a student after a house party Friday.

“I want to send a serious message, I really do,” said Thrasher. “We’ve got a serious problem.”

FSU student, 20-year-old Andrew Coffey of Pompano Beach was found unresponsive at about 10:25 a.m. Friday, the morning after a house party about a mile from campus. Coffey, a Pi Kappa Phi fraternity pledge, was given medical treatment but died on the scene.

Of the FSU undergraduates, 22% belong to a Greek organization, that’s 7,588 students for the 2017-2018 school year.

All fraternity and sorority chapters are prohibited from holding new member events, chapter meetings, chapter organized tailgates, socials, philanthropy, retreats, intramurals and organized participation in Market Wednesday and Homecoming,

A ban on alcohol has also been issued at all Recognized Student Organization events during the interim suspension.

The death came at the outset of Parents’ Weekend, a time when the university hosts thousands of families and showcases its campus.

There are countless deaths attributed to alcohol use by students throughout the nation. In a list of Recent Alcohol-Related Student Deaths, the death of Natalie Baine in 2013 was the most recent reported death of an University of Alabama student.

Natalie lost her life when the truck in which she was riding crashed while returning to campus after a football bowl game. Natalie’s family filed a lawsuit claiming the student driver was in no condition to drive since he was exhausted after spending several days in Miami where they spent their nights clubbing and drinking on South Beach and barely slept at all.

Abuse of alcohol by under-aged students is widespread at the University of Alabama. The Fusion documentary “The Naked Truth: Frat Power” included the University of Alabama in its coverage of hazing and underage alcohol consumption.

Alcohol fueled “hazing” at the University of Alabama has sent students to UAB’s burn unit. Pledges were forced to stand in coolers filled with ice and rock salt in a “salt and ice and challenge” as reported by Al.com’s Jeremy Gray:

Court documents detail how the three pledges came to suffer second and third degree burns that sent them to UAB Hospital and five active members of The University of Alabama fraternity chapter to jail.

When the challenge ended, Gray reported “after the pledge stood in the ice and went to the ‘newboy closet’ to recover from ‘frost bite,'” one of the fraternity brothers “stepped on the pledge’s feet and told him to ‘man up.'”

The University of Alabama has strict policies against under aged drinking and hazing. But like many other schools there are major problems associated with both hazing and heavy drinking.

A report written by Rob Turrisi , Kimberly A Mallett, Nadine R Mastroleo and Mary Larimer “Heavy Drinking in College Students: Who Is at Risk and What Is Being Done About It?” states that:

Problem drinking and related consequences are a major social issue plaguing college campuses across the United States. Each year, alcohol is responsible for fatalities, assaults, serious injuries, and arrests that occur among college students.

Twenty years of research has revealed that the highest proportion of heavy drinkers and individuals with diagnosable alcohol-use disorders and multiple substance dependencies are in the age range encompassing over 90% of all enrolled college students, the majority of these individuals being between the ages of 18 and 21.

Alcohol drinkers are more likely to have been insulted by others; been confronted with unwanted sexual advances; been a victim of date rape or sexual assault; been in a serious argument or quarrel; been pushed, hit, or assaulted; had their property damaged; been in a situation where they had unplanned sexual activity; put themselves in situations where they were more susceptible to sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV; been injured or had life-threatening experiences; driven while intoxicated, or ridden in a car with an intoxicated driver.

One recent victim of hazing was Chun Hsien (Michael) Deng whose death was reported in The New York Times article “What a Fraternity Hazing Death Revealed About the Painful Search for an Asian-American Identity” by Jay Caspian Kang.

Deng was running “the Gauntlet” as a Pi Delta Psi initiate at the City University of New York. He died from “multiple traumatic injuries to the head”  The delay in his treatment after repeatedly being slammed to the ground ‘‘significantly contributed’’ to his death.

Inside Hazing has reported on numerous hazing incidents throughout the nation. The culture of hazing is ubiquitous.  There are horror stories at schools such as Ohio State, Penn State, and  Hofstra University.

Cornell University’s  “Alcohol & Hazing” explained the dynamic involved with hazing and alcohol use:

While hazing does not necessarily involve alcohol use by either current or new members, often alcohol consumption is either a central or contributing element.

Some fatal cases of hazing have been labeled as episodes of “binge drinking,” a term that suggests that the students who died of alcohol poisoning just used poor judgment and did not know when to stop drinking. It is more accurate to refer to such episodes as “ritualized drinking” in which there is systematic pressure applied to vulnerable new members that leads them to consume dangerous amounts of alcohol.  

A common argument in defense of groups that pressure new members to drink is that they do not “force anyone to drink.” Comments such as “No one poured it down their throats,” and “They could have walked out at any time” ignore the reality of coercive power in groups and the fact that psychological force can be as strong as physical force.  

Heavy drinking can also lead to a wide range of negative consequences such as injuries and memory loss. It can also contribute to being sexually victimized.

The Addiction Center website has this to say about drinking and Greek life:

While the Greek system provides social and professional benefits to college students, its members are also much more likely to abuse alcohol and drugs than their non-Greek affiliated peers. There are several possible reasons that being involved with a fraternity or sorority makes students more likely to drink or do drugs, including:

Peer pressure is hard to avoid when it’s around you at all times. Students living on campus are more likely to drink or do drugs. This likelihood goes up even more in Greek housing.

Fraternities, sororities and even athletic teams and other clubs may include some form of hazing as part of their membership initiation rituals. Hazing nearly always involves alcohol to some extent. In the worst of cases, hazing can lead to alcohol poisoning, accidents and even death.

In many cases, there are no resident assistants or rule enforcers in Greek housing to keep drinking levels down. Leaders of fraternities and sororities are upperclassmen who are still young people themselves. Additionally, campus officials may be willing to look the other way on Greek-sanctioned activities because of the positive economic impact of having certain fraternities or sororities represented at their school.

Because many college students pledge Greek organizations in the hope of establishing a strong social bond, they can be especially vulnerable to the social pressures that come with membership. If a student believes that binge drinking or drug use will make them seem more fun or cool, they are more likely to do so.

Many substances are abused on campuses with Greek organizations, but alcohol is easily the one that causes the most concern. Binge drinking is far more common among the Greeks than non-affiliated students.

4 out of 5 fraternity and sorority members are binge drinkers. In comparison, other research suggests 2 out of 5 college students overall are regular binge drinkers.

– A Harvard University study

Binge drinking contributes to some of the highest rates of accidents, sexual assaults, emergency room visits and deaths on college campuses. It isn’t just the drinkers facing the consequences either. Approximately 83 percent of Greek housing residents report having suffered as a result of their brothers’ and sisters’ alcohol consumption.

Members of both fraternities and sororities are at a higher risk for binge drinking and drug use than the rest of the college population. However, research suggests young men are more likely to drink excessively than young women are. Men are also more likely than their female counterparts to engage in risky or dangerous activities or feel pressured by male competition.

There seems to be a reluctance at the University of Alabama to challenge any aspect of Greek life. When Greek interference in a municipal election was orchestrated by The Machine on campus, there was no immediate condemnation by the Administration. The use of alcohol by under aged students at the campus is prohibited, but allowed to illegally take place at the Greek mansions built on state owned property throughout the academic year.

The answer as to whether Greek life would ever be banned at the University of Alabama is not hard to imagine.

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Home Invasions in T-Town

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The Historical District of Tuscaloosa is apparently not unique in its having problems with inebriated students. Russell Frank in the New York Times reported on what he termed “Red Bull Zombies” in neighborhoods adjoining Penn State University. He wrote in his article “What to Do When an Inebriated Stranger Stumbles Into Your Home?”:

What would you do if you heard a noise in the night and discovered a stranger in the house? Offer him a midnight snack? A hoodie, if it’s chilly? A ride home? That’s how some residents react to a home invasion in the student-saturated neighborhoods surrounding Penn State University. True, some of them grab baseball bats and call the police, but once they realize the intruder is an inebriated undergraduate who has no idea where he is, the adrenaline rush ebbs and empathy kicks in.

“I was a college kid,” reasoned David McClelland, a homeowner who confronted an uninvited guest. “I remember doing some dumb stuff.”

“The mother in me came out,” is how Meredith Doran put it. A stranger came banging on her back door one frigid winter morning. Seeing his thin hoodie, she let him in, offered him crackers and water and then a ride home. “His vibe,” she explained, “was not a menacing one.”

The same cannot be said of Ms. Doran’s husband, Matt Jordan, who, a couple of years earlier, had grabbed a bat to confront a student in boxer shorts and knee-high black socks who sat on their sofa with his head in his hands.

“Who the hell are you?” asked Mr. Jordan, who is as physically imposing as an N.F.L. tight end.

“I’m J.T.,” his visitor announced, as if his identity should have been obvious.

“J.T.,” Mr. Jordan recounted, “if you don’t get out of the house now, I’m going to call the police. And he said, ‘Dude, really?’ And I said, ‘Yes, really.’”

The townies have a name for these intruders: Red Bull Zombies. Before hyper-caffeinated beverages like Red Bull, students could consume only so much alcohol before passing out. Now, they’re no less addled but the stimulants keep them ambulatory, and so they blunder into the wrong houses.

There are as many students as there are full-time residents in the State College area. Most locals tuck themselves away in quiet suburban enclaves. Those who dwell among the students so value their neighborhood’s historic houses, tree-lined streets and proximity to downtown and campus that they’re willing to put up with what they call the “dumb stuff.” And some positively enjoy the antic energy of their young neighbors.

“There’s a pulse to the neighborhood,” said Joel Weidner, who called the police when he heard someone “thudding around” in his basement a few years back. A drunken student had crashed through a basement window. “Suburbia would be boring.”

While these victims of home invasions see the humor in their experiences, they’re keenly aware that their community, like so many college towns, has a serious drinking problem. Just this year, after a night of alcohol-drenched hazing rituals, a fraternity pledge fell down a flight of stairs and later died. In response, the university has increased its oversight of the Greek system. Among new restrictions, it is reducing the number of fraternity parties with alcohol that it issues permits for, from 45 a semester to 10 (wine and beer only, and no kegs).

It’s hard to know how often the Red Bull Zombies strike, because many trespasses go unreported and the ones that are called in are variously classified as criminal mischief, public drunkenness, underage drinking or disorderly conduct. The State College police chief, John Gardner, guesses that 5 to 10 student invasions occur a year. There’s potential for harm, of course, for residents who let their guard down as well as for invaders. In 2014 in Sterling, Va., an inebriated teenager was shot and killed when he stumbled into a neighbor’s house.

Similar stories have been told by residents living in the Historical District of Tuscaloosa. One Tuscaloosa family found a University of Alabama student sleeping in their guest bedroom. Another one fell head first into a fish pond. On one evening in January a student was wrestled off a roof by three policemen after being pursued down the street after being in a fight at Innisfree Irish Pub. One co-ed beat on all the doors and windows of a house that was built in the Greek Revival style that many sororities on campus have. She demanded that she be let in until the police arrived.

Some residents who are living in the downtown Tuscaloosa area have expressed fears about a student potentially being shot by a homeowner who might mistake a student home intruder as a burglar.

The historical neighborhoods in State College have a problem because many students are living in them. The University of Alabama also has students who reside in its historical neighborhoods but the proximity of the bars in the downtown area creates a bigger problem.

Many bars in the downtown area, which remain open until the wee hours of the morning, knowingly or otherwise, serve under-aged drinkers. Combine that with binge drinking by students and there is a recipe for disaster. In addition to home invasions, there has been property damage, unsafe driving and public urination.

Until there is a crackdown on under-aged drinking, many residents of downtown Tuscaloosa will face situations that could well lead to the tragic shooting of a student.

The City of Tuscaloosa has codes that prohibit the consumption of alcohol by under-aged drinkers and the University of Alabama has a strict policy against it.  It might be reasonably thought that something more could be done to discourage under-aged drinking.  A tragedy might be prevented.

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A long Tradition at the University of Alabama

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Interviews in an article “Willing to Do Everything,’ Mothers Defend Sons Accused of Sexual Assault’ by Anemona Hartocollis and Christina Capecchi in the New York Times gave the perspective of mothers whose sons had been accused of sexual misconduct.

The article was written as a consequence of Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump’s new education secretary, having “rescinded tough Obama-era guidelines on campus sexual assault,”

Some of the mothers met with Ms. DeVos in July to tell their stories, and Ms. DeVos alluded to them in a speech she gave last month. An advocacy group founded in 2013 by several mothers, Families Advocating for Campus Equality, or FACE, has grown to hundreds of families, who have exchanged tens of thousands of messages through their email list, said Cynthia Garrett, co-president of the group.

In an earlier version of the NYT story the following was included, although it has now been excised:

One mother, Judith, said her son had been expelled after having sex with a student who said she had been too intoxicated to give consent.

“In my generation, what these girls are going through was never considered assault,” Judith said. “It was considered, ‘I was stupid and I got embarrassed.’

In the article, as it now exists, this is reported about Judith:

Judith, whose son was expelled, said that at first her son did not tell her about the complaint against him, thinking he could handle it alone. She found out when he was taken to a hospital, suicidal.

She described herself as a lifelong Democrat and feminist who went to college in the 1970s at the height of the sexual revolution and women’s liberation movements. Her husband and their two sons were “super respectful” of women, she said.

“We don’t really need to teach our sons not to rape,” she said.

The use of alcohol by under-aged drinkers on campuses commonly leads to sexual assault. Alcohol Policy MD has described the problem in this way:

Underage college drinkers are more likely than their of-age counterparts to suffer consequences ranging from unplanned sex, getting hurt or injured, requiring medical treatment for an alcohol overdose, and doing something they would later regret.

The University of Alabama’s alcohol policy quotes the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism claim that “97,000 students are victims of an alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape.”

Although the University has strict guidelines on where alcohol can be consumed on campus*, there is alcohol use by many under-aged drinkers on campus and off.

On any given football game day, you will likely find that tipsy VIPs will be carted to Bryant Denny Stadium from the hospitality tent on the grounds of the President’s Mansion. One was observed who even was allowed to enter the stadium holding a plastic cup containing liquor. He was wearing the name tag he’d been given at the President’s Mansion. Of course alcohol can flow freely in the sky boxes at the stadium. Ticket holders in The Zone replenish their liquor stash, that is kept in assigned lockers, before the game. The use of alcoholic beverages in the student section of the stadium is not unheard of as well, although it is strictly prohibited.

The University of Alabama is to be commended for the part of its new Master Plan that, as reported by Ed Enoch in The Tuscaloosa News, includes “creating safe, inviting interactive gathering and study spaces.”

The campus master plan also includes a new retail and entertainment center space north of the Ferguson Student Center.

“One of the things we heard a lot when we were working on the master plan was about interactive spaces, how do you get people to interact, how do you facilitate that through design?” Wolfe said. “One of the things that came up repeatedly was food. If you have food opportunities, there people will hang around and eat and chat and get to know each other. It gives them a reason to be there.”

Currently the downtown area of Tuscaloosa and The Strip are the de facto areas for students to commingle. Bars in both areas depend on student customers. For the University to provide an alternative entertainment area that is alcohol free is a step in the right direction.

Even more Greek multimillion-dollar mansions have been built on campus since building plans were described in a 2013 AP article:

Records provided to The Associated Press by the university show that Alabama’s Greek-letter social groups have undergone a $202 million building boom over the past decade that’s left the school with what one study say is the nation’s largest Greek system. Construction or expansion of about 30 houses is being financed by using public debt to provide loans that are repaid by private groups, university officials say.

The result is a public university campus dotted with palatial homes that provide desperately needed housing for thousands of students on a campus that’s spilling over its historic boundaries.

“I certainly think it’s a win-win for everyone,” said alumnae Jennifer Meehan of Gamma Phi Beta, which is building a $12 million, 40,000-square-foot home on a prime lot on a road named for legendary Crimson Tide football coach Paul “Bear” Bryant.

According to the Journal of Blacks In Higher Education in 2001, “Up until recently the fraternities and sororities paid $1 in annual rent for this space [property on campus where Greek mansions are located]. The annual rent for was recently raised to $100.” (The nominal amount for rent that Greeks pay for the use of valuable state-owned property may have increased since 2001.)

Sororities are not allowed to sponsor co-ed parties on campus, but the slack is more than taken up by the fraternities, many of which have huge party room annexes adjacent to their residential areas. One common practice when a party takes place in the yard of a fraternity house is to screen it off with plastic sheeting. A thick alcoholic haze lingers over the areas where Greek parties take place. Under-aged drinking by students seems to be an aspect of campus life that the University takes a laissez-faire approach to.

A post by Tyler Kingkade in the Huffpost, “Sororities Don’t See Their Alcohol Policies Changing As Colleges Try To Fix Greek Life”, described Greek party life on the University’s campus:

On college campuses, all-male fraternities frequently team up with the female sororities for philanthropy, social gatherings and formal events, a tenet of Greek life going back decades. Informal traditions, like those of fraternity members serenading sorority women with an off-key rendition of a love song, are common as well. Both have similar schedules and responsibilities that come with being dues-paying members of a house. In turn, any time a frat decides to commit to a night of drinking in their basement, their sorority friends are often the first female guests to be invited. These two groups share the common experience of going through rush and initiation as well.

At the University of Alabama, for example, fraternities will allow any sorority member into their parties, regardless of whether they were invited, according to women in Greek life on the campus. But men at UA need a personal invitation from a brother to attend the frat parties.

There is definitely a disconnect between common practices on the University of Alabama campus and in off-campus areas when it comes to the University’s alcohol policy.

What is it about the University’s policy that says “Individuals under 21 years of age are not permitted to consume alcohol.” that is so hard to fathom? Could it be that one of the traditions of the capstone, poor conduct by students,  may well go back to the behavior of students even during its President George H Denny’s reign? ( Denny retired as President in 1936.)

The book Manners and Southern History, edited by Ted Ownby, quoted a letter written to President Denny by a concerned parent about the “temptations to young boys” asking, “Have you the obscene places as most towns?” Another parent wrote about concern with the “considerable dissipation among the students” that was forcing her to consider sending her son to another school.

But one essay indicated that there was tolerance for less than stalwart conduct:

There is also some suggestion that adults resigned themselves to allowing young white men’s natural proclivities to flow in acceptable directions, toward African American women or lower class women. This piece of doggerel made it past faculty sensors in the Rammer Jammer, suggesting the wide acceptance of its sentiments: “The browner the berry/the sweeter the juice/I want a colored lady/ for my personal use!”

According to the Vintage Crimson‘s “Traditions of the Capstone”:

The University of Alabama was opened to women in 1892; “young women of good character” were welcome to enroll. They were expected to reside in private homes, and it was shortly afterward that the Foster-Murfee-Caples House was converted into six apartments to provide housing for the growing student body.

Times have certainly changed since 1892 but the pernicious influence of alcohol consumption on under-aged drinkers persists. It may be late in the game but perhaps the Trustees of the University of Alabama should do more to uphold the school’s own policies if  the desired outcome would be a safer and more healthy experience at The Capstone?

*Designated Locations regarding the use of alcohol

  1. University-owned locations where alcohol consumption is permitted:
    1. President’s Mansion, Paul Bryant Conference Center, Ferguson Center, Alumni Hall, Smith Hall, Gorgas House, University Club, and certain University Recreation facilities. All of these locations require individuals to follow the appropriate guidelines, and individuals must receive approval prior to the event. For the most current list of designated University locations where alcohol is permitted, see the Alcohol Policy. View the Grounds Use Alcohol Approval Form.
    2. The President, Provost, and Vice Presidents of the University may designate other sites as appropriate for the use of alcoholic beverages. All other locations (except those listed below) may be approved as appropriate locations for specific events at which alcoholic beverages may be served.
  2. Locations where alcohol is prohibited:
    1. The public use areas of Bryant Denny Stadium and all other athletic competition facilities are permanently restricted from any service or sale of alcoholic beverages.
    2. University Recreation prohibits the consumption of alcoholic beverages in its facilities unless explicitly noted in Appendix F to this policy or in the Alcohol Policy.

 

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