The War Against The Greeks


On at least one campus — West Virginia University (WVU) — fraternities may have out worn their welcome.

According an account in Inside Higher Ed “Going to War With Fraternities” by Jeremy Bauer-Wolf there is a battle being fought between the University’s administration and the Greeks on campus.

Bauer-Wolf wrote:

Threats by four West Virginia University fraternities to separate from the institution and operate independently have prompted President E. Gordon Gee to publicly urge students and parents to avoid the chapters.

The schism between university officials and the fraternities — Alpha Sigma Phi, Phi Sigma Kappa, Kappa Alpha and Sigma Chi — became apparent earlier this month, following the announcement of stricter new rules around Greek life. Most significantly, Gee deferred the first-year student rush process until the spring semester.

In February, Gee issued a moratorium on activities of the 16 fraternities that comprise the university’s Interfraternity Council, allowing only basic chapter operations and service events. This ban was not triggered by any particular incident, but rather a flurry of reports of alcohol abuse and sexual misconduct in Greek life in spring 2018. The report on the chapters — Reaching the Summit — found that in the last academic year, West Virginia sororities and fraternities were investigated for 29 incidents of alcohol or drug abuse, 18 physical fights, six hazing cases and four reports of sexual misconduct, among other conduct violations.

Around the time that Gee announced the moratorium, in February, other hazing deaths were dominating headlines. Fraternity pledges at four universities died in 2017 from alcohol overdoses in hazing incidents — at Louisiana State University, Florida State University, Texas State University and Pennsylvania State University. Criminal proceedings in those cases were the subject of much public scrutiny, and all four institutions enacted aggressive reforms in Greek life, starting with temporary bans of all Greek activities at Florida State, Louisiana State and Texas State and a stop on fraternity activities at Penn State.

There was a similar ban on Greek life at WVU four years ago, after a Sigma Kappa pledge died of alcohol poisoning.

Although the moratorium was lifted at the start of WVU’s academic year, the threat by  fraternities to operate independently of the University prompted President Gee to contact the parents of the Greek affiliated students about the fraternities’ threat of secession.

Bauer-Wolf reported:

Two fraternities, Phi Sigma Kappa (one of the chapters trying to secede from the university) and Sigma Alpha Mu, are suspended until fall 2020. Pi Kappa Alpha and Phi Gamma Delta are suspended indefinitely.

Other fraternities and sororities have faced individual sanctions, ranging from temporary or indefinite suspension to new restrictions on events. Two fraternities, Phi Sigma Kappa (one of the chapters trying to secede from the university) and Sigma Alpha Mu, are suspended until fall 2020. Pi Kappa Alpha and Phi Gamma Delta are suspended indefinitely.



‘Til Death Do Us Part…


Young adults in America are drinking themselves to death. The Institute for Heathcare Policy and Innovation  reported on a recent study by Elliot Tapper and Neehar Parikh:

The data published in the journal BMJ shows adults age 25-34 experienced the highest average annual increase in cirrhosis deaths — about 10.5 percent each year. The rise was driven entirely by alcohol-related liver disease, the authors say.

The research showed: It is hitting many states especially hard, namely Kentucky, Alabama, Arkansas and New Mexico, where cirrhosis deaths were highest.

If adults drink, United States dietary guidelines say men can safely consume up to two alcoholic drinks a day and women up to one drink a day. Although that threshold may need to be lower after a recent international study suggested just five drinks a week can shorten the lifespan.

The World Journal of Hepatology states that binge drinking has become a major health risk. It reports that “the excessive consumption of alcohol is the leading global cause of preventable morbidity and mortality…”

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has published a fact sheet on college drinking:

Drinking at college has become a ritual that students often see as an integral part of their higher education experience. Many students come to college with established drinking habits, and the college environment can exacerbate the problem. According to a national survey, almost 60 percent of college students ages 18–22 drank alcohol in the past month, and almost 2 out of 3 of them engaged in binge drinking during that same timeframe.


The University of Alabama has a strict policy on alcohol use by its students:

Individuals under 21 years of age are not permitted to consume alcohol or be in possession of alcohol. Alcohol paraphernalia (which includes but is not limited to: empty beer cans or bottles, shot glasses, etc.) are prohibited and considered a violation of policy.

The University’s policy doubtlessly is a responsible response to the dangers of under-aged drinking.

AlcoholPolicyMD has listed some of the dangers of under-aged  drinking:

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

The new report on the increase in cirrhosis deaths should add more urgency to the prevention of alcohol use by under-aged drinkers.





Bar codes


Actually Alabama state forbids persons who are under nineteen years of age from being admitted into any establishment that serves alcohol. A patron may be admitted into a bar at the age of nineteen, although it would be against the law for alcohol to be served to anyone under the age of 21.

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Any establishment that serves alcohol is required to be licensed by the Alabama Beverage Control Board. There are three types of licenses: (1) 010 Lounge Retail, (2) 020 Restaurant Retail and (3) 031 Private Club.

Many of the minors who are admitted into bars in T-Town are University of Alabama students. The University, according to College Factual‘s The University of Alabama Student Age Diversity Breakdown, has 34.5% of its nearly forty thousand students in the 18-19 age group and 30.9% in the 20-21 age group.

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Since the total enrollment in 2017 was 38,563, that means that over 24,000 students can’t be legally provided with alcohol. Many cannot even be admitted into bars.

Enforcement of the restrictions on alcohol service are complicated not only by the large numbers of students that frequent bars in the campus vicinity but by the common use of fake IDs.

At a recent concert at Tuscaloosa’s Amphitheater a serving line was held up by one person who was belligerently insisting that he be served beer although he only had a rumpled, torn paper copy of a driver’s license. He left without being served, receiving a few dirty looks from people who had been forced to wait for several minutes until the situation was resolved. The Amphitheater server had been practicing due diligence. The individual seemed to not be used to that sort of thing.

Of course the University of Alabama has a clear policy on alcohol use:

Individuals under 21 years of age are not permitted to consume alcohol or be in possession of alcohol. Alcohol paraphernalia (which includes but is not limited to: empty beer cans or bottles, shot glasses, etc.) are prohibited and considered a violation of policy.

The bar codes when they are observed in T-Town promote public safety and result in a healthier community.





Walking While Drunk?


T-Town has seen few news stories about pedestrians being killed by vehicles. Considering the numbers of people who are walking under the influence of alcohol on football weekends and after patronizing the downtown’s bars it might seem that the community has led a charmed existence.

In a Pew Stateline article “Walking Drunk Can Be Deadly” Jenni Bergal reported:

Whether they’re emptying out of bars, going home from football watch parties, or trying to get across the highway, drunken walkers are dying in traffic crashes nationwide at alarming numbers.

A third of pedestrians killed in crashes in 2016 were over the legal limit, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. That’s nearly 2,000 people — up more than 300 since 2014.

Being drunk can impact your judgment and reaction time and result in poor decision-making and risky behavior, such as crossing an intersection against the light or cutting across a road mid-block, safety experts say. You may not even be thinking about whether drivers can see you.

Doubtlessly, the University of Alabama’s policy on drinking expresses a concern over the consequences of students consuming alcohol:

The University recognizes that alcohol in and of itself is not an illegal substance, however, the abuse and misuse of alcohol and other drugs can cause significant harm to individuals and/or groups, the University community and the community at large. The University values a safe and welcoming community.

Individuals under 21 years of age are not permitted to consume alcohol or be in possession of alcohol. Alcohol paraphernalia (which includes but is not limited to: empty beer cans or bottles, shot glasses, etc.) are prohibited and considered a violation of policy. Individuals over the age of 21 may consume alcohol in designated areas on campus in a safe and responsible manner.

Many of the students who are involved with law enforcement in T-Town are minors who have been in bars. Yet it seems that the only students who make the headlines over altercations in bars are athletes.

A student who was chased down the street by police officers from Innisfree Irish Pub after being involved in a fight was eventually drug off a roof of a house in Tuscaloosa’s Historical District. He received no publicity. He was an under-aged drinker who ended up the drunk tank but not in the newspaper. Residents of the area who live near T-Town’s downtown have told all sorts of horror stories involving inebriated students who have caused property damage and invaded their homes.

When there is an incident reported of a pedestrian being killed in T-Town by a vehicle, the details about the victim’s age and sobriety are not part of the story.

Tuscaloosa has a Downtown Entertainment District where pedestrians may openly carry alcoholic beverages on certain days during certain hours. The city must have had  considered the cost of law enforcement before establishing the district. As yet no injuries of pedestrians in traffic have made the headlines.

The article by Jenni Bergal dealt with how to prevent pedestrian deaths that are related to drinking:

There aren’t many educational campaigns alerting people about the risk of alcohol impairment when walking or bicycling, the study found, and more research is needed to figure out how to prevent such deaths.

Among the  [Insurance Institute for Highway Safety] study’s recommendations: lowering speed limits, improving roadway lighting, and marketing ride-hailing services to pedestrians and bicyclists, just as they do for drivers who have had too much to drink.

Safety experts say states also need to broaden their anti-drunken-driving campaigns to encourage pedestrians and bicyclists to opt for alternatives after heavy drinking.

Some pedestrian advocates caution that officials need to be careful not to send out a message that blames the victims, who have tried to do the right thing by not getting behind the wheel when they’ve had too much to drink.

Instead, the priority should be on designing safer roadways, which will influence drivers’ behavior and curb speeds where people are walking, said Brendan Kearney, a spokesman for WalkBoston.

Adkins said that while drivers and pedestrians have a shared responsibility to minimize risks, roads should be re-engineered to include pedestrian medians, barriers and bridges to create a safe system for pedestrians and drivers.

Perhaps the City of Tuscaloosa should modify its Entertainment District to accommodate pedestrians who are endangered by alcohol consumption?

Stronger enforcement of the laws against alcohol sales to minors, many of whom are students, would be in keeping with the University of Alabama’s policies. This would also result in far fewer pedestrians who are impaired by alcohol consumption.


Ducks Redux

duck-profile-silhouette-27There haven’t been any more stories in the newspaper recently about removing the Forest Lake water fowl. Perhaps this because their fate hasn’t yet been decided on? Some have laid the responsibility for the small outbreak of West Nile Virus (WNV) in the area surrounding the lake at their webbed feet.

A comment on the last Franklin Stove Blog claimed that there was little likelihood of mosquitoes being infected because of the water fowl.

Please follow the link scroll down, and view the table in the the section entitled “Species Susceptibility and Competence” regarding birds that might carry the WNV. The probability of Canada geese infecting mosquitoes—NOT HUMANS—with the WNV is negligible. Your statement that “if a dead bird at Forest Lake is ever found to have died due to the WNV there might be sufficient cause to remove them,” is completely misguided! WNV infection is never a “sufficient cause” to remove the geese from Forest Lake. If one blue jay in Forest Lake is found to have died from WNV, are you going to recommend that all the blue jays in Tuscaloosa be removed? Nonsense! To suggest such an action regarding the geese shifts the focus from the true source of WNV in humans—infected mosquitoes—to removal of geese from the lake. The whole of available resources should be focused on eradicating mosquitoes, not on removing geese even if one or more of them tested positive for WNV! The mosquitoes that might have bitten the infected geese and contracted the virus from the geese should be the target, not the geese. Your statement about removing the geese that test positive for WNV only adds to the dissension and misinformation surrounding this unfortunate episode.

An apocryphal story about the origins of the Forest Lake Muscovy ducks is that Forest Lake homeowners and others would buy cute ducklings for their children on Easter and when they tired of them would release them at the lake. That geese populate the lake is attributed to the destruction of the trees that grew around the lake by the tornado that savagely whipped through T-Town in 2011. Canadian geese were then drawn to the denuded body of water. Other such small lakes which never were stripped of trees in T-Town have had no such visitation of migrating fowl.

One resident provided a great deal of information on WNV and how it is spread. I was provided with a link to a CDC article “Experimental Infection of North American Birds with the New York 1999 Strain of West Nile Virus.”

The CDC article concluded:

We have presented basic data on the course of WNV (New York 1999) infection in 25 species of birds, including viremia duration and magnitude, illness and death, persistent infection in organs, and viral shedding. We have also shown that some birds are susceptible to oral transmission and that some cage mates may become infected in the absence of mosquitoes, although the mode of this type of transmission remains unknown. An analysis of our data shows that passerine birds, charadriiform birds, and at least two species of raptors (American Kestrel and Great Horned Owl) are more competent than species evaluated from the following orders: Anseriformes, Columbiformes, Galliformes, Gruiformes, Piciformes and Psittaciformes. Indeed, many birds of the latter orders were found to be incompetent for transmission.

In other words many more species of birds than geese can be infected. The article did report that “Avian deaths were not reported in natural WNV infections until 1998 when domestic goslings in Israel were affected, as well as White storks. The 1998 goose strain is essentially identical to the New York 1999 strain that resulted in thousands of bird deaths beginning in 1999 in New York City.”

It provided a link to the PubMed article “Origin of the West Nile virus responsible for an outbreak of encephalitis in the northeastern United States” which concluded:

In late summer 1999, an outbreak of human encephalitis occurred in the northeastern United States that was concurrent with extensive mortality in crows as well as the deaths of several exotic birds at a zoological park in the same area. Complete genome sequencing of a flavivirus isolated from the brain of a dead Chilean flamingo, together with partial sequence analysis of envelope glycoprotein (E-glycoprotein) genes amplified from several other species including mosquitoes and two fatal human cases, revealed that West Nile (WN) virus circulated in natural transmission cycles and was responsible for the human disease. Antigenic mapping with E-glycoprotein-specific monoclonal antibodies and E-glycoprotein phylogenetic analysis confirmed these viruses as WN. This North American WN virus was most closely related to a WN virus isolated from a dead goose in Israel in 1998.

I was also provided with a link  to an article in the journal Avian Pathology “Outbreaks of West Nile virus in captive waterfowl in Ontario, Canada” which reported:

Information on the prevalence and outcome of WNV infection among most waterfowl species is currently limited and pertains mostly to domesticated (i.e. farmed) geese. WNV-associated mortality was first documented in waterfowl shortly before the introduction of WNV into North America, when farmed domestic geese in Israel proved highly susceptible to fatal WNV-associated neurologic disease.


The technical information on the transmission of WNV by geese seems to be derived from cases of farmed birds. The density and numbers of the geese involved was certainly not duplicated in the Forest Lake area.  Since infection debilitates geese within a short time could infected birds have flown from Canada to T-Town?

According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology “Birds with visible symptoms of West Nile virus often die within a few days. Affected birds will often be fluffed out and stay low to the ground, or seem off balance and unable to stand.”

The Humane Society’s “The Problem with Canada Goose Roundups” reported:

In some communities, Canada geese are rounded up and killed because people find them to be a nuisance, particularly when goose droppings accumulate.

Federal law protects Canada geese, and nearly all bird species in the U.S. However, that only means people cannot harm birds without U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) permission. … In some cases, USFWS gives individual permits to kill geese on one property.

[This] may provide a temporary fix, but in the long run roundups just free up prime real estate for more geese to move in to. The best way to solve conflicts with Canada geese is with a multi-pronged plan that humanely reduces the goose population and changes the habitat so it is less attractive to geese.  

In some cases, USFWS gives individual permits to kill geese on one property. On and near airports, USFWS regulation gives broad permission so individual permits aren’t required. Permits do not authorize intentional cruelty, either when birds are being rounded up or at any other time.


The best way to control geese populations in an area such as Forest Lake is to provide a less inviting habitat. It would require time for trees to grow large enough to be effective. The idea of removing geese because of a problem with domesticated geese having been infected with WNV seems to many people unnecessary.

The detection of WNV infected mosquitoes in and treatment of drainage areas is the path to public safety.


There are a number of parking lots in the Forest Lake area. Stagnant catch basins provide a perfect place for mosquitoes to breed.

A dissertation by Walden University’s Andrea Simone Bowers “Sewer Overflows and the Vector Mosquito Proximity to Human West Nile Virus Infections” says that increases in West Nile infected vector mosquitoes in the Atlanta area can be “associated with close proximity to combined sewer overflow facilities.”  Bowers concludes:

How well sources of WNV disease are researched and findings contribute to the base knowledge, the more likely education can increase prevention. Investigating combined sewer overflows, sanitary sewer overflows, mosquito abundance and flight range, provide significant impacts on the risk of human WNV infection.

Tera Tubbs, executive director of Tuscaloosa’s Infrastructure and Public Services department was quoted in The Tuscaloosa News as having said, “What we’re looking at moving forward is modifying and enhancing our mosquito control methods.”

Doubtlessly the drainage in parking lots in the Forest Lake area will be a prime concern of the city.


Duck, Duck, Goose

CZ Wild Mallard Ducks Male Female 1887 066-X2

There is a heated controversy in T-Town over whether West Nile Virus (WNV) was transmitted to Forest Lake residents by water fowl.

Jason Morton in the Tuscaloosa News wrote:

After reports of Forest Lake residents contracting West Nile virus, Tuscaloosa officials are looking for ways to reduce the threat of mosquito-borne illnesses citywide.

In 2017, three residents who live on or near Forest Lake were diagnosed with the virus that is typically transmitted from birds to humans via mosquitoes.

There is no definitive proof, but some suspect the infiltration of Canada geese that began arriving at the private neighborhood lake after the April 27, 2011, tornado led to the West Nile infections.

Many people in T-Town are as excited about the potential euthanasia of allegedly infected birds that swim in the lake as they would be over a National Championship win by the Crimson Tide.

“How can I tell if a sick bird has West Nile Virus?” in the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s All About Bird’s reports:

The disease is spread by mosquitoes, and can affect not only birds but humans as well, usually causing flu-like symptoms. Birds with visible symptoms of West Nile virus often die within a few days. Affected birds will often be fluffed out and stay low to the ground, or seem off balance and unable to stand.

Because West Nile virus affects birds, public health officials look for cases of sick and dead birds as an early warning that an outbreak may begin. Monitoring the disease in bird populations is an important way of tracking the disease.

Thus far no water fowl at Forest Lake have been tested to determine if there is any infection. The only two dead birds found were victims of being hit by cars.

One Tuscaloosa resident has suggested that T-Town instigate a Sentinel-Chicken-Program.  Eryn Brown in the Los Angeles Times wrote:

Chickens make perfect sentinels because they don’t get sick from West Nile virus, Kluh said, and never develop high enough levels of the virus in their blood to give the disease back to mosquitoes, which in turn might fly off and bite people or horses.


The chickens also give disease control workers a better idea of where infected mosquitoes are nesting. Because wild birds and people circulate freely, it is hard to know where they were when they were bitten. But sentinel chickens are infection-free when they arrive at their coop and remain in place. If they test positive for West Nile, vector control workers know to examine the nearby area for mosquito breeding locations.


Mobile, Alabama uses chickens for mosquito borne disease detection. The Mobile County Health Department in 2017 released this information to the media:

For almost 30 years, the Mobile County Health Department’s Vector Control has monitored sentinel chickens placed throughout the county to help detect the presence of viruses carried by mosquitoes.


In 2016, the program resulted in 11 sentinel chickens testing positive for West Nile.


Other residents have suggested that the mosquito problem may be due to lack of maintenance in the sewer drainage system in the Forest Lake area. Water that can accumulate when the storm sewers are full of trash can provide a breeding ground for mosquitoes. T-Town has had at least three subdivisions that have experienced flooding.


In San Francisco, California, a crew of bicylists on the  Mosquito Abatement Courier Team inspect and treat storm drains for mosquitoes. Dots are painted on the inspected curbs.




In the Tuscaloosa News Jason Morton reported that:


Tera Tubbs, executive director of the city’s Infrastructure and Public Services department, said the city’s mosquito control measures are currently under review.


Tubbs said. “What we’re looking at moving forward is modifying and enhancing our mosquito control methods.”

Options include:

‒ More frequent or targeted spraying measures

‒ Treatment of standing water to reduce or eliminate mosquito larvae.


Perhaps the water fowl are not the culprits and should not be eliminated from Forest Lake where they have developed an iconic status? Of course if a dead bird at Forest Lake is ever found to have died due to the WNV there might be sufficient cause to remove them.


If the city plans to modify its efforts in mosquito control perhaps the first place to start would be to determine if the drainage system in the area is clogged by trash.

Racism at the Capstone?

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UPDATE: [4/16/18] The event has been cancelled. Associated Vice President for Communications, Division of Strategic Communication Monica Watts provided the following statement:

Students for America First does not currently meet the registered student organization requirements. Consistent with UA policy, the group’s registered status has been withdrawn, and its proposed event this week will not go forward. Prior to having its registered status withdrawn and becoming inactive, the group had an opportunity to comply with the requirements of a registered UA student organization, but was unable to do so. If its status changes in the future, the group will be given the opportunity to re-register, gaining the privileges of registered student organizations, including the ability to host events and speakers in campus facilities.

For any student group to host an event through UA’s student event registration process, it must be a registered student organization, which requires, among other things, having a full-time UA faculty or staff advisor. This content-neutral policy applies to all student groups, regardless of a group’s views or the substance of its proposed event. As previously stated, the University is committed to free speech, which is evident in the wide array of viewpoints our registered student organizations have recently brought to campus.


This year the University of Alabama expelled a student who had made racist posts on social media. The co-ed from New Jersey may have only represented the tip of the racist iceberg on campus though.

The fact that a registered student organization Students for America First has invited a racist to speak at The Capstone may suggest that there are students at the University that identify with racist ideas such as white nationalism.’s Ben Flanagan reported:

A speaker who identifies as a white nationalist has been invited to speak at the University of Alabama, according to university president Stuart Bell.

Bell informed faculty and students via email that a UA student organization invited the speaker, not the school. Bell did not identify the speaker or the student organization that invited the person.

“A registered student organization invited a speaker to our campus in mid-April who has been identified as a white nationalist,” Bell’s email says. “This ideology is counter to our institutional values. The University of Alabama did not invite this individual. UA stands for the equality of all people.”

University officials confirmed Jared Taylor was invited by the student organization America First to speak at UA on April 19.

Taylor is the editor of American Renaissance, an online publication which asserts: “Race and racial conflict are at the heart of some of the most serious challenges the Western World faces in the 21st century….Attempts to gloss over the significance of race or even to deny its reality only make problems worse.”

“Taylor projects himself as a courtly presenter of ideas that most would describe as crudely white supremacist — a kind of modern-day version of the refined but racist colonialist of old,” the Southern Poverty Law Center once wrote of Taylor.

The University’s administration has reportedly received complaints that the Students for America First organization has harassed undergraduate students, graduate students, faculty, and staff.  With the speaking engagement of Jared Taylor, the student organization will possibly gain even more traction on campus.

The faculty advisor for Students for America First is Associate Professor of Statistics Bruce Barrett. Barrett bans certain types of apparel and cell phones from his classes according to the Rate My Professors‘ site. One student commented: “Professor takes a big game about freedom of speech, even is the faculty advisor for a white nationalist student group on campus. However he discourages students from expressing themselves (not being able to wear certain clothing, have phones, or talk openly in class). Beware of this professor and how he’ll treat you like not another equal person.” But he has many favorable comments from students as well.

The University is engaged in recruiting a more diverse faculty. It hired its first chief diversity officer in 2017. The stated policy on diversity at The Capstone is:

The University of Alabama and the Division of Student Life are committed to creating and sustaining a diverse, inclusive, and welcoming campus community in which every student can thrive.

The University’s President has said that the student organization “followed appropriate policies and processes” in inviting Jared Taylor and that the University’s “commitment to free speech”  precludes banning such a speaker from the campus. But by allowing such a student organization to be formed the University has made its goal of promoting diversity a harder task.