It’s All Greek To Me


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,’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 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.







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’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.


Home Invasions in T-Town


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.


A long Tradition at the University of Alabama


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.



A Sober Higher Education?


An article by Claire Altschuler in the Chicago Tribune “Colleges using sober dorms to combat alcohol, drug addiction” describes measures being taken by some institutions of higher education to help students become less high.

Over 20 million young Americans started college this fall. For most of them, the next few years will be a time of intellectual challenges, new friendships and career exploration. But for many, those years will also include a lot of partying and exposure to an abundance of alcohol and drugs.

According to a 2016 report by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 1.2 million full-time college students drink alcohol, and more than 700,000 use marijuana on an average day. Binge drinking is common. More than a third of surveyed students reported binge drinking (taking five or more drinks in quick succession), according to a 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

Most students learn to navigate the college party circuit without much damage. But for those who arrive at school already struggling with substance abuse, easy access to drugs and alcohol poses a real danger. For them, living on a campus where partying is common and alcohol and drugs are readily available can be daunting.


As many as 30 percent of college students are battling substance-use disorders, says Lisa Laitman, director of the Alcohol & Other Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) at Rutgers University in New Jersey. ”That’s a lot of students who need help,” she says.

To meet this need, schools are developing “collegiate recovery programs” (CRPs) that help students stay sober and remain in college. Programs typically include mental health and substance abuse counseling, addiction support group meetings, peer-to-peer support, and a wide variety of substance-free programs and social activities that help students bond and sustain their sobriety in the “abstinence-hostile environment” of college campuses. Several programs also provide special on-campus housing, giving students a safe place to live where no drugs or alcohol are allowed and where residents support one another.

The University of Alabama has such a program.

The Collegiate Recovery & Intervention Services Department offers a Collegiate Recovery Community for students who have made a commitment to lead sober, healthy lives. Modeled after a successful program at Texas Tech University, The University of Alabama has created a structured, healthy community where recovering students can thrive academically and socially while actively pursuing their recovery. The Collegiate Recovery Community provides students an opportunity to bond together in an alcohol and drug free environment.

But as an institution that includes a large Greek community, the University has unique problems.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has described what a “perfect storm” in terms of campus alcohol abuse would be:

Factors related to specific college environments also are significant. Students attending schools with strong Greek systems and with prominent athletic programs tend to drink more than students at other types of schools. In terms of living arrangements, alcohol consumption is highest among students living in fraternities and sororities and lowest among commuting students who live with their families.


Promoting a safer and healthier academic experience at the University of Alabama and in Tuscaloosa should be a prime objective for community leaders.

“Temperance” seems to be an antiquated concept these days. But it should be remembered that the Temperance Movement was led by yesterday’s liberated women.

Tara Isabella Burton’s essay “The Feminist History of Prohibition” gave credit to the Temperance Movement for the radicalization of Susan B Anthony:

One of the major groups behind the temperance movement, the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, was “long ignored or ridiculed as a fossil of prohibition.” But recent scholarship has come to appreciate the more progressive—even feminist—side of temperance work. Scholars like Ruth Bordin recognize that the temperance movement—whose goals included improving the lives of women whose drunken husbands were driven to abuse—as “the foremost example of American feminism.”

Indeed, many women’s rights activists came to the movement through participation in the temperance crusade (among them Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton). 

In Tuscaloosa and the University of Alabama both violence and sexual assaults are inextricably tied to alcohol abuse. A bar culture exists in which under-aged drinkers often binge drink. The University’s alcohol policy recognizes the problems associated with under aged drinking. Sexual misconduct has also been addressed by the University.

Ogden Nash wrote, “Candy is dandy but liquor is quicker” based on the idea that a person can use alcohol to convince someone to do something that they might not do if they were sober.

If co-eds at the University ever decide that “having fun” doesn’t mean getting wasted, then the spirit of early feminists might be revived. They might find it a lot easier to turn down the amorous advances of their inebriated dates.

Sexual predators in Tuscaloosa might then realize that pursuing women as if they were going after hunting trophies is no longer going to be possible.

Just another Homecoming drive by shooting?

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After the Crimson Tide gave a sound whipping to the Arkansas Razorbacks on the gridiron, thousands of football fans migrated to the area known as The Strip. Bars located in The Strip, which is located within easy walking distance of Bryant Denny Stadium, cater to football fans and students.

Doubtlessly many under-aged drinkers were participating in the football victory celebration when a car drove down University Boulevard and shots were fired.

Michael Casagrande reported on the incident in

Two red shoes sat empty on a Tuscaloosa sidewalk following an early-morning shooting outside a popular bar.

An unidentified 28-year-old man was shot in the lower back outside Rounders on the University Boulevard strip near Bryant-Denny Stadium following Alabama’s 41-9 win over Arkansas. 

The shooting occurred at 12:39 a.m. Sunday morning, Tuscaloosa police said. Information on the victim’s wounds was not immediately available early Sunday morning. The victim was taken to DCH Hospital just up the street from the crime scene.

Large crowds were still milling around the near-campus entertainment zone in the hour following the shooting. A group sat just outside the yellow police tape eating pitas as the homicide unit took crime scene photos approximately 20 feet away. Across the street, a long line patiently waited to order at the Quick Grill as police guarded the secure crime scene.

The incident has been characterized as a “drive by shooting” although it wasn’t a random shooting from a passing car.

By the time the shooting occurred much of the Homecoming crowd had probably dissipated but the police who patrolled the area still must have had their hands full. Students frequent the bars on The Strip until the wee hours of the morning. The police certainly would have been overwhelmed had enforcing the laws that govern under-aged drinkers been their highest priority.

Gunfire on The Strip isn’t frequently heard. Shootings have occurred in Tuscaloosa at apartments, trailer parks and other locations than The Strip.

But drinking alcohol and gun violence are statistically correlated.  A paper published in Oxford Journal’s Epidemiological Review reported, “One large group of studies showed that over one third of firearm violence decedents had acutely consumed alcohol and over one fourth had heavily consumed alcohol prior to their deaths.”

As long as the City of Tuscaloosa and the University of Alabama find enforcing laws and policies on under-aged drinking to be a Sisyphean feat, there is a greater likelihood of some University of Alabama students not living long enough to get their degrees.



A tale of two IDs


There was a 2016 Reddit post about the use of a fake ID by a minor in Tuscaloosa. The guilty party wrote:

I was recently approached outside of a bar in Tuscaloosa, Alabama and asked to show them my ID. At first I kept telling them I was 22, but he told me it was better to just tell them my real age so I did, I’m 20. They took my ID and wrote me a citation that says I committed the offense of “Improper ID By Minor.” They handed me the citation and told me to show up to court, but that’s it. 

A response to the post, which was asking about the consequences of the citation, said that a year ago The University of Alabama Civil Law Clinic gave a “$320 fine and a mandatory 90-180 day suspension of your driver’s license” as the penalty. Since then the fine may have been increased by $100.

The use of fake IDs to obtain alcohol in Tuscaloosa is a commonplace practice. High tech IDs can cost hundreds of dollars. It is a law enforcement nightmare. Many people who can pay hundreds of dollars for a fake ID would not be deterred by such a fine.

Several lawyers in Tuscaloosa advertise that they specialize in “Open Container”, “Improper I.D.” and “Minor in Possession of Alcohol” cases.

In terms of Alabama state law, the improper use of an ID can be considered a felony. The penalty for “possession of a forged instrument” may be punishable for up to ten years.

In Tuscaloosa, students who are minors and use a forged instrument seemingly are handled with “kid gloves” by the city. A youthful offenders status may play a part in this. And according to a local law enforcement officer, possession of a “forged instrument” would require intent to defraud. According to his interpretation, the use of a fake ID to enter an establishment to obtain alcohol involves no intent to defraud and can’t be charged under the state’s felony statute.

A student who posted in Greek Rank described his experience with the use of fake IDs in Tuscaloosa in this way:

It can be pretty 50/50. I’ve used good and bad fakes and had success/failure with both. Generally accepted rule is that the bars are more lenient earlier in the week (Mondays and Tuesdays especially) and harder later in the week (Fridays and Saturdays being the worst). Date parties are hit or miss, you’ll pretty quickly learn which locations have stricter bouncers (Chucks for example is usually pretty strict but Ive found Glory Bound to be easier). How good your fake is usually doesn’t determine whether they’ll accept it or not, but unlike some schools where you could use someone of say like a different race and the bouncers wouldn’t care, you need to at least have your picture that looks like you. Also, try to get one that works under a black light and scans. I know I said it doesn’t NEED to work, but a lot more bars nowadays are getting particular about that. I had two for around 75 dollars that worked really well until I became 21.

Just be careful, go on the right nights, don’t go to bars like Gallettes that are notorious for rejections, and you should be fine. Looking back now I think its probably a bad idea to get and use one but I get the feeling you were going to anyway, so hopefully this keeps you from hurting yourself.

The University of Alabama has clearly stated that the use of a fake ID is a violation of its policy.

 The University of Alabama’s Alcohol Policy clearly states that, “It is unlawful and a violation of University Policy to use or possess identification that makes an individual appear older or misrepresents an individual as someone else.”

If the University is serious about its own policies on the illegal use of alcohol and false identification, then it should make the penalty for such behavior onerous enough to deter it.  Obviously current measures are not effective.