Thursday, February 25, 2010

Spring Break Time

I find it hard to believe that in just a few short days, February 2010 will be in the record books and March will arrive. This year seems to be flying by very quickly. With the arrival of March, we also welcome spring break season in the college world - which for many of us means 9 glorious days away from the rigors of our academic schedule, meetings, leadership responsibilities, and part-time jobs.

How will you spend your spring break time? Are you headed to a tropical beach with friends? Will you be doing service with your peers? Loading up a bus and heading south for some warmer weather? Checking out a new city you have never visited in the past? Are you headed home to spend some quality time with your family? Maybe you're spending the week working to make some extra money for the rest of the semester.

How will your values be visible during your time away from campus? The funny thing about values is that they don't take a break. They are always present. Will you perpetuate the stereotypes that many of us work to eliminate in our organizations? Will you make the founders of your organization proud? Will you make your university proud? Or will you choose to leave those values behind when you pack your bags? How will you hold your brothers and sisters accountable for their actions?

Monday, February 15, 2010

Best of BUSTED!

Police Raid Bucknell Sig Ep fundraiser

Police issued 85 underage drinking citations Friday night, mostly to students, when the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (LCB) busted a party held at Big Andy’s Bar & Grill in Milton.

The event fundraiser was called “Pandamonium” and was sponsored by the brothers of the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity.

The number of citations issued “is kind of uncommon,” said Sergeant Jeffrey McGinnis, the LCB officer handling the case.

According to a police report, the management at Big Andy’s had contacted the Milton police to alert them of suspected underage drinking.

“The goal of the event was to raise money to save a panda in China through the Wolong [Nature] Reserve,” said [the chapter’s president].

More than 350 people signed up for the event. Students attending paid a $20 fee in advance and were bused to the party from campus the night of the event.

The University recently implemented a new policy to ban events from being held at Big Andy’s. This ban covers all events that need to be approved by the Dean of Students’ office. The decision was made as part of the University’s “risk-management review” and was “based on information about previous events at that venue,” said Tom Evelyn, director of media relations.

We don’t know about you, but when we think of panda bears, we automatically think of getting drunk! Okay, maybe not, but no one can deny that a large majority of people do, in fact, think of getting drunk when they think of fraternities. There are several things wrong with this picture, but the fact that these students, and thousands of others like them, continually perpetuate the stereotype that Greeks=Drunks while simultaneously ask why it is that Greeks get a bad rap is just the beginning.

Hosting what seems to be a free-for-all alcoholic event with underage students is clearly at the surface of the situation. We can’t think of any new and exciting ways to say it: underage drinking is against the law. It really doesn’t matter if you think the law is stupid, it’s still the law.

Also, what happened to using a little creativity in planning philanthropic events? Collecting a cover at a bar is the easy way out. As far as we’re concerned, this plan was a lazy way to raise money, even in the best-case scenario. The idea of philanthropy is not just shelling out money to a cause. The problem with getting your friends to give you $20 for your chapter philanthropy is that eventually you have to give them $20 for THEIR philanthropy… and that’s not raising money, it’s trading money.

Finally, this event was held at a bar that was recently banned from hosting university events. The article doesn’t say why, but we think it’s safe to assume that this place has a history of serving underage people.

Life really is just a series of decisions; some of those decisions are easy and have little impact on the course of your life, such as ‘shall I have white or wheat bread?’. However, other decisions are difficult and have a much more significant impact on our lives, such as ‘should I use my fake ID?’ or ‘should I drink underage at Big Andy’s?’. Some things are just not worth doing, even if everyone else is – like getting arrested.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

What Do Our Paddles Say About Us?

This is a guest post from Tracy Maxwell, Executive Director of HazingPrevention.Org

Five paddles hung on my wall in college, from dorm rooms, to the sorority house, to apartments. Wherever I lived, they represented home and family to me in a very real sense. Each of them was very special to me because of the individual who had given it to me, but I was also proud of those paddles and what they represented to me – sisterhood, sorority, home away from home, love from a big or little sister, pride and tradition. I still have all five of those paddles as well as one four-foot tall paddle signed by all 49 members of the new member class I was elected to lead as New Member Educator. I can’t bring myself to get rid of them, but I no longer display them proudly either.

Because those paddles represented such positive values to me, I never really stopped to think about what they might say to the rest of the world. To outsiders who don’t know about fraternity/sorority life, and believe the stereotypes they see in the movies and on TV, a paddle represents something altogether different – violence, abuse, degradation, humiliation and punishment. It is a reminder of the sometimes brutal hazing we inflict on each other, and the very worst of what it means to be a member of a Greek-letter organization.

There are certainly enough news stories of fraternity men being beaten with paddles to help reinforce the image of what these instruments have been used for. In 2001, an LSU student was paddled so severely that he needed surgery on his buttocks for a 7 inch-long, half-inch deep open sore. He required a skin graft and was in the hospital for two weeks. He didn’t tell anyone about what was happening to him. It was discovered only when his mother saw blood seeping through his pants on a visit home. (link:

As the Executive Director and founder of HazingPrevention.Org, I struggle with what to tell today’s students about the continued presentation of paddles as gifts. On the one hand, I understand the time-honored tradition, and the time and effort many spend to make their own unique paddle to present to a big or little sister or brother. It is always special to receive a traditional gift that has been given by countless members who came before you.

On the other hand, I’ve seen the damage inflicted when paddles are used for a more nefarious purpose. I cringe along with other fraternity/sorority alums when yet another individual or organization does something to damage all of our reputations.

Many national organizations have banned the sale of paddles with their letters as part of their licensing agreements with various vendors. I support their efforts to try to send a more positive message with the items they will allow their letters to be used on. However, I’m not na├»ve enough to believe that a top-down ban alone will actually change decades of tradition. If students still want to give paddles, they will find a way to get them or to make them. I prefer an educational approach that shares facts, allows for discussion, and asks students to make a different choice.

There are many great alternatives to paddles these days – many are similarly shaped, but not as big or thick as traditional paddles and contain organization symbols or mascots in the place of a handle. Greek101 sells some great alternatives (link:

Please have a discussion about the message paddles send about our organizations, and consider starting a new tradition of gift giving in your chapter. As council officers and leaders, this is a great topic for you to tackle. Governing councils have a great deal of leverage and this is a great topic for an educational program or roundtable discussion among fraternity/sorority leaders on your campus.

Questions for Members/Leaders/Advisors of Chapters/Councils:
• Tell me about your paddle? Who gave it to you?
• What does it symbolize to you? Why is it special?
• Why do you think Greeks give paddles as gifts? Where do you think the practice came from?
• Are paddles ever used for any purpose other than hanging on the wall?
• How do you think outsiders view these gifts among members?
• Do you think you would display a paddle on the wall of your home or office after college? Why or why not?
• Has there ever been any discussion in the chapter or the larger Greek community about paddles as gifts?
• Why has an instrument of violence and punishment become such a strong symbol of fraternities/sororities? Do you think this contributes to the negative stereotypes of our organizations?

I welcome your comments and thoughts on this topic, and invite you to share the results of discussions that take place on your campus or decisions organizations make about giving paddles as gifts.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

PSA: Smile For The Camera

It's conference season. Many newly elected officers are or will be attending workshops, leadership schools, regional meetings, president's academies, and conferences to learn and network with students from others colleges and universities.

Tip: Try and remember that all hotels have security cameras posted everywhere.

So before you decide to do something that sounds or feels "awesome," make sure you smile for the camera.

You just might find yourself being listed, named, or shown in a very public way that embarrasses you, your fraternity/sorority, your college/university and being sent immediately home.

At least in our case with AFLV, you'll have your headquarters, Fraternity/Sorority Advisor, Vice President of Student Affairs, and judicial officer eagerly waiting to talk with you.

Stay classy, Greeks.