Monday, June 28, 2010

Best of Busted

Branding of TCU Kappa Sigma Member Prompts Inquiry

Texas Christian University and officials of Kappa Sigma Fraternity are investigating an incident in which a student suffered second- and third-degree burns after being branded on his buttocks during a ski trip.

The student… will have to undergo plastic surgery to repair the damage.

[The student] was injured on the last night of his fraternity’s ski trip at Breckenridge, Colo.

[The student] said that the group drank and got rowdy and that at some point he agreed to allow his fraternity brothers to finish branding the Kappa Sigma letters on his rear end with a hot coat hanger — a brand that was started on a spring break trip more than a year ago.

But his fraternity brothers, [the student] said, took things too far.

"I woke up the next morning and I was in a lot of pain," [the student] said. "My whole other butt cheek was destroyed."

TCU issued a statement Wednesday afternoon saying it has begun an investigation.

"University policy prohibits harming another student, which would obviously include branding," [the] spokeswoman said.

Obviously it would include branding. Besides the fact that getting branded is, in and of itself, totally wrong and unimaginable, the main reason we are so outraged about this incident is the branded student’s response to it all. Although the student says no one will tell him exactly what happened the night of the branding or who was responsible, he is still trying to take all of the heat for it by blaming himself for being too drunk. If this doesn’t scream hazing from every direction, we don’t know what would.

Plus, this was not the first time this happened… they were ‘finishing off’ the original job. What?! Imagine the logical conversation that preceded that event:

“Dudes, I am just loving the Kappa Sig brand on my bazooka. I sure wish it had some finer lines though.”

“Well, because we’re brothers and we care so much about you, we’d be happy to clean it up for you.”

“Thanks, you guys are the best.”

“No problem, man. There is nothing worse than having a brand that’s just not what you wanted.”

“Right… and it’s our letters, for God’s sake! We don’t want to disrespect the founders!”

Let’s get this straight. Branding isn’t funny, it’s not even close to funny. Funny things don’t make us throw up in our mouths.

McDonald, M. (2010, January 28). Branding of TCU Kappa Sigma member prompts inquiry. [Electronic Version]. Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Retrieved March 12, 2010 from:

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Just Do It

A few weeks ago, I spent a weekend with some friends in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. My friends were all planning to run the Steamboat Half Marathon, and I'd tentatively committed to running the 10K before the trip. I'm a new-ish runner, and still working on my form (and being able to breathe), so I had a whole host of excuses as to why I might not even be ready to do the 10K, and therefore was not going to commit until the morning of the race.

Race weekend rolled around, and I was feeling semi-confident in my ability. And then one of the guys got injured, and dropped out of the half marathon. And a tiny little crazy thought worked its way into my brain as we drove out to Steamboat. What if I took his place? The course was somewhat downhill (except for that killer uphill on mile 9), and if nothing else, I could catch a ride the rest of the way down if I couldn't make it any longer. And then someone actually suggested I take the place, which somewhat validated the idea in my head. Without allowing myself to think about it too much (me? over think something?) I jumped in.

I think I slept for a total of about 30 minutes the night before, so when the alarm went off at 5:20am, I was wide awake, and just slightly nervous that I was out of my mind. Faking sickness or injury crossed my mind more than once. We got dropped off at the bus stop at six, and had to wait for a bus until after seven, which didn't help the situation. I was crafting excuses in my head the entire time. The buses finally came and we were off... no turning back now!

I kept up with the men for less than half a mile, and settled into my own perfect pace. And I loved every minute of it. I met some nice people as I ran/walked/hobbled my way through and took in the beautiful scenery. I had plenty of time to think about what I was doing, how it was slightly random, and how it translates to other areas of my life, and our work with the fraternal community.

How many times do we put off doing something because we just are not sure, or because we don't feel ready, or we haven't had the right amount of training, or the right preparation? How many times have we avoided a difficult conversation with a student, or avoided closing a chapter because we didn't feel ready? How many times have we let something happen because we were not prepared to challenge the situation or the process?

What could we accomplish in our world if we stopped over-thinking and started doing? What if we took more chances and took more risks? What if we were willing to put ourselves out there a bit more, so to speak? If we were not afraid of failure? How would the fraternal movement be different? What if we were not scared of the potential pitfalls or roadblocks, and jumped into something with two feet? What would be different? What other areas of life might this apply to for you?

I definitely wasn't the fastest person on the road, and at times, was in a lot of pain. But I learned a little bit about myself and my limits that day, and I'll be back on the half-marathon trail again sometime in the future. If nothing else, it was great time to think while absorbing the beautiful scenery and plan my next crazy adventure. How have you stepped outside of your comfort zone lately?

Monday, June 7, 2010

Best of Busted!

Penn State DU Alumni Board Shuts Down Chapter

The alumni board of a Penn State fraternity is shutting down the house, saying the students living there caused a long list of problems ranging from not taking care of the property to offering marijuana to a visitor from the fraternity's leadership.

The alumni board is in the process of expelling the members from the house, saying ongoing efforts to work with them didn’t stop the problems. The alumni board plans to reopen the house in fall 2010 with new members.

“It’s certainly something that had been building for quite some time,” An Alumni Board leader said. “Even at the beginning of the summer, we had intentions of working with them to try to turn the place around. They still continued to show an unwillingness to live by the principles of the fraternity.”

The problems have been going on for several years, and some are visible — a broken window, damaged floors, holes in the walls and a stair banister ripped from a wall. Other problems were drug and alcohol related.

The chapter ended up in redevelopment — a sort of probationary oversight — after a fraternity member offered marijuana to a representative of Delta Upsilon International during a visit.

As hard as it is so see chapter facilities close, we give kudos to this alumni group for putting their feet down. All too often, chapters complain of alumni NOT giving them the attention and the resources that they need but here we see an example of a chapter who does have access to interested alumni and chooses not to take advantage of their assistance.

The fraternity/sorority community is so privileged when you think about the resources that chapter members get: inter/national offices and staff members, campus advisors, and involved, passionate alumni. All of these people are genuinely invested in helping chapters succeed but we still find ways to mess it up. Hey, we even get consultants who COME DIRECTLY TO YOU with huge connections and resources to help chapters meet and exceed expectations.

Speaking of consultants…yes, you read correctly: this chapter offered marijuana to the consultant that came to their chapter. This is just plain weird. We know from past Busted! columns that there are fraternity and sorority members who smoke pot… but who would have thought that anyone would think the consultant would partake?

This article is a great reminder of another issue that doesn’t come up very often: how our alumni feel about what we do. The full length version of this article mentioned specifically how upset some of the older living alumni, men in their 70’s, felt about this. These were men who had lived in the house, valued the chapter, and committed their years after college graduation to serve the organization… and now this. Sad.

Another sad piece is that this decision did not come out of the blue; closing this facility was clearly illustrated as being a last resort. The international office gave the chapter a plan for success which they chose not to follow. The chapter also failed to meet any of the expectations of the Alumni Board over the past few years as the problems escalated. Maybe the chapter members thought it was an empty threat? Seems like a bold move.

Danahy, A. (2009, July 30). Penn State DU alumni board shuts down chapter. Centre Daily Times Retrieved July 30, 2009 from:

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Are we holding the movement back?

As we wrap up another busy academic term, something has been weighing on my mind lately. Something that I've seen it from a whole different perspective this year over on "this side of the fence". As a professional in the field for just seven short years now, unfortunately, I've seen my fair share of fraternity and sorority advising professionals come and go. Many times, I am sad to see them leave so quickly. Sometimes, I'm glad they are getting out of the way.

Far to often, we hold ourselves, and the larger fraternal movement back. We do not hold ourselves accountable to the standards we want our students, our councils, and our organizations to achieve. We do not role model good behavior for our students. We do not challenge ourselves and our organizations. Much like many of our undergraduate chapters, we have the social part down pat, and fill in the other pieces when it is necessary.

Now do not get me wrong. There are lots of fantastic professionals out there. Professionals I am proud to call colleagues and friends. Professionals I enjoy seeing several times a year, and count on for advice and support. Professionals I know will challenge me to bring my "A" game all the time. However, sometimes the bad apples outshine the whole group.

Campus based professionals often get to enjoy traveling with students, which always presents some unique situations and bonding moments. I always enjoyed the opportunity to get to know my student leaders on a different level, and participate in lots of conversation over the course of a weekend about things we could do as a campus, as well as their individual dreams. For me, this was never a time to drink or get drunk with my students, skip conference sessions with my students, head to the beach, or to sleep in. Sadly, for some, it is exactly that kind of experience. If you're going to act like that, I'd rather you send your students to the conference alone.

And what a shame that is. Those student leaders missed out on the chance to spend some time with a great professional who could show them a different side of fraternity/sorority life and lifelong membership. They missed some good messages from nationally known speakers in sessions. And they stopped taking us seriously. You see, it makes it harder for all of us to hold students, organizations, and our peers accountable when individuals act this way. It is sad. Makes me wonder how they behave when they get back to campus. I don't think I want to know. This is just one of the ways we are holding back the very movement we spend tireless hours advancing. I think we can do better next year. Don't you?