Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Hazing: Double Standard?

This is a guest blog post from Travis Smith, Associate Director of Student Activities at Colorado School of Mines. Thanks to Travis for sharing his thoughts with us this week! If you are interested in sharing a guest blog post, contact tricia@aflv.org.

This post started in my head this weekend as I finally sat down to watch the last few episodes of Deadliest Catch in which they were paying tribute to Captain Phil Harris who passed away of a stroke while filming the show. During one of the three amazing and emotional shows they dedicated to him, one of the other captains made an analogy that stood out to me. In referencing the “greenhorns,” or first year crew, earning respect and their place on the boat as a “full share guy,” he claimed that the whole crew has to go through something together in order to earn each other’s trust, respect, and eventual friendship. I took particular note because he did not say that the 1st year guys needed to perform menial and meaningless tasks in order to earn respect; they had to prove themselves alongside their peers on the boat, rather than to them. Some of the toughest men in the world, doing one of the deadliest jobs in the world do not find the need to haze new members of their crew. The new members simply learn every aspect of the boat and work hard to earn their place as “full share.”

This week, a story on the news caught my ear and frankly pissed me off a little. Dez Bryant used to make me sick with all of his arrogance and ego but I found myself proud of him yesterday for the most astonishing reason. Maybe it was bravado, maybe it was Dez being Dez, but he stood up and refused to let a senior member of the Dallas Cowboys team (Roy Williams) haze him. "I'm not doing it," Bryant said. "I feel like I was drafted to play football, not carry another player's pads." How does carrying another player’s pads make Dez a better football player or even a better teammate if it is not for sincere reasons?

What really made me feel a little sick was the reaction of many of the reporters to this story. Herm Edwards said “just go along with it, get it over with.” Mike Golic said too many idiotic things to count in his two minute tirade this morning on “Mike and Mike in the Morning,” defending the hazing that occurs in the NFL. Reporters are calling it a right of passage and titles like “Dez says no to (innocent) hazing,” and “Dez Bryant refuses chores of a lowly rookie” make Dez out to be the bad guy for doing the right thing.

Of course the right thing seems to be in debate in the American public if you look at popular opinion polls on ESPN.com. At the time of writing this (after my vote of course) the ESPN polls stood at 64% for, and 36% against on the question of “Should Dez Bryant have carried Roy Williams’ shoulder pads?” What I found fascinating was that with the exception of Arizona (76% for), Alabama (66% for), and New Mexico (65% for) every state south of the Mason-Dixon line was under the average. In fact only 3 states were anti-hazing in the poll, Wyoming with 3 of 4 respondents against, Vermont (2 of 3), and Delaware (2 of 3).

"Everybody has to go through it," Williams said. "I had to go through it. No matter if you're a No. 1 pick or the 7,000th pick, you've still got to do something when you're a rookie. I carried pads. I paid for dinners. I paid for lunches. I did everything I was supposed to do, because I didn't want to be that guy." In fashion typical of hazer logic, Dez’s refusal to participate in a meaningless “tradition” may lead the hazing to become more severe as Williams threatened to take things to “step two,” possibly stealing his credit cards and wracking up charges, or as some have suggested, duct taping him to a pole. Sounds like the kind of behavior I want my kids to see portrayed by their idols.

Let’s re-imagine this story to include the modern college fraternity/sorority. A new member (aka pledge) refuses to get his/her head shaved, and carry books across campus for an older “established” member. The next day that student is found duct taped to a pole on campus. The story gets out and who looks like the bad guy in this scenario: the fraternity/sorority of course. I wonder what those online polls would show had the story had been flipped in this way. I always thought that celebrities and athletes were supposed to be held to a higher standard than other people. Popular culture and the media continue to glamorize hazing in sports but condemn it in Fraternity/Sorority life. What makes this double standard exist?

Luckily, thanks to Facebook posts and conversations that have popped up like wildfire, I know that I am far from unique in my thought processes. Though polls may not show it I know that there are a lot of people out there that are fighting the good fight, from students to senior level administrators on college campuses, professional organizations and groups like http://www.hazingprevention.org/ that exist to bring this issue to a close. Keep fighting the good fight Dez!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Best of Busted!

URI Phi Kappa Psi expelled on drug, destruction violations

A fraternity has been ejected from the University of Rhode Island under a “three strikes and you’re out” policy following a December raid in which a 20-year-old student was charged with a felony count of drug dealing.

The Phi Kappa Psi fraternity is banished for 18 months and cannot reoccupy its chapter house for four years, said URI’s vice president for student affairs.

University police, assisted by South Kingstown officers, entered the house with a search warrant at 4 a.m. December 5. The police said they found a locked safe in a closet.

The police pried open the safe, the report said, after [the student] refused to disclose the combination. Inside, they found 100 grams of marijuana, miscellaneous pills, two scales, a 16-gigabyte iPod, $130 in cash and what they described as a drug ledger.

In November the fraternity was found in violation of URI policies on substance abuse and destruction of property, which included holes punched in the walls, furniture destroyed and glass bottles smashed in the shower and bathroom.

The president of the Interfraternity Council at URI said the action was appropriate. “The events that took place at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house … stand against the values and beliefs shared by the Greek community,” he said.

For those who are screaming “Personal use!” or are thinking, “100 grams?! Come on, that doesn’t seem like that much, give the guy a break!”, let us break it down for you: 100 grams is about 3.5 ounces. In case you didn’t know, an ounce of weed is about enough to fill a plastic sandwich bag and costs between $300-$400 depending on where you are, who you know, and how ‘good’ the weed is. Also, in case you didn’t know, most recreational marijuana smokers buy weed by the eighth of an ounce. This means that this guy had enough pot to sell to 28 people. So, the article doesn’t say this, but we can do the math: this guy had between $1050 and $1400 worth of marijuana in his safe. Either way you look at it, that’s a lot of pot, even if you’re that guy from Pineapple Express.

Okay, we get the fact that lots of (dare we say most?) people have smoked pot once or twice… even our current President has admitted to it. So, although there isn’t as much of a stigma around recreational marijuana use as there used to be, you still can’t sell it… especially out of your fraternity house! We realize that college is expensive, but there are lots of other ways to make some extra cash.

In addition to the fact that selling marijuana is illegal, we still have our fraternity values hiding behind the door… (Oh! Here they are! Silly old values, always sneaking up on us!) According to the Phi Kappa Psi website, one part of the fraternity’s mission states this:

“The Phi Kappa Psi Fraternity is an association of men of integrity who strive to develop the individual in his intellect, in his involvement in the community, and in his faith.”

The fraternity’s vision includes the following language:

“The Phi Kappa Psi Fraternity is committed to bettering individuals in order to improve society. To that end, we strive to provide undergraduate members with the opportunity to get as much out of their campus experience as possible, while working within their chapters to effect change in their communities.”

We’re just not sure that selling marijuana is in alignment with developing intellect and involvement in the community nor does such a habit or pastime allow this one member to be effecting positive change in his community. We’ve heard it all before: “Why are Greeks held to a higher standard?” Hello, other non-affiliated students on campus do not take a vow to uphold values like ‘effecting positive change’, ‘intellect’, and ‘integrity’. So, if you want to be in the weed selling biz, don’t join a fraternity.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Where does the time go?

If you are anything like me, you are perhaps wondering how it is already the middle of July, and what happened to the months of May and June. Summer always seems to move quickly, and this year is certainly no exception. For many of us, we have just four or five weeks until we return to campus for move-in, orientation, recruitment, and the launch of the fall semester. What are you going to do in these last few weeks to prepare for the fall? What is left on your to-do list to tackle before you head back to campus?

* Summer Reading - did you read something new and different this summer? Stretch your brain? How can you apply what you read to your chapter or council? Have you shared your thoughts about what you read with others or do you plan to discuss it with your peers?

* Summer Conferences/Leadership Events - did you have the opportunity to attend your organization's National Convention, or a leadership training event or program? If so, what did you learn? How are you going to communciate that information to your peers without overwhelming them with your excitement? How are you going to use what you learned to make positive change? What is your plan for following up and assessing your change?

* Recruitment Preparation - have you used your down time this summer to prepare yourself and your organization for success this fall? Have you changed any of your recruitment strategies? How so? What do you need to do the next few weeks to be fully ready?

* Organizational Preparation - how have you prepared for the fall semester? What will you do differently in the coming year? How will you welcome your members back to campus? What are your priorities for the first few weeks of the new semester? How have you communicated any changes with your members?
* Peer Accountability - how are you holding each other accountable for tasks you agreed to complete over the summer months? Are you checking in with each other? What happens if someone does not keep up their end of the bargain? Are you prepared to adjust or step in as needed?

* Personal time - have you taken some time to relax and re-charge this summer? Refresh yourself and your outlook, and prepare for the year ahead? Everyone deserves a mental break, even if it is just for a few days. It will make you a stronger leader. Have you taken care of yourself?

The beginning of a new academic year is one of my favorite times on campus. Everyone is fresh and excited about the new opportunties available. Do some thinking now about your preparation for that time, and also make sure you're taking care of yourself so that you are refreshed! We look forward to seeing what will be accomplished in your chapters and councils in the coming year.