By Jackie Burrell
Thursday, May 8th, 2008 at 8:07 am in College Apps & Angst.
LATEST NEWS: It was San Diego State’s administration and campus police who called in the DEA for an investigation that quickly focused on Fraternity Row and Theta Chi, in particular, where six members were running a slick drug business that included recruiting younger members as “apprentices” to learn the operation. Lovely. Suppose they learned that in business class? Meanwhile, parents and students protested yesterday on campus that the university should be focusing its efforts on drug abuse treatment instead of tough enforcement. Ahem. Because drug dealers are just misunderstood?
Posted Wednesday: It has not been a good week for college kids – or the grown-ups who love them. First came horrifying news of an alcohol-fueled brawl in a UC Berkeley sorority parking lot and the stabbing death of a promising student, who would have graduated with honors later this month.
Then, came news of a massive drug bust at San Diego State, where more than 100 people – including 75 students – were arrested yesterday. SDSU’s Theta Chi (that’s their emblem to your left) and five other fraternities have been suspended, pending investigation of claims that members were openly dealing drugs in their frat houses and on campus. The arrested students were suspended, banned from final exams, and evicted from campus housing. Among them: one potential felon-to-be who would have graduated this month with a degree in criminal justice, and another who would have received his master’s degree in … wait for it … homeland security.
We’ve logged a lot of hours on college campuses in recent years, and sat through more than a few parent orientations and welcome speeches. What every one had in common was the “we’re not talking about the keggers of your college years” lecture. And every time, we watched as parents rolled their eyes and checked their watches.
Folks, we’re not talking keggers of yore. We’re talking about a college party scene so out of control, kids are dying. Wake. Up. What spurred the SDSU investigation? Nineteen-year-old Shirley Poliakoff, a San Diego State student who died from a cocaine overdose last May. Investigators soon discovered that drugs were being openly sold through the frats and on campus. Then in late February, midway through the undercover investigation, a visiting Mesa College student died from a cocaine overdose in an SDSU fraternity. You’d think two cocaine-related deaths in a year would dampen spirits a bit. But no. In addition to the arrests, DEA officers scooped up two kilos of cocaine, 350 Ecstasy pills, marijuana, meth, psychedelic mushrooms, unprescribed prescription drugs, weapons and some $60,000 in cash on Tuesday. Oh, and text messages advertising a really great cocaine sale as soon as the frat boys got back from formal.
There are two issues here. First, colleges are fighting a losing battle if their incoming freshmen arrive with booze or drug problems – and moms, dads, that’s what you’re sending them. And second, while many sororities and fraternities are wonderful places that emphasize brotherhood, academics and philanthropy, any college with six frats implicated in two deaths and a massive drug bust is a school that needs to dismantle its entire Greek system. We’re talking a pervasive failure of oversight not just by individual fraternity leaders, but by their Panhellenic and Interfraternity councils.
The Greek system is not supposed to be like this. Our daughter lives in a sorority – not, we hasten to add, at SDSU. The place is wonderful. The young women pride themselves on their academics. They throw banquets to honor girls with high GPAs. They host charity fundraisers, and yes, they have formals and themed parties and plenty of fun. But the thing that’s pounded into their heads from day one is that they represent a large and noble organization, and their behavior must reflect that.
Apparently, the members of Theta Chi and their colleagues never got that speech. Now, it’s time for the national Greek associations to fulfill all that fancy talk of theirs and do what their San Diego chapter leaders did not. This isn’t some rogue bunch of frat boys who did a bad thing. They represent six large and supposedly noble national organizations. Their actions contributed to the deaths of two students and harmed untold hundreds. And now, they’ve stained the reputations of every member, past and present, of Theta Chi, Lambda Chi Alpha, Phi Kappa Psi, Phi Kappa Theta, Sigma Alpha Epsilon and Sigma Alpha Mu. That’s how brotherhood works, people. (Those links, by the way, will take you directly to the “contact us” page of the fraternities’ national headquarters.)
So what’s the solution? Click “comments” and share your thoughts.