Chico State goes national

Chico State University—and by extension the city itself—has become a lightning rod of late for the nation’s seemingly insatiable appetite for unsavory, titillating and generally disgusting news, particularly as it pertains to young people. None of it, of course, reflects well on the city, its residents, the college or its students.

First came the death of a fraternity pledge in February. This month we learned of the release of a pornographic film shot at a local frat house in November. Last week we witnessed the repugnant use of Càsar Chávez’s image—complete with racial stereotypes—by a local bar advertising the day as yet another excuse to imbibe alcohol in large quantities. Each story attracted state and/or national attention.

Chico State President Paul Zingg, in this most eventful first year on the job, has promised to rein in the students’ bad behavior. Good luck. It’s been tried before. The problem is that the school finds itself doing a weird balancing act. If it downplays the “party-school” image too much, it runs the risk of losing potential students attracted here by that very reputation. And yet the image—and the reality behind it—produces a lot of bad publicity and doesn’t do much for the sometimes strained town-gown relationship.

The situation will change only when the students themselves, particularly those in the fraternity and sorority circles, decide that boorish, self-destructive behavior is neither hip nor acceptable. Until we clean up our acts, Chico will continue to make national headlines for every indiscretion, no matter how commonplace on other campuses. We’re in the spotlight, here, folks—we might be wise to start behaving like it.