Counter to our culture

Related reads:
To check out Paul Zingg’s thoughts on the state of Chico State, see Newslines. Plus, supplementing our Back to School cover package, Fifteen Minutes spotlights Tray Robinson, Chico State’s diversity coordinator.

When Toni Scott asked her younger sister about Chico State orientation this summer, she got an eye-opening answer. Ronni, an incoming freshman, mentioned that the university is so serious about curbing its party reputation that resident advisers comb the Internet for incriminating photos. Any minor shown in a setting with alcohol faces expulsion from student housing, plus further punishment from the Student Judicial Affairs office.

This was news to our summer intern, a Chico State alumna working on her master’s degree at Boston University. So she looked into it. Sure enough, an image on MySpace or Facebook can get a partygoer in trouble, well after the night in question.

Cyberchecking is one part of a broader effort to change the culture at Chico State. (For details, check out Toni’s cover story.) The administration is taking a strong stand against alcohol abuse, with a mix of pushes and nudges in the desired direction.

“We’ve made it clear what the expectations are regarding the standards of conduct, and there are consequences for failing to meet those expectations,” President Paul Zingg explained during an hour-plus conversation in his office last Thursday (Aug. 16). “We have zero tolerance for anything illegal such as hazing. Being both clear and firm on these matters helps.

“To be sure, we’re always going to have incidents, we’re always going to have disappointments,” he added. “In general, I think there has been real progress made.

“The students themselves have been real partners in making that progress. Fraternities and sororities and volunteer student service organizations are emphasizing being responsible citizens with a message of safety, well-being and looking out for one another.”

That’s the power of suggestion—Zingg challenging groups to live up to the lofty goals in their charters. He’ll gently reinforce his message Saturday night, when he plans to make one of his periodic strolls through the Fifth and Ivy neighborhood, along with Vice President for Student Affairs Drew Calandrella.

“We try to stay incognito,” Zingg said, “but it’s kind of hard. The students who recognize us appreciate seeing us. They feel it’s a real, genuine effort.”

But is the overall effort too extreme?

Is the university crossing the line when it busts students based on photos and doesn’t allow adults of legal drinking age to sip a mojito at a conference?

I’m all for culture change. I understand how reputations—good and bad, deserved and unwarranted—can overshadow reality. I want this community perceived positively; Chico State affects Chico.

I just don’t think Ronni Scott, my cousin Eric (another freshman) and the rest of the student body should be subject to surveillance in the enforcement of cryptic policies. That runs counter to Chico culture. The university should continue its partnership with the police to crack down on recklessness, but leave covert ops to the CIA.

Quick note: The CN&R will launch a weekly college page next week. We’d love to have some fresh voices for it, so if you are a student interested in an internship or contributing to Campus, please call me (894-2300, ext. 2240) or e-mail me.