End the bad student behavior now

Chico retiree and occasional contributor to the CN&R. He has written for newspapers since 1958 and can be reached at ronaldangle@ sbcglobal.net

Chico State University has been a part of my life for the past 25 years. I sold a home and relocated 800 miles north just to attend graduate school at CSU. With time, the university has been a source of education and employment for both my spouse and me.

It has also been a source of pride and a source of embarrassment. The latter has a recurring theme: its out-of-control Greek system and party-until-you-drop attitude. Two decades of negative publicity at the national level seem to have actually reinforced the university’s self-destructive student element.

As with any disease, there were early warning signs. I remember in the early ‘80s walking up Chestnut Street one morning toward the campus. As I passed the frat house on the corner of Fourth and Chestnut, I noticed a dead chicken on the lawn. Upon reaching my office, I called the university’s fraternity overseer and complained. The response was akin to “boys will be boys.”

A few years later I watched the south-of-campus community self-destruct during the infamous Pioneer Days Riot. I phoned in a dispatch to the Associated Press in San Francisco. By 4 a.m., details of our little backyard party were on editors’ desks across the nation.

Later that morning I penned my personal impressions of those hours when thousands of students and others directly confronted fewer than 150 police officers. That essay appeared in this very same space in the next issue of the Chico News & Review.

All of that was nearly 20 years ago. Now, in 2005, it seems that little has changed. At least no one died during that night of rioting. Now, students are dying, and it is time for some real change.

A few weeks ago I sat in a courtroom in Oroville and listened to testimony during the preliminary hearing in the Matthew Carrington case, an hour-by-hour account of the death of a young student at the hands of both students and non-students in the basement of a frat house at Fourth and Chestnut.

It was supposed to be a fraternity initiation. The district attorney called it hazing. Those in the courtroom like me probably called it torture. As the prosecution’s primary witness described the events leading to Carrington’s death, I watched the faces of the seven defendants. None showed any emotion.

This has to stop because people are dying. We need to do the hard and unpleasant things before another young person is dead. This is not about the university’s negative publicity and its recruitment efforts. This is not about what it costs the city in overtime policing the campus community. No, it must stop because all of us should share a common response to a small number of students and others who are out of control.