Wednesday, May 10, 2017

What Have We Become?

We have a new guy at work.  He is also a Penn Stater, but he is far younger than me.  He was one semester short of graduating when his money ran out.  He was there when Paterno was fired, etc.  For the sake of this entry, I'll call him NG.

As I said, NG is far younger than me.  He is a snappy dresser, having come from the hotel industry.  We were talking about our respective times at Penn State the other day, and how so much has changed.

Things Change

One of the major changes is the policy towards alcohol.  When I was at PSU in the mid-late 80s, the University's attitude toward alcohol was FAR more laissez faire.  My fraternity would routinely go through dozens of kegs at a regular Thursday night party.  There was a MAJOR philanthropic event called Phi Psi 500, which was essentially spring homecoming.  It was a running race involving chugging beers at various local bars.  It raised a ton of money for charity.  People would walk around with opaque cups full of whatever.  The police would look the other way, as long as you behaved yourself.  That was the key- "don't be an asshole."

Phi Psi 500 1985 (pic: Kathleen Prince for La Vie)

That began to change during my time there.  The University President, Bryce Jordan, started clamping down on the partying.  He hated that image of Penn State as a "party school."  And this WAS the Reagan era, after all.

Things changed.  As the years went along, I read about riots during Arts Festival in the summer.  We never had riots in my time.  According to NG, riots weren't uncommon during his time.  We beat Ohio State?  Riot.

It seems (I have no numbers to back this up) that the number of rapes and sexual assaults has gone up.  But, it's strongly possible that more are just being reported.  Or that the authorities are believing the victims more.

However, another disturbing trend has surfaced.  Recently, the Penn State Greek system has become a series of horror stories.

In the past few years, there have been houses closed for hazing (having pledges literally catch sh*t from the brothers), KDR was banned for posting pictures of passed out women on Facebook as well as hazing, SAM was closed down for violating every one of the new alcohol rules over parent's weekend, and the worst- a pledge died when he fell down the stairs after being forced to drink.  And those are all recent.  Several houses are closed for hazing and/or rape offenses.

During my time, the mid 80s, only one house was closed:  ATO due to a gang rape.

The Washington Post even published an article on the subject of Penn State fraternities called At Penn State, one woman's rule at fraternity parties: Don't go upstairs (The Washington Post, March 24, 2015)

All of this makes me wonder- what happened?  All this violence and rape and flat out stupidity...

When did our children become so savage?  And why?

As a member of the Greek community, I understand both sides. What we did in the 80s seemed harmless. But now, a young man is DEAD.   The University is considering ending the Greek community.  However, the school administration has a share of the responsibility in this matter.  Beta was banned before for hazing, yet recolonized.  They are a RICH house.  Powerful alumni.  I hope they are proud.

The fraternities have to own up as well. They've been playing a game of one-upmanship for decades. Each generation tries to outdo the last. It's just a big "dick fight."  Macho bullshit. And now, with social media, they have a peer audience. Unfortunately, the audience is more than peers- and we are Horrified.

Most of these kids probably never had to endure the consequences of their actions.  They got away with everything- slid through life.  They've never been told "no." Guess what guys- unless you're SUPER rich, there are ALWAYS consequences.  Always.

The alumni of the fraternity community share responsibility as well. We are supposed to advise and guide these students, not wink and laugh. (KDR alums were INVOLVED in their facebook porn site.)  In the end, these are OUR children.

There are no easy answers. I don't envy anyone's position in this. At all.

But the fact remains- a boy is dead.

How did it come to this?

What have we become?


  1. Great post! I worry about the future of children in general, but seriously when did savagery become the norm?

  2. Could it be the prolific exposure to savagery through our main form of entertainment ... the TV? Monkey see, monkey do.

  3. I believe the prolific exposure to the acceptability of savagery via the tv programming has desensitized most to the true consequences of their behavior.

  4. Alex, it's not just the TV but movies like "Animal House" and the numerous cyber games that have desensitized the youth of today. I have to laugh about how parents of the past forced cartoons to become less violent but these same parents bought their kids computer games that have more graphic violence than cartoons ever had.