“Are you guys going to see the magician?”
This question wasn’t asked of me at a grade school carnival or a child’s birthday party. It wasn’t even in reference to if I was going to go buy drugs from an eccentric dealer who wore a top hat and kept numerous white rabbits as pets (this would have been the best possible meaning of the question). Rather, on my first real day of college — it was after everyone had moved in but before classes began — with my pledge brother alongside me, a kid came up to us asked us this exact question, its meaning totally literal, as we walked across campus. We still laugh about it now.
“No,” we both told the kid, managing at best to chuckle and shake our heads in our attempts to not outright burst into laughter.
The two of us continued to our intended and, mercifully, magician-free destination: the fraternity house where we were about to go drink. Because even though it was literally illegal for us to do so, 18-year-olds drinking beers with other people their age is a more socially healthy and age-appropriate activity than sitting around watching a show meant to amuse little children.
Even though I understood two obvious facts, the first being that the university had to provide some sort of on campus activities to entertain their brand new freshmen, and, second, obviously they weren’t going to roll out an open bar to do that, the inclusion of a magician (among other equally ridiculous options) still confused me. Yes, we were young and could not legally drink so our entertainment options were slightly limited, but I assumed the school still understood we were 18 years old, not nine, right?
By the time I graduated five years later, I was still asking myself basically the same question that this magician came to be emblematic of for me. “Mizzou knows we aren’t children, right?” No, we were not full fledged adults, and still had plenty to learn, but we were relatively intelligent people (or maybe the school just doesn’t have faith in the education they provide).
Through my experiences, I learned that the answer to that question didn’t really matter, though, because the two most likely (and probably shared) answers to it were both depressing. Either the Mizzou administration legitimately didn’t understand that, or they did, but played dumb to the idea when beneficial to them, usually when they refused to communicate with the students prior to making decisions that directly affected us, and that we almost universally opposed (which, during my time, was largely related to the most popular student tailgating spots being shut down because of “image concerns” as the university’s football program became increasingly exposed on a national level).
The university quite often treated its students like little children. Sometimes because they didn’t know what else to do, and sometimes because it was the easiest way to get what they wanted. Both are the product of incompetence, and both were relatively frequent. Apparently, this is still an issue at the University of Missouri.
One of Mizzou chancellor R. Bowen Loftin’s primary goals during his time at the university is to eradicate instances of sexual assault on campus. His goal is literally zero. That is a fantastic objective. No sane person disagrees with this objective. Even a guy who lobbies Congress for less stringent baby seal poaching laws wouldn’t find a way to argue with this general goal. Everyone wants this, and good on Chancellor Loftin for taking the initiative.
As a part of this initiative, Loftin contacted the Mizzou Fraternity Alumni Consortium, a collection of representatives from the alumni boards of the IFC fraternities on campus. The Consortium existed before Loftin came to Mizzou, but was generally inactive. Loftin’s goal in activating the Consortium was to create a way for the Mizzou fraternity alumni who run the houses to communicate with each other and the school effectively about any number of things, but at present the most pressing topics were the sexual assault issue and alcohol abuse.
Chancellor Loftin requested that the Consortium (I felt like Dan Brown writing that string of words, by the way) discuss and devise potential new policies to put in place to curb alcohol abuse and stop sexual assaults in the fraternity houses.
It should be noted that Loftin is not solely focusing on Greek Life, as if they are the only perpetrators of sexual assault and alcohol abuse at the school. This is a school-wide issue to him, which is evident based on, among other things, his strong support and promotion of the Title IX office as an important campus resource. That said, it does seem like any other efforts he or others may have made toward non-Greek areas of campus have been underwhelming by comparison, if not total failures so far, considering the rash of gropings, sexual assaults, break-ins, and violent assaults that have taken place on or around campus over the past year, and especially this spring. In fact, there is not a single fraternity house mentioned in any of the instances of sexual assault on the University of Missouri Police Department Clery Release page over the past school year. Meanwhile, several dorms experienced assaults in that same time, as well as various locations on and around Mizzou’s campus. (Obviously this doesn’t definitively mean that no sexual assaults were committed at fraternity houses in the 2014-2015 academic year, or that there were no instances involving fraternity men.)
So the Consortium — whose delegates, according to one attendee of several Consortium meetings that I spoke with, are for the most part 40 or older (in some cases, much older) — did their consorting at Loftin’s request and discussed effective ways to curb alcohol abuse and cease sexual assaults as best as they absolutely, positively could. In theory, Loftin reaching out to let the fraternities solve their own problems is a generous gesture and an intelligent move. Why not let the people who understand their organizations better than anyone else set about solving their problems? Somehow, somewhere along the line, everything got completely and totally fucked.
Several of the proposals the Consortium — men who were in a fraternity in college — came up with are truly astounding. You might not actually believe what you read. The proposed policies are more out of touch than a dad’s MySpace page laden with Austin Powers references. They are overkill in the same way that rocketing a dog directly into the center of the sun after its second biting incident is overkill. Read them below and possibly actually weep.
Above is the invitation the University of Missouri sent out for its unveiling of the Consortium’s polices on June 20, which is, of course, conveniently scheduled for when there will be as few students as possible around to protest this. Presumably since these policies are being announced, they have been given the stamp of approval by Chancellor Loftin (which means Mizzou’s new anti-sexual assault policies and underwater pornography have something in common). The details in the invitation are relatively vague, with the exception of “restriction of out-of-town formals.”
Below is a list of the proposed policies that I received in several emails. According to one source, these are at the very least what the policies looked like after the first drafting of what is being called “Safety for Women in Mizzou Fraternities.” Some of these policies may have since been amended or cut, though the invitation from the university seems to illustrate that, generally, this is what is going to be recommended. Also, though it claims to be addressing Mizzou fraternities, the proposal, should it stick, will affect not just Mizzou, but the entire University of Missouri system (UM-Kansas City, UM-Saint Louis, and Missouri University of Science and Technology). I’ve ranked them from least to most batshit crazy.
An additional piece states the consortium will host a sexual assault summit for all fraternity and sorority leaders as the first step in addressing sexual assault in the greek community.
This is A-okay.
“Alcohol” – Only beer would be allowed at fraternities.
Actually not the worst idea! Not off to a terrible start here, guys. I’ve been debating whether or not to write a column proposing a similar idea. My proposal wasn’t as drastic though; I was simply going to suggest that grain alcohol, a.k.a. Everclear, should no longer be used in fraternity drinks (known regionally as trash can punch, paint can punch, jungle juice, hunch punch, etc.). The reasoning for this is simple: Most people who drink at fraternity houses aren’t 21. Most are freshmen and sophomores, and 18 to 20-year-olds aren’t what you could call good or experienced drinkers. Most of these kids can’t handle alcohol anywhere near that strong, and especially not in great volume, so putting gasoline in their Kool-Aid is probably a terrible idea that needs to end.
But, at least as a matter of compromise, I could get on board with no liquor of any kind. I would push back on the beer only rule to include wine as well, though. The ABV in most wines isn’t bad, and even the states with the most ass backward, Prohibition era liquor laws regulate beer and wine the same.
This is the one proposal that could affect real, valuable change and seriously combat potential sexual assaults and alcohol related injuries without infringing on students’ rights or insulting their intelligence, integrity, and right to make their own choices.
Don’t worry, though. It’s a toboggan ride down into a pit of absurdity from here.
“Social and Recruitment Events” – Fraternities would not be allowed to host any out of town formals.
This reads purely like the fraternity alumni and the school covering their asses in a liability and publicity sense, in case somebody goes rock star on their rooms and decides to give a mattress a Viking funeral in the hotel pool.
To be fair, Mizzou’s Alpha Tau Omega chapter had a pretty bad incident at the Lake of the Ozarks nearly a decade ago, and it got them kicked off campus. Of course, to be fair to the students this is affecting (HA, why would we do that?), since then there have probably been nearly 100 out-of-town Mizzou fraternity socials with no incidents even remotely close to ATO’s firework factory explosion of a formal way back when.
“Drugs” – Both fraternities and sororities would be required to drug test their in house members.
It should be hilarious listening to these out of touch alumni boards wondering to each other in bewilderment why they’ve started losing so much money (hint: because no one will want to live in your BYU dorms). But at least they won’t lose money on the drug tests themselves. Those will probably just be added to dues because FUCK YOU MIZZOU GREEKS HAHAHAHAHAAHHAHA.
This is also especially hilarious because I’m pretty sure absolutely no one from any level of sorority management, alumni or active, were consulted on this at all. Yeah, Mizzou Fraternity Alumni Consortium, you hold women in a real high regard, don’t you? Only a bunch of clueless old men could make a progressive initiative so misogynistic.
“Women students as guests in fraternity houses” – Women would not be allowed in fraternity houses between the hours of 10 PM and 3 AM on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights as well as everyday during syllabus week and stop day each semester.
You can practically forget everything else you just read, because this is their masterpiece. It’s actually as if the Consortium, the Greek Life office, and the school are giving Mizzou students the middle finger, and then aggressively shoving that finger up their own collective ass. It’s a perfect storm. It will simultaneously do the following: kill the system its aiming to improve while actually increasing the danger for students it intends to protect. This will kill Greek Life at Mizzou. This might belong on the Mount Rushmore of University Incompetence.
This policy will drive drinking further underground and off campus, where there will be significantly less control over the parties than if they were in fraternity houses. That total lack of oversight, of course, will put students in further risk of alcohol related injuries and sexual assault. And, based on how well the Columbia and MU PD have kept East Campus, West Campus, and downtown safe recently (it’s been BAD), probably increase the amount of students at risk for robbery and assault, as well. On top of that, because this is the policy that just keeps on giving (death and destruction), it will definitely increase drunk driving all over Columbia, which in turn puts not just the students, but the entire city of Columbia, Missouri at risk.
And those are just the immediate consequences. What will start to happen to the campus and the city when the Columbia Police Department and MUPD have their resources stretched thinner as they have to police alcohol violations over a wider area? That will almost certainly happen because enforcing these misdemeanors are a priority to both departments. The recent, explosive downtown development has centralized a lot of off campus student living and will keep the problem from being more drastic than it could be, but neither department is exactly doing a fantastic job at civic and student safety as it is. If the recent crime wave in Columbia is any indication, promising developments will surely abound!
(The only net positive out of this policy is that maybe somebody will burn down a few of the Brookside eyesores that consumed and sterilized downtown Columbia like they’re the freakin’ residential Borg.)
If these policies are actually put in place, I’m half expecting The Joker to immediately walk out and say, “And here we go.”
Ironically, the people this proposal is most closely aimed at protecting — the Greek women of Mizzou — are the most offended by it, and the most ardent adversaries of it. Which is weird, because usually a bunch of old white guys telling women what’s best for their health goes over so well.
In typical Mizzou fashion, the Panhellenic Association was in absolutely no way consulted on any of this at any time (nor was the IFC, because, again, and I really can’t stress this enough, fuck you Mizzou students, you idiot children, you). After reading the initial proposal, the PHA moved swiftly and drafted a letter to Chancellor Loftin. It critiqued nearly every aspect of the proposal, with the exception of the education initiatives, and condemned the aforementioned complete disregard for communication between students and the creators of these policies, so much so that they believe the issue totally invalidates the proposal (agreed). Unfortunately I do not have the PHA letter in its entirety, but the section below nicely summarizes the PHA’s attitude toward “Safety for Women in Mizzou Fraternities.”
The letter was signed by every Mizzou sorority president. Chancellor Loftin responded to the letter quickly and cordially, thanked the PHA for their input, and assured them that further discussions on the issues would be had.
And naturally, that discussion ended up in no way involving the women the proposal is all about, because, well, I think we all know how it goes by now, no? Fuck you yada yada yada we aren’t interested in your opinions so just keep shitting cash you money-filled infants yada yada yada it’s for our, er, your own good. At the end of May, the announcement of when the finalized proposal would be unveiled was sent out. The PHA was never consulted about anything between when Loftin received the letter and this announcement.
Since that time, the details of the proposal have made their way around the Greek community and campus, and unsurprisingly the students are almost universally furious.
According to one Mizzou alumni board president who is staunchly against the proposal, he believes the policies therein will be presented as “recommendations.” How strong of recommendations, however, is anyone’s guess.
If these policies are put into place, the message from the University of Missouri, the Mizzou Office of Greek Life, the Mizzou Fraternity Alumni Consortium, University of Missouri Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin, and University of Missouri Systems president Tim Wolfe is clear: We view our students as children. Children who lack the integrity, intelligence, and decision making abilities to be allowed even adolescent freedoms. Children that do not even deserve to be consulted about what they can and cannot be allowed to do with their own daily lives. Furthermore, we view each fraternity man, first and foremost, as a potential attacker or trouble maker, and each Mizzou woman as a potential victim above all else.
You are all numbers and liabilities who, God willing, will graduate with your checks having cleared and your presence not having caused the school or your houses any bad publicity.
So, if these policies are set in place, what is there to do?
First, I highly recommend every member of a fraternity at Mizzou find out who on your alumni boards are in favor of these policies and do everything in your power to initiate a vote of no confidence (or whatever your procedure for that may be) on every single alumni involved in pushing this agenda. Get them out of office ASAP. They are morons, and have no business running your chapter.
Second, because this is what amounts to a nuclear option on the part of Mizzou, the only appropriate reaction is to respond in kind. Every single house should drop out of Homecoming. No floats. No house decks. No skit. Every bit of pomp and circumstance that the Mizzou Greeks provide through hours of grueling labor that actually costs them money (and time and sanity) just to make THE FIRST AND BIGGEST HOMECOMING IN THE COUNTRY so special should be boycotted by every single Greek. Take away everything you give the school, because they’re taking just about everything they can away from you. I would recommend, however, that all the houses organize together to put on their own blood drive, as well as organize a massive fundraiser for the charities Homecoming was supposed to benefit. No reason to punish the people who haven’t done anything wrong. That’s Mizzou’s job, after all.
If you’re alumni and disagree with these policies, at the very least resign from the Mizzou Alumni Association if you’re a paying member (I am, and will should these policies be administered). If you’re an alumnus or alumnae still young enough to be a member for free, contact the alumni association and ask to be taken off their mailing list, and explain exactly why.
Despite all the absurdity of these policies (the beer proposal somewhat excluded), hearts are in the right place here. Sexual assault is a serious problem on every college campus, Mizzou included. Curbing alcohol abuse would go a long way to help stop that. Taking an initiative is a good thing, and in a general sense I am thrilled to see my alma mater do it. But the egregious lack of communication in this instance is an insult to the students. The sheer broadness of these policies comes off as intellectual laziness on the part of the people who created and approve them. Or, worse, the broadness is driven by image preservation more than student safety. The eye-opening separation from reality involved devising these proposed policies will create so many problems that it seems inevitable that they will actually hurt the students they aim to protect, destroy a culture over a quarter of the student body is a part of, and damage the surrounding community. These are bad, horrible, no good policies that should not be recommended or enforced.
And it doesn’t end there. This could just be the beginning, and could go on to affect all non-Greeks at Mizzou, as well. According to one Mizzou alum, the administration has also, at the very least, discussed doing away with all coed dorms, and mandating that students are required to live in dorms for two years.
If these recommendations are instituted, well, enjoy your weekends filled with magic shows, future Missouri Tigers..
Here is the full letter from the Panhellenic Association to Chancellor Loftin. You know, the one he ignored.