Vegetarians are less …


Unless they’re shitfaced.

Can Chico Change?

Chico, California, the town, and Chico State University, have a lethally dangerous drinking problem. UD‘s been following (scroll down for background stories) the several recent alcohol poisoning student deaths there, and Chico State’s years of efforts to make them stop. But it’s an old – a very old – story in Chico, the business of drunk and disorderly. The town’s just like that, and the university conforms to the ways of the town.

This article, in Chico State’s newspaper, describes a community meeting in which a preliminary discussion of solutions took place. The idea is to get town and gown to cooperate… But this will inevitably involve asking Chico’s wall to wall bars to cool it on three for the price of one specials, etc. And UD just doesn’t think that’s going to happen.

Meanwhile, Chico State’s boozy rep precedes it:

“The reputation that the school has received, deserved or not, seems to be affecting the type of students that apply,” [one participant] said, citing … surveys… that show a 13 percent increase of incoming freshmen classified as “high-risk drinkers” over the national average.

Year after year, Chico State admits a lot of freshmen already very serious about their drinking, people who know they can drink in comfort, with plenty of company, on that particular campus. I have no idea how you change this fact.


And at the University of Virginia, where two students had to be put on life support for alcohol poisoning (both have recovered), the head of the Greek organizations there says:

“You hear stories about people dying and thankfully here we’ve never had that situation but it’s possible, so it’s scary and we’re going to take any steps necessary to prevent that from happening…”

The Mean Streets of Chico

On Dec. 8, an intoxicated Chico State student, Brandon Fisher, 21, of Valley Springs wandered into a street after bar-hopping in a semester-ending pub crawl, [university president Paul] Zingg said. Police said Fisher was struck and critically injured by the pickup truck of a Butte College student, Matthew Lambert, 20. Lambert was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence.

“About 10,000 tubers attended the annual Labor Day weekend float on the Sacramento River this year, and 2,000 crowded Beer Can Beach, an island on the river. During the event, police performed 63 river rescues, Glenn County Undersheriff Rich Warren said. Ten people were arrested for driving under the influence near the river.”

It’s wild. When you’ve got enormous concentrations of drunks, as at Chico State and environs, and at Washington State, your school becomes impossible to distinguish from Skid Row. Same mass public intoxication; same injury and death stats. At Washington State, students are constantly falling out of windows; at Chico things run more toward choking on your own vomit.

You truly have to wonder at a town, long famous for attracting drunks from hundreds of miles away, deciding that a great holiday tradition would be to put them all on the local river at the same time.

Update, Chico State

In light of a student drinking death and other hideous things (background here), the school’s president has just shut down all fraternities and sororities. No Greek life of any kind is permitted. Greek buildings must cover up the letters on their facades.

Addressing a gathering of the Greek community in the Bell Memorial Union Auditorium, he said students don’t get a “free pass” for allowing a brother to drink 21 shots on his 21st birthday, and “pass out in his vomit.”

… Zingg told the Greeks they will not be able to recruit or have socials until the spring semester, at which time a re-education and reinstatement program will be developed.

Having read the sorry history of this shit-faced school, UD isn’t hopeful about the re-education bit. She believes, as she wrote in the background post she linked to in her first paragraph, that all current Chico State students must be told to leave. All must transfer. A new class of students will then be admitted to a campus with permanently shut down fraternities and sororities.

Chico State Body Count.

Four college students, likely to be five including [Chico State’s Mason] Sumnicht, [who has been taken off life support,] have died this semester [in Chico] from alcohol or drug abuse […].

“It seems incomprehensible,” [a policewoman] said.

One friend wonders if, for his 21st birthday, Sumnicht attempted to drink 21 shots.


It’s not entirely clear from news reports, but this seems to be the breakdown: Two of these deaths have been Chico State students; one seems to have been a person visiting Chico State. Two others who died were students at other colleges in the town of Chico.


Judging by this 2005 article, recent Chico State presidents have tried, and tried hard. Faculty were almost totally uncooperative (“[F]aculty do not perceive it as their responsibility… to deal with this serious problem.”), despite the fact that, as the two presidents who wrote the article note, “they have tremendous influence on their students.” The presidents suggest shutting down the fraternities.

That hasn’t happened.

What to do? The town’s a toxic site, and Chico State, with its disastrous history of self-destructive student drunks, is its epicenter.


Since the stubbornness of the destruction suggests that the core problem is a profoundly – maybe permanently – embedded culture of booze, one approach would be to empty the campus of students. At the end of this academic year, announce that all students must transfer to another institution. Close down all fraternities and sororities, and do other things to make it difficult to drink yourself to death (this would include getting far tougher with bars, the local city council, advertisers, etc.). Once you’ve done all that, admit a new freshman class. Make it clear to those admitted that they are part of a new Chico, and if they can’t sober up they will be expelled right away.

“[F]our other [Washington State University] students have been hospitalized this year after drinking so much that they stopped breathing. They were revived…”

A fifth student has died.

“[T]he third alcohol-related student death at Chico [State University] since…

… August” was a 22-year-old student with Prozac, alcohol, and morphine in her system. The local coroner was astonished by the morphine: “It’s hard to get ahold of.”

Chico State has long been at the cutting edge of drug and alcohol deaths and injuries at American universities. I’m not sure why certain schools get this way. I’d guess that after awhile a place gets a reputation and starts attracting freshmen who’ve already been addicts for years. (See the first Chico student interviewed in this pretty good Chico State film.)

Three deaths in three months; and a hard-to-get drug showing up in the latest death. It’s ominous.

A la recherche de brew perdu

An article elegiacally titled Last Call for Alcohol in Morgantown? muses on a future in which West Virginia University, America’s number one party school, might no longer whet its thirst in that hamlet. What will it be like? The bars might soon close at midnight rather than three am. What will that be like? You might have to be 21 to get in the bars. Police might be allowed in the bars. C’est si triste…

Morgantown’s pride resides in its bars:

More than 250 stores and bars distribute alcohol in Morgantown — including 29 establishments where you can drink on site…

You don’t build up those sorts of numbers overnight… And speaking of numbers, the town qua municipality would fold in minutes if all that tax revenue went away…

‘The situation often degenerated into an embarrassing spectacle revealing just how low CMU could sink in the name of game-day attendance and NCAA Division1 status. The focus on the game became secondary and was often replaced with hours of binge drinking by thousands of people crammed into the student lot. Alcohol fueled anti-social behavior soon became the norm for many people basking in the ambiance of a true CMU tailgate experience. Public urination, disorderly conduct, fights, profanity, indecent exposure, alcohol poisoning and destruction of property were the rule of the day.’

Central Michigan University (go here – scroll down – if you have the stomach) is a Division I unibrewery with a losing team. The only fiscal solution to this problem is full-throttle student bacchanalia in the parking lots of games no one attends. The presidents of div I unibreweries spend most their time tweaking alcohol policies with an eye to two things:

1. maximum consumption; and

2. the mobilization of personal responsibility rhetoric.

Sunday Morning Coming Down for Sally Mason

It’s an archetypal American story, told here by Johnny Cash (scroll down), and rendered just as poignantly by the University of Iowa’s president on her Hangover Regret tour.

Given that she presides over the the nation’s second-ranked party school, she now muses about the wisdom of having signed a big high-profile deal with Anheuser-Busch:

“I’m not sure it’s worth the revenues we’re getting for our athletic department,” Mason said at a taping Friday for Iowa Public Television’s “Iowa Press.” “I probably would reconsider. More than likely not even do it.”

The university has been fighting its party-school image for years and has tried to push the message of “safe, responsible, legal,” Mason said. That seemed to fit with Anheuser-Busch’s pitch for drinking responsibly.

But recently, the university’s Tigerhawk logo appeared on posters advertising drink specials at Iowa City bars, a move not approved by the university.

You can appreciate the president’s logic:

1. After fighting our party school image for years, Iowa appears at the number two slot on the most recent list.

2. Therefore, inking deals that make our school’s logo virtually indistinguishable from the corporate image of the nation’s biggest beer distributor might NOT be the best way to fight our party school image.

Presidential leadership. It doesn’t get any better than this!

“All graduate students who supervise undergraduate students receive an email at the beginning of each semester which highlights important points to consider about the alcohol culture at the University of Georgia. One of these points is to refrain from humorous stories involving alcohol consumption.”

Assuming this is true (it appears in an opinion piece about how the University of Georgia newspaper should cover student alcohol arrests) it’s part of an intriguing trend at American party schools. As at the University of Iowa, another booze-soaked extravaganza with full cooperation from the administration, so now at the University of Georgia, you’ve got this rhetorical tweaking – a small line about drinking responsibly at the bottom of screaming ads for Saturday night specials; regular emails to teaching assistants discouraging them from telling students funny alcohol-related stories…

Every semester, as you gaze out your office window at the massive two-day cleanup after the last campus tailgate, every semester a vaguely coercive little note about how Oh by the way lose the When me and the lads got shitfaced bit… And God no Baudelaire wafts your way…

As with all great partnerships…

… – like an American university’s partnership with a beer company – there’s often a … call it an initial unhappy hour, during which problems in the partnership get smoothed out. Only once they’re smoothed out can the 24/7 happy hour truly flow.

America’s number two party school, the University of Iowa, is as we speak in that awkward between-time with Anheuser-Busch, which is giving the school kegfuls of cash in exchange for the school letting them use Iowa’s logo on their ads.

Apparently already, just days after the deal was signed, banners are being pulled down from local bars.

Downtown Iowa City is lined with alcohol ads in bar windows that include footballs, helmets, the word “Iowa” and generic images of a hawk.

It’s upsetting to think that the beautiful image the local reporter conjures here is in danger of being marred by a misunderstanding. But that’s just part one.

The university committee formed to review all alcohol decisions is upset because, well…

The Presidential Committee on Athletics, created to weigh in on athletics issues, will receive an update Thursday on the sponsorship deal from athletic director Gary Barta.

Some committee members have angrily questioned the purpose of the advisory group because the athletics department signed the deal without informing them. University of Iowa President Sally Mason will address the committee about the its role at Thursday’s meeting, said Bill Hines, committee chairman and a law professor at the university.

See my thing would be Presidential and all it sounds very fancy and I’m thrilled to be on it yeah sign me up!! … Presidential… But they didn’t even tell, let alone consult my committee, about the fucking deal. So Barta will “update” us, eh? Mason will condescend to “inform” us, eh? There’s a personal dignity issue here, as well as the question of how cynical I want to be made to feel about life! How much of a dupe I want to feel I am!

See your role is to provide what we call cover. Your role is to be serious people who sit in rooms looking serious while we ink the deal. Get it? Shut up.

‘“I am so pleased to learn that Ambassador Crocker will teach at Yale,” Kissinger said in a Yale press release. “He has been a remarkable diplomat, and he has served the United States with great distinction in some of the most challenging assignments in the entire Foreign Service.” Crocker’s next court appearance is scheduled for Sept. 12 in Spokane.’

This isn’t exactly the kind of juxtaposition you want if you are a university about to hire for a year a man so drunk at the wheel he kept driving even after hitting a truck and spinning out. DUI plus hit and run aren’t chopped liver; he could go to jail for a year on either charge.

So, okay, the juxtaposition. It’s embarrassing. The elegant encomium from Kissinger immediately followed by the inelegant particular of the court date. September 12 – the very beginning of the semester. Who will cover Crocker’s class while he’s off who knows how long to Spokane? And he’s pleading not guilty, which is a bad sign since he does seem guilty, with witnesses and probably a film of the arrest, etc. Does Crocker think he wasn’t drunk? If so, maybe he’s in denial about a dangerous problem. Soon he’ll be driving around New Haven.



Good timing. Let someone else handle the mess.

Unibrewery of Iowa President Looks on the Bright Side

It’s the nation’s number two ranked party school, and the “contract between Anheuser-Busch and Learfield Communications Inc. — the sports-marketing company representing the (Iowa) Hawkeye Athletics Department — allows Anheuser-Busch to use the Tigerhawk logo in advertising.” But Iowa’s president sees the bright side.

“It’s a mixed bag of news,” she said. “No one I think enjoys seeing their school on a party-school list, but by the same token, once you read through what the Princeton Review has written, it’s hard to deny that these are some of the very same things that we pride ourselves on — making a large Big Ten school feel very at ease and at home for students and creating an environment where students feel like they are getting a great education for a great price.”

Nothing like the booze-soaked atmosphere of UI to make you feel at home.

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