The Chico State Choppers are Becoming a National News Story…

… as well they should, since it’s not every day that a fraternity enters a national forest with a gun and hatchets and starts chopping (shooting?) it down.

The lads continue to try to lie their way out of it, but the evidence against them seems to be overwhelming.


A good lawyer, though, might say something like this to the court.

Your honor: This was Chico State. This was a fraternity. These people had firearms and hatchets. Did they use the secrecy of tree cover to murder and behead their pledges? They certainly could have. Others might have. But these young men held back, instead channeling their aggression into the far less anti-social flattening of a forest.

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.

James Jelenko, a student at Chico State…

… says it all – smartly, concisely. Good writer.

Well, he doesn’t say it all. He forgets to add that laptops are a lazy professor’s best buddy. Babysit the kiddies by clicking on the tv.

“[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.

As we wait for the Chico Choppers to remember their court date…

let us recall that the object of American university fraternity sadism is usually human rather than arboreal. And let us note that no matter how far apart one fraternity culture is from another (urban Asian-American, rural non-Asian), the defining commitment uniting them is wanton viciousness toward helpless young men interested in joining their club.

This long New York Times article sensitively evokes the particularities of the immigrant culture from which many members of manslaughtering Pi Delta Psi emerge; yet how striking to see that, however diverse, these young men haze in exactly the same humiliating and sometimes homicidal way – including criminal neglect of the dying – as much more mainstream fraternities.

On May 15, three and a half years after Michael Deng’s death, [his fraternity brothers] Kwan, Lai, Lam and Wong again filed into [a] Stroudsburg [Pennsylvania] courtroom, where dark oil paintings of dead men hung on the walls, framed by dusty red drapes. Just two weeks before, eight brothers who belonged to Penn State’s Beta Theta Pi fraternity were charged with manslaughter in yet another hazing death, this one involving an 18-year-old pledge named Timothy Piazza. The similarities between the two cases — Piazza, like Deng, died after going through something called “the gauntlet” (though physical abuse was not part of the ritual) — brought out more reporters than might have been expected, and as they set up in the hallways of the courthouse, many of the questions were about Penn State.

(Not physical abuse; alcohol abuse. Piazza was basically made fatally drunk.).

One might recall here yet more cultural diversity/brutalization unity in the death of Robert Champion at FAMU… And of course one can name, over the years, yet others.

However different we Americans may be on the surface, we are apparently all one when it comes to deriving collective pleasure from abusing other people until they die.

Virginia State University: A Very Violent Campus

UD sometimes feels as though she should issue warnings:


U Mass Amherst, Chico State, University of Rhode Island: Certain schools feature violent people – often violent drunks – and should be avoided.

Virginia State, where only a few months ago two students were hazed to death, should definitely come with a warning. At a recent event celebrating its athletic conference, its football team beat an opposing quarterback so badly the game that had been scheduled for the day after the banquet has been called off.

The guy “was allegedly beaten by a group of Virginia State football players in a bathroom of a WSSU campus building during the CIAA football banquet.”

Winston-Salem State Chancellor Donald Reaves said in a statement Friday night, “I am saddened to report that at today’s CIAA pre-championship game luncheon held at the Anderson Center of the WSSU campus that our starting quarterback, Rudy Johnson, was viciously beaten by one or more members of the Virginia State football team.

“There is no excuse for the behavior of the Virginia State players. One suspect has admitted to his role in the attack and has been arrest on criminal assault charges. The University Police Department is attempting to identify the other VSU players who were involved. Today’s event was supposed to be a celebration for both teams and for all the players who were being recognized for an outstanding season. The actions from the Virginia State players certainly changed the outcome for everyone.”

Most teams wait until they’re on the field before beating the crap out of the quarterback. VSU can’t wait.


Wow. Yet more violence at Virginia State University.

Why do schools like Arizona State exist?

The chair of their trustees thinks big-time sports are “integral” to universities, and ASU, a perennial game loser, spends hugely on them (expenditures have gone up 44% since 2005). Campus culture is what you’d expect – scads of drunken fuckheads. You can watch them on their latest outing here. It’s bound to be a YouTube sensation — timely publicity for ASU as it competes with Chico State for the gun toting asshole applicant pool. This 2012 article describes an alarmed populace as ASU demolishes all frat and sorority houses (why?) and allows colonization of neighboring streets. With rhetoric suited to a war zone, ABC News headlines:

Frat Party Violence Escalating at Arizona State University

Dispatches from the war zone:

At [one] point, gunshots were fired. The ensuing panic sent hundreds of partygoers running for their lives.

We sing to you, dear ASU.

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.

A South Dakota State Senator Says What Needs to be Said…

… about a local instance of the national scandal involving university presidents and corporate boards.

He says it pretty well, too. But of course Scathing Online Schoolmarm awards a demerit here and there…

One of the major reasons for paying a university president in South Dakota a $320,000 salary is because it takes a lot of money to hire a great talent with the right skills, credentials and experience to serve as president. [Avoid the wordiness, the use of “is,” and the repetition of president by rewriting in a more direct and simple way: We pay the president of South Dakota State University a lot of money — $320,000 a year — because we want a talented person with the right credentials.]

If the state paid a salary of [drop a salary of] less than $50,000, you’d expect that [drop that] a person of great stature and ability with full-time responsibilities would [drop would and write to] need to seek other income sources [Double dash after sources — He’s about to introduce a strong point. Give it some drama.] such as an additional salary of $195,000 plus a one-time stock-option payoff of almost $200,000 to sit on the board of directors of a multinational agricultural biotechnology corporation. But that’s not the case. [But that’s not the case is confusing. What does the writer mean? Rewrite.]

Monsanto’s gain is South Dakota State University’s loss. This $400,000 payoff creates a perceived conflict of interest not only for the university president but also for the quality of the research results coming from SDSU.

How are the results of research investments at SDSU to be taken seriously when one of Monsanto’s competitors can point to the university president’s $400,000 purse from the corporation and declare the research is skewed? If the perception is tainted, why would benefactors invest in the research services of SDSU or any other South Dakota university if it appears our university presidents can be bought and it becomes tolerated? [Drop and it becomes tolerated. Bought‘s your strong word.] What message does this send to students and parents faced with ever increasing tuition and fee increases? What message does this send to our SDSU research teams?

Personally, I like SDSU President David Chicoine and consider him a good friend. [Drop personally.] I strongly supported and campaigned for him to come to SDSU [Drop strongly.]. When he was hired, I felt SDSU had made a major leap forward in its growth as a prestigious institution. [had grown in prestige. Always try to tighten.]

The job is full time, requiring the full devotion of talents and energies of the president. [The job requires the president’s full time and energy.]  If a $320,000 salary isn’t enough to keep Chicoine on the job at SDSU, it should be negotiated so that we can retain a great talent whose full-time energies are devoted to SDSU. [This is the kicker. If SOS had been writing this, she’d have made this the first sentence. I like its threat to throw the guy out. That’s exactly what a politician should say.]

If Chicoine has spare time [Drop spare.] to promote the interests of [Drop the interests of.] a multinational corporation, he should refuse the pay other than to cover his expenses for travel, food and lodging. Service to academia should not appear as an opportunity to cut a fat hog at the expense of the university’s future. [SOS LOVES cut a fat hog! As a ‘thesdan, she doesn’t encounter phrases like cut a fat hog on a daily basis… In fact she’s never heard cut a fat hog… It’s the very opposite of a cliché– bright, new, and prompting pellucid images of bestial greed.  Bravo.]

As a leading national land-grant research university known for its excellent nonbiased research, we [Demerit goes here.  Are WE a land-grant university?] must do all we can to keep SDSU’s credibility intact. What message does this send to other university presidents? What message are we sending to corporate America?

We should not turn this debate into nitpicking about conflicts of interest. If Chicoine received a salary of $1,000 a year to sit on Monsanto’s board, there probably would be no discussion. That clearly is not the case here.

The state Board of Regents needs to resolve this matter immediately. If the board does not act, this issue will be presented to the South Dakota Legislature for a more permanent solution that will address it fairly and reasonably.  [Drop the address it fairly hoohah and end with the threat to can his ass.]

Greeting the New Semester the Chico Way

At least two people were arrested as Chico police broke up a crowd of several hundred that had gathered around a bonfire on a residential street.

One woman was treated for minor burns after the drunken disturbance early Friday near California State University, Chico.

Authorities say 200 to 300 people gathered around the fire at Sixth Street before midnight Thursday, adding a couch and other items to the blaze.

Police blocked off several streets, but the crowd refused to leave, throwing rocks and bottles into the street. The area was quiet by 1:30 a.m. Friday.

It’s unclear what prompted the gathering. Some witnesses said nearby house parties may have spilled into the street, while others say it was to mark the first week of the new semester.

“There isn’t an abomination award going that you haven’t won, Martha.”

Veteran UD readers know that UD finds in her favorite play, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, many lines and sentiments applicable to current university events, and that one up there, about abomination awards, went through my mind when I read of the latest exploits of that most abominable American campus, Chico State.

One of its fraternities went to a national forest and as part of its hazing procedure cut down 32 trees.

This is the sort of thing that raises everyone’s game. Any fraternity can make a vulnerable young person, eager for acceptance, drink himself to death. It takes genius to realize that there’s a whole world of vulnerable nature out there too.

Animals? Fraternities have been torturing animals since forever. But unless UD is mistaken, chopping down a national forest is – well – the cutting edge.

When new campus abomination awards are handed out, Chico State University almost always gets them.


Sustainable Chico! Making room for new trees in our national forests!

Since UD’s always checking Google News…

… she’s able to watch certain stories grow, take a particular shape…

Most stories go nowhere, but some stories – like the ongoing one about the University of Chicago undergraduate found dead in his dorm room – rather quickly go national, and then international, and it’s worth considering why.

After all, hideous as it is, several American university students die each week. They get too drunk to find their way home and meet misadventure; they get drunk and get in fights and get beaten to death; they get hazed to death; they kill themselves; they overdose or they drink themselves to death. Some years, some schools (in the last few years, Cal Tech, Cornell, Chico State, NYU; most recently, the University of Pennsylvania) suffer as many as three or four student deaths in one semester or one year, and the press takes notice, and people at these schools agonize over what in their campus culture might be contributing to this. Sometimes, some schools, like UD‘s own U of C, experience an individual death whose details capture public attention.

It should also be said that high-profile schools, like the University of Chicago, are more likely to receive a lot of attention merely because they are high-profile.

So this particular death, this death at Chicago, featured two of these press-attracting elements: It happened at a high-profile school, and there’s a lurid quality to one of its details.

The student’s absence was not noticed for a number of days. His body, as it lay face-down on the floor of his dorm room (he lived in a single), was, by the time it was discovered, decomposing.

This is undoubtedly a chilling detail. It’s certainly chilling to ol’ UD, since she has no trouble envisioning with precision the scene at the dorm. She lived directly across from it – International House, it’s called – during her last two years in Hyde Park, and often visited.

Newspapers like USA Today (DEAD STUDENT LAY UNNOTICED IN DORM FOR DAYS) will exploit this lurid detail; they will use it, perhaps, to say or suggest something about the anonymity and indifference of big cities, or of big city schools. But UD‘s of a different mind. It doesn’t seem that strange to her that any grown-up (outside of the sort of people who have bodyguards) might die and fail to be discovered for a few days. We grant each other a lot of space, a lot of independence, in this country, and college in particular is a time during which we leave people alone to think, read, explore.

Initial results in this death suggest no foul play; toxicology reports are pending. Suicide or an overdose is most likely.

“As part of the push to make its 3-year-old [football] stadium a little more fan friendly, FAU is turning the southeast portion into an area called The Cove, complete with inflatable swimming pools and beach chairs.”

Florida Atlantic University’s desperation to get people to come to its new stadium grows. As a local columnist pointed out during the prison-naming fiasco, “[FAU] built a $70 million facility that’s nearly empty year-round, even during home football games.”

Specifics? You’re looking at four thousand people scattered around 30,000 seats. And remember how it goes: Four thousand show up… Game doesn’t look promising after a half hour or so… Two thousand begin leaving… The two thousand left stay because they’re too drunk to walk…

Better keep the stadium swimming pools shallow, or you’ll drown your students… Remember Chico State!

It all adds up to a massive police state – nanny state – presence at the games. Two hundred armed police glare at two thousand drunk and despondent (team lost; alcohol’s a depressant) students furiously slashing at the water in their baby pools…

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