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.

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3 Responses to “Chico State Body Count.”

  1. david foster Says:

    “Faculty were almost totally uncooperative”…not clear to me how much faculty could do to realistically address this problem, EXCEPT by maintaining high academic standards that would actually require some…work…which, of course, they ought to be doing anyhow.

    Closing the place down and starting afresh isn’t a crazy idea. My experience is that it’s much easier to establish a good culture in a new organization than to fix a culture in an existing organization.

    Part of any such fix should be getting rid of all senior administrators…possible exception for any who’ve only been there for a year or less.

    Institutions don’t always need to be immortal. Sometimes the best thing to do is let it die, and allow the resources, both physical and human, to be put to better use.

  2. Matt_L Says:

    Chico has always been a party school. I remember looking at it in the 1980s when I was applying to schools as a senior. Chico and Redlands had totally degenerate reputations. Sure, shut it down. Except, given the state of higher ed finances in California, it would never open its doors again. That would be a shame given the increasing demands for higher ed and the reluctance of state politicians everywhere to fund it.

  3. University Diaries » Update, Chico State Says:

    […] the 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 […]

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