A string of dangerous incidents came to the public’s attention, so the university says it is working on fixing it. To prove they really mean it, a consultant has been hired to scope out what’s up.
Gentry McCreary of Dyad Strategies issued a report on Oct. 24, noting some of the risky behaviors going on in Greektown and how the university might better manage those risks.
Some of those risks? Hard liquor at parties, hazing freshmen living in the houses, too few upperclassmen around to supervise and — are you sitting down, dear reader? — substance abuse and underage drinking. Hardly shocking, except for some administrators.
Interim Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Gary Ward says when he took on the role in May, he was instantly made aware of some incidents that made him “scared to death. I was hearing very disturbing things that put me in concern for the university.”
Dean of Students Jeff Zeilenga stressed we haven’t made national headlines (yet), like at Penn State and LSU, where students have died from binge drinking. In other words, it could be worse.
And not surprisingly, Greek leadership’s response, or lack thereof, was to be closed-lipped, as to not have “any misinformation going out to the media.” Sounds like a future corporate spin doctor.
This is also no surprise.
My 13-year-old son and I were on a bike ride a few months ago, up the MKT trail to tour around campus landmarks like Memorial Union and the columns.
Across Providence Road, we cut through Greektown as apparently the early-evening revelry was getting going, with people hanging on balconies hollering, “Hey, the biker gang! Whoo!” My son giggled in agreement at my observation, “Welcome to the Las Vegas of Columbia.”
MU has a reputation as a party school. Middle-class suburban kids flock here from St. Louis and Kansas City and sow their wild oats.
The classic 1978 movie “National Lampoon’s Animal House” with John Belushi was almost filmed here. On our “dry campus” after a football game, look out for the trash heap of empty bottles of booze littered about, even (or especially) in the student section.
If this university were serious about the primacy of academic success, numerous Greek houses would have been disciplined or altogether shuttered years ago. Anybody responsible for literally forcing booze down a pledge’s throat should not only be expelled but subject to criminal prosecution.
If the Greek community were serious about earning a reputation of safety and responsible behavior, it would self-enforce an ethical code and purge bad actors. By cleaning up, they would have credibility in reaching their tradition’s upmost potential of building leadership qualities, fostering lifelong relationships and molding recruits into the most upstanding students on campus and in our community at large.
But will anything like that happen? Or after a few press conferences will this be chalked up as just yet another episode of bad PR to be smoothed over? Will this institution prove its corruption by not daring to rock the boat concerning monied Greek alumni donors who are an important revenue source in this era of reduced state subsidies?
If nothing is done, Greektown at large will continue its celebrated tradition as a village of debauchery. Men and women will continue to be put at risk, bad habits will be systematically reinforced and the university’s reputation will hang in the balance.
Columnist Steve Spellman hosts “The Mid-Missouri Freedom Forum” on 89.5 KOPN at 5 p.m. every Tuesday.