Already-plowed ground alert: I try not to take all my cues from “This American Life,” but ever since I heard #1 Party School earlier this year, I’ve been thinking a lot about drinking on college campuses, which from recent descriptions, sound like the new Indian reservations, alcohol-wise.
In comments yesterday, one of our Marks pointed out this Smoking Gun report on a wild debauch held by the Ohio University chapter of Pi Beta Phi sorority for their spring formal. This follows an earlier report on the same sorority, at Miami University this time, doing much the same thing. And a different sorority at Miami, same behavior.
If, by “debauch,” you’re thinking stained tablecloths and broken chairs, I encourage you to read the reports. I’m talking about vomit so copious it’s practically an intermezzo course at dinner, pee everywhere but where it belongs, poop on lawns and in urinals, and, of course, public sex.
If this were just a fraternity I might not have even taken note, but it so happens my subset of the baby boom happened to be the leading wave of new traditionalism, after the ’60s. All those Time magazine stories about the return of prom were written my senior year — 1975. If you’re all of a sudden going to prom again, you’re also going to pledge a fraternity or sorority, too.
Not me, I hasten to add. I’m about as un-Hellenic as you can get. Plus, Ohio University was a filthy-hippie haven at the time, although there were Greeks there. They didn’t dominate the social scene they way they did at Miami — the antimatter version of OU — or Ohio State, but they made their presence felt, and one of the things you learned about them was their pecking order. At the bottom, the “ugly-girl” house, was Phi Mu. Mark the Shark’s very pretty wife was a Phi Mu, and he taught me the frat-boy snark:
Rattle rattle rattle
Here come the cattle
But at the top were the Pi Beta Phis, the alpha girls, the mean girls, every single one of them blonde, beautiful and no larger than a size 2. The worst of the worst. Their male equivalent was Beta Theta Pi, and I expect they were paired off in a top-secret basement ritual, so that they’d only breed with one another and turn out a new generation of blonde tennis pros and Junior Leaguers.
I’m sure they drank plenty behind the doors of their respective houses, and I’m equally sure there was vomit, but I’d have been shocked if the peeing was done anywhere but the bathroom and the pooping? Please. These were the Pi Phis. They didn’t poop. Their waste was extruded in an even more secret manner than the pairing ritual, and when it emerged, smelled only of blueberry muffins.
Truth be told, it’s the public-sex part that concerns me most. The letter written by the owner of the trashed venue of the OU Pi Phi party this year mentions:
…”a couple engaging in sexual congress, while surrounded by a cheering throng,” and that a bathroom sink was broken as a result of “one of your members and her date attempting to have sexual relations on it, an act which was witnessed by the event’s caterer, who walked in on them.”
I know alcohol lowers inhibitions. I have had plenty of forehead-smacking moments of shame on many pitiless mornings after. I have been drunk in my life, believe you me. But even in my crazy early adulthood, I can no more imagine myself having sex surrounded by a cheering throng than I can imagine flying a plane into an office building. If this is what campus partying has come to, I’m worried.
In “#1 Party School” — which I encourage you to listen to, via stream or podcast — the statistics fly by in a blur. The two most depressing: Penn State (and many other schools like it) records about one alcohol-related student death a year. And the only thing, the only strategy that has proven even minimally effective in curbing the sort of blackout-seeking drinking that prevails on college campuses these days, is draconian police action — drunk-driving dragnets, aggressive ID policing in bars, raids on house parties, basically.
It’s pretty depressing, when you think about it. OU was a party school when I was there; rumor had it we were on a list somewhere, maybe in Playboy magazine. The main drag was one bar after another, and as any Econ 101 student can tell you, that meant lots of competition for customers. I believe I spent time in every one on Court and Union Streets in my college career, and I was familiar with them all — drink ‘n’ drown Monday, Texas Cocktail Tuesday, two-for-one Hump Day, daiquiris by the pitcher, beer by the bucket, you name it. Senior year, one of the bars installed a dentist chair for the latest wrinkle: You paid your money, sat in the chair, and they reclined you. You opened your mouth, and they poured several shots straight in, followed by a wheeeee spin in the chair to mix everything up. Then you were righted and sent on your wobbly way. I found this repulsive. By senior year, I was too sophisticated for such juvenile shenanigans.
Maybe that was the tipping point. It seemed to take drinking from social lubricant to blackout hastener. Where it is now is hard to say. I expect the Pi Phis will start drinking their hairspray next.
So, bloggage? Sure:
In re our discussion yesterday, the last days of Sen. Chris Dodd. Note the disconnect:
As Senator Christopher J. Dodd completed what might be the capstone of his legislative career last week by shepherding a major banking overhaul through the Senate, the guest book in his office offered a glimpse of why he is not seeking re-election. It includes these recent greetings from visitors who stopped by to pay their disrespects:
“Good bye and good riddance to you,” wrote one guest on May 16. “I know it’s tough, but I expected better,” said another (April 15). “Thank you for being corrupt” (March 26).
…“A natural, intuitive legislator,” Senator Judd Gregg, Republican of New Hampshire, calls him. “Easily one of the best-liked members here,” said Senator Robert F. Bennett, Republican of Utah. Senator Tom Harkin, Democrat of Iowa, said Mr. Dodd embodied “everything that is good about this place.”
Given the yin-and-yang dynamic that governs today’s political landscape, Mr. Dodd offers a basic object lesson: the more entrenched someone is in Washington, the less popular he is at home.
I’m sure everyone has heard by now about Sarah Palin’s new neighbor, whom she, in typically restrained fashion, basically accuses of looking at her tits and maybe even her sweet little girl. Now it’s time for the second-day story, which if I were assigning it would be: Who owns the house, and why did he or she rent it to a snoopy journalist in the first place? In other words, why do Sarah Palin’s neighbors hate her? (I suspect the answer is in the two-story, 6,000-square-foot TV studio/man cave/lady cave they’re building, but that’s just off the top of my head.
She describes McGinniss as the author of “the bizarre anti-Palin administration oil development pieces that resulted in my Department of Natural Resources announcing that his work is the most twisted energy-related yellow journalism they’d ever encountered.”
Another way of putting it would be that McGinniss is an investigative journalist who wrote his first best-seller at age 26 and was shopping a book about Alaska and the oil industry when Palin was named John McCain’s running mate. And another way of describing those “bizarre” pieces is that no one has ever challenged the facts in them.
Palin, who has an undergraduate degree in journalism, should understand that articles don’t become untrue when the subjects don’t agree with them.
Mary Schmich: Hoarding is not entertaining. We had a case in the suburbs here a few months back, an elderly couple who died, along with their disabled daughter, when a fire broke out and they couldn’t reach the single clear exit to their house, because the rest were blocked by junk.
Ten a.m. already? Time to get moving.