Monday, December 8, 2008

Freelance Writer Gone Wild: The Article You're Not Supposed To Read!

Greetings reader!

This is my first time on Blogger so...welcome! I feel like I should be wearing one of those name tags that informs the reader that I'm still in training. Nevertheless, here goes something.

Recently, I started writing freelance for Girls Gone Wild magazine (yes, you read that right.) After writing a soon-to-be-published article on what not to do at a bachelor party in Vegas (what, you were expecting a sobering analysis on 2009's economic forecast?) I was commissioned to write a piece on college fraternities that have been banned in the U.S.A. After being told my first go was too "textbooky" and didn't contain any of my "voice," I submitted two more rewrites, which were ultimately deemed not "edgy" enough for publication. Apparently, if the story doesn't end with a guy getting his rocks off or two girls going at it, then it's not quite right for the faithful GGW readers. Anyhow, the beat goes on, but I though I'd let you read the article for yourself and you can tell me if you think it's something you'd read on an airplane, StairMaster, or even in everyone's favorite "reading room" in their house. Enjoy!

Buzzkill: How Some College Fraternities Got Banned

College fraternities. When most people hear that phrase they usually conjure up images of toga-clad frat boys and naked sorority babes running amok a la the collegiate comedy classic “National Lampoon’s Animal House.” As most of us know, though, movie college and real college are two wholly different things. For instance, in real college, you actually have to study. When I started out as undergrad back in…well, let’s just say that Girls Gone Wild was merely a gleam in Joe Francis’ eye, I went to a liberal arts school in downtown Chicago and we didn’t have any fraternities. We had cliques, to be sure – film geeks, theater geeks, and of course, people who were just flat-out geeks – but my campus experience wasn’t anything like the debauched revelry shown in movies like “Revenge of the Nerds” or “Back to School.” However, after doing a search on some of America’s top fraternities and the nefarious (read: illegal) activities that have resulted in them being booted off campus, I’m just glad I survived college at all.

Now, it’s no surprise that college students loves them some beer – after all, what is college but a four-year drinking binge disguised as aspirations for higher learning? So when the news reports about the occasional fraternity pledge o.d.’ing due to excessive amounts of alcohol, it doesn’t seem very shocking. What is shocking, however, is what happens after the keg has been tapped, like in 2002, when members of Sigma Alpha

Epsilon and Delta Kappa Epsilon at Syracuse University were put on interim suspension after engaging in an alcohol-fueled brawl that involved over 100 people at a local tavern. Yikes. That same year, the chapters of Zeta Psi and Alpha Chi Rho were suspended after a member of the latter fraternity hit a Zeta with a sock containing a billiard ball – ouch! I guess there’s a little bit of rivalry among most fraternities, but barfights and homemade weapons sounds a little too “Jets vs. Sharks” to me.

In other cases, it’s not so much the alcohol itself as what’s going in it that is the problem. In 2005, nine female University of Colorado students were hospitalized for alcohol consumption after a party thrown by the Sigma Pi and Phi Kappa Tau fraternities. Traces of Gamma Hydroxybutyrate, also known as GHB, or the “date rape drug,” were found in blood samples of two of the students, one of which suffered a nearly fatal dose of the infamous substance. UC offered a $1,000 reward for anyone who had information relating to the incident, but not surprisingly, not one student came forward. In 2001, Dartmouth University closed their Zeta Psi chapter after a newsletter was circulated that detailed the sexual exploits of it’s frat brothers and even went so far as to list names and photographs of their female undergrad conquests. The informative periodical also promised “patented” date rape techniques in future issues, which luckily never saw the light of day. Ten years prior to that incident, a female Temple University student alleged that she was gang-raped by four male students and two Alpha Phi Delta members. The charges were eventually dropped, but the university ultimately revoked it’s recognition of the fraternity chapter.

Even consensual sexual escapades have landed certain chapters in hot water. It’s no secret that college students are avid porn fans, but in 2005, members of Phi Kappa Tau at Cal State-Chico were suspended for actually participating in a skin flick shot on campus. The “Shane’s World” DVD series based in Van Nuys, California apparently received a request from the fraternity to be featured in one of the company’s popular “College Invasion” installments. The DVD features several frat members engaging in hardcore sex acts with actual porn actresses, something that, while certainly commendable, doesn’t look very good on a resume when applying to grad schools.

Now when it comes to pledge-hazing, we’ve all heard the urban legends. You know, like the infamous, and bizarrely homoerotic, thumb-up-your-neighbors-butt “classic” known as “The Elephant Walk” or the God-awful-sounding “Ookie Cookie” where a group of frat members masturbate onto a cracker and…well, you get the idea. While the line between fully committing to the brotherhood and competing on an episode of “Fear Factor” gets blurred beyond oblivion, the most severe cases of pledge-hazing are anything but a laughing matter. In 2005 at UC Irvine, a 19 year old student died after sustaining massive head injuries during a football game in which 9 pledges were pitted against 40 (!) Lambda Phi Epsilon members. The chapter was initially suspended then ultimately disbarred. That same year, a 22 year old Cal State University student pledging the Chi Tau fraternity died during “Hell Week” after being held hostage in a campus basement where he and another student were forced to do calisthenics in raw sewage, endure blasts of ice-cold air on their wet bodies, and drink from a five gallon jug of water. The pledge eventually collapsed into a seizure and was soon pronounced dead from water intoxication. Five Chi Tau members, all in their early 20s, received one year prison sentences for participating in the hazing incident.

If you think hazing is a thing of the past, think again. Earlier this year, ten Pi Kappa Alpha members at Tulane University faced felony charges, as well as suspension, after burning pledges with hot water and pepper spray, then smearing their bodies with flour, vinegar, cayenne pepper, and wasabi sauce. Two students were treated for severe burns and the frat members were charged with aggravated second degree battery. At the University of Wisconsin, Sigma Phi Epsilon’s new pledges were encouraged to carry the grand ol’ tradition of dumping bucket loads of vomit, urine, and fecal matter upon the chapter’s older members. Frat members escaped expulsion, however, since the incident was not considered hazing and was not sanctioned or supervised by chapter leaders.

And just this past May, a sorority member’s death due to an overdose of cocaine at San Diego State led to a sweeping drug raid in which six fraternities were suspended for selling coke, Ecstasy, methamphetamines, and prescription drugs. The arrest came after a frat member, who, ironically, was a criminal justice major, sent a mass text to his customers advertising reduced rates of his product. Of the 96 students arrested, 18 of them were arrested for selling drugs to undercover cops – d’oh! - who collected nearly $100,000 worth of drugs during the raid. And to think all the college students I knew were flat broke.

And let us not forget my personal favorite Hall of Shame-worthy campus caper: in 2006, the Alpha Gamma Rho chapter at Western Kentucky University was suspended after university police responded to complaints about strange noises coming from a frat house basement and discovered a goat tied up and standing in its own urine and feces. Also found on the scene were several unrolled condoms, which, after further examination, yielded no evidence of any semen. The fraternity president claims the goat was used to fool pledges into thinking they were to have sex with the animal, but it was merely a hazing prank that got out hand. While that very well may be true, it was later discovered that the goat indeed had – wait for it - abrasions in its rectum. Coincidence? You decide, but keep in mind that the abbreviation of Kentucky is, in fact, “KY.”

So, guys, take it from someone who survived college without ever once having to scrub the cafeteria floor with a toothbrush, much less being turned into a human Port-A-Potty - if you’re a college dude and you really want to belong to a group, here’s one to strive for: the graduating class! However, if pulling a train on a farm animal or having piping hot liquids poured on your nuts is your idea of group bonding, then be my guest. Me, I’ll just take my lil’ Bachelor of Arts degree as my parting gift and just be thankful that I made it out after four years alive and with all my body parts – and my dignity- fully in tact.

~ T.W. Porrill

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