Chico State Greeks Zingged by suspension

15 11 2012

As of November 15, 2012, all Greek organizations have been suspended at Chico State.

Truthfully, I can’t say that I’m surprised.

When I first started working for The Orion in 2009 as a news reporter, I was assigned to cover the Greeks on campus. I had lived in Modesto for years before moving to Chico, so I didn’t come in with the preconceptions about the Greek system that other students did. I saw the assignment as just another job to do along with my other reporting duties, and didn’t understand why the other reporters looked sideways at each other when I volunteered for the assignment. It was that or covering the Academic Senate–and I had sat in enough of those meetings at Modesto Junior College to last me a lifetime.

Covering the fraternities and sororities at Chico State became one of the most frustrating experiences for me personally as a student journalist, though. Initially, I stood up for the Greeks at staff meetings. I pitched stories regarding their community service and went out of my way to interview many members, not just the ones who popped up on the police blotter.

By the end of the semester all I wanted to do was, in the immortal words of Al Pacino’s character in Scent of a Woman, take a flamethrower to the place. It culminated with being thrown out of the Greek council for being a member of the Orion staff–not for something I wrote. The presidents then sent me an e-mail stating that the Greeks would no longer talk to Orion reporters because of Misrepresentation of facts, quotes that do not accurately represent our Greek Community, headlines that are sensational and do not accurately reflect what is currently happening in the Greek Community and positive articles about our Greek Community countered by negative articles in the same issue.”

They did, however, state that “representatives of the respective councils will submit a written weekly update to the appropriate editor/reporter” which they expected us to print. How thoughtful of them.

In the time I spent covering them, the pattern became clear: if something looks bad for the Greeks, it must be someone else’s fault. Alcohol poisoning? Everyone else in Chico does it. Hazing? People are picking on us because we’re Greeks. Give a quote that makes someone look bad? The reporter shouldn’t have printed it–they’re out to get us. Stupid behavior in general? Point the finger somewhere else.

If you say that your motto, “Letters today, leaders tomorrow,” exemplifies your commitment to your pillars of distinction and university mission and values, you need to live up to that promise. Nobody expects great behavior from Joe Schmoe on a Friday night, who only went to college because his parents paid for it. He’s not holding himself out to be a cut above everyone else; he just wants to survive his classes and have another shot of tequila.

But when you claim to be of a higher quality than the typical college student, you have to back that up not just with good deeds but with an absence of bad ones as well. The Greeks want the benefits and the acclaim, but not the responsibility. If you’re part of an organization, you bear both the good and bad of what it does.

The Greeks’ record stands for itself. Conspiracy theories and willful ignorance just won’t work anymore.

It’s time to reboot the system.


Think CSU funding is safe? Don’t believe the hype–it isn’t

10 10 2010


Dennis Hollingsworth and Darrell Steinberg

Budget deal? Or shell game?


Photo courtesy of Associated Press

As I watched the news and read Chico State President Paul Zingg’s reaction to the budget, I was struck by the optimism displayed by both the news anchors and Zingg.

While I hate to be a spoilsport, I have to ask:  did anybody actually read the budget?

The budget summary says, “The Budget Act closes an estimated budget gap of $19.3 billion by a combination of expenditure reductions, federal funds, and other solutions.”  Well, that’s a polite way of saying accounting tricks and wishful thinking.

This budget that was passed has a really big hole–and that hole is about $5.4 billion dollars wide.  So what do they think they’ll get additional funds for?

1.  Federal reimbursement for the cost of incarcerating undocumented immigrant felons.  (Uh huh, because no other administration has tried to get reimbursed.  They must have just forgot.  Glad to know it’s being fixed. 😛 )

2.  Special education–$1 billion worth.

3.  An increase in the state’s Federal Medical Assistance Percentage and money owed to the state for incorrect Medicare disability determinations.

For the CSUs and UCs, the budget assumes that $106 million apiece can be saved by shifting costs to what’s called the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act State Fiscal Stabilization Fund.  There’s just one problem though.  It’s one-time funding only.  What happens next year?

Let’s now ask the question:  if the Democrats, who cast themselves as the friends of higher education and the poor, weren’t willing to give the state $5.4 billion–why does California think that the Republicans, who are casting themselves as the party of fiscal responsibility and will probably take back the House and Senate, would give them that kind of money?

The answer, of course, is that they won’t.  Neither party is willing to bail out California.

So we still have $5.4 billion that doesn’t exist, but it’s assumed the money will eventually show up.  Somehow.

If it doesn’t appear, what happens in the middle of the fiscal year?

That’s right.  Budgets start to be cut.  Fees start to be raised.  The word “furloughs” will come up again.

I would prefer to be wrong.  I would like to be the person who cried “wolf” and was made a fool of by Congress adding over $5 billion into the state budget.  I could live with that.

But I have a sneaking suspicion I’m going to be proved right.

And that doesn’t please me one damn bit.  Not this time.

Why is California broke?

31 07 2010

I wish I could say I wrote this…but I didn’t.  And it’s funny, but it’s also sad because it could be true.


The governor of California is jogging with his dog along a nature trail.
A coyote jumps out and attacks the governor’s dog, then bites the governor.

1.  The governor starts to intervene, but reflects upon the movie “Bambi” and then realizes he should stop; the coyote is only doing what is natural.

2.  He calls animal control.  Animal Control captures the coyote and bills the state $200 testing it for diseases and $500 for relocating it.

3.  He calls a veterinarian.  The vet collects the dead dog and bills the state $200 testing it for diseases.

4.  The governor goes to the hospital and spends $3,500 getting checked for diseases from the coyote and on getting his bite wound bandaged.

5.  The running trail gets shut down for 6 months while the Department of Fish & Game conducts a $100,000 survey to make sure the area is free of dangerous animals.

6.  The governor spends $50,000 in state funds implementing a “coyote awareness program” for residents of the area.

7.  The state legislature spends $2 million to study how to better treat rabies and how to permanently eradicate the disease throughout the world.

8.  The governor’s security agent is fired for not stopping the attack.  State spends $150,000 to hire and train a new agent with additional special training re: the nature of coyotes.

9. PETA protests the coyote’s relocation and files a $5 million suit against California.


The governor of Arizona is jogging with her dog along a nature trail.  A coyote jumps out and attacks her dog.

1. The governor shoots the coyote with her state-issued pistol and keeps jogging.
The governor has spent $0.50 on a .45 ACP hollow point cartridge.

2. The buzzards eat the dead coyote.

And that’s why California is broke.

The savior of Louisiana from crude oil is…Kevin Costner????

24 05 2010

Kevin Costner

It’s Waterworld:  The Wrath of Oil.  And Kevin Costner is here to save the day.

And this time it won’t cost $100 million.

As British Petroleum enters its second month of dealing with an exploding oil rig and subsequent oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico, its efforts are noticed more for its failures than its successes.

Big steel dome over the top?  Nope–didn’t work.

Next idea?  Inserting a mile-long, 6-inch tube into the 21-inch leaking oil pipe and siphoning the oil that way.  We can call this Operation Hot Dog Down a Hallway.  That one’s not working either.

Their latest idea involves shooting golf balls, rope, and various forms of junk into the hole to plug it up.  They call this a “junk shot”.

It’s beginning to look like BP is run by Wile E. Coyote.  The only thing that’s missing is the ACME box this stuff comes in.

But there is one ray of hope:  Kevin Costner.  Yep–the Waterworld/Dances with Wolves guy.

Costner spent $26 million of his own money developing a device that separates oil from water, like a giant vacuum cleaner/centrifuge.  Called Ocean Therapy,  the device seems to work as advertised.

Which, if you think about it, really sucks for BP.

British Petroleum had revenues of $246 billion last year.  All their efforts to control the oil leak have failed.  They haven’t been able to control the oil washing up on the beaches either.

And here comes Costner.   With a machine that could clean up to 200 gallons of water a minute.  So far, that’s better than what a multinational corporation with billions of dollars at their disposal has come up with.

Kevin Costner could save Louisiana.  From British Petroleum.   In real life.  It could happen.

The only good news for BP management?  The company isn’t Japanese.  So at least no ritual suicide will be involved.

A few resignations wouldn’t hurt, though.

I am more than the sum of my Web parts

22 04 2010

My grandmother was a nurse for over 50 years, treating thousands of patients.  My paternal grandfather spent years as a ranch foreman in Porterville, making sure that the orange groves turned out juicy, delicious fruit.

And yet, neither one of them are on the Web.

Tim Berners-Lee said, “If it isn’t on the Web, it doesn’t exist.”  Well, I don’t buy it.

Berners-Lee equates physical existence with a presence on the World Wide Web.  But in reality, the only reason most of us are there is because someone took the time to upload a document concerning us.

I spent the better part of a year serving on a committee overseeing $326 million in bond money for my community college district.  However, the lag time between meetings and the actual published records for those meetings was about six months.  Does that mean the meetings didn’t exist?

Uh uh.  Not even close.

As I was surfing the news sites today, I discovered a small news item about the O.K. Corral shooting–you know, the famous shootout with the Earps vs. the McLaury brothers and Billy Clanton.

They found the original notes from the coroner’s inquest that hadn’t been seen in 50 years.  It’s a great historical find.  Denise Lundin, Cochise County’s chief court clerk, said the documents are “just beautiful.”

However, the documents aren’t on the Web.

The Web is not the Alpha and Omega of human existence.  We are beings of thought and action, perfectly capable of operating without being plugged into the electronic ether.  We utilize tools like the Web to make our lives easier.

The Web is a tribute to our ingenuity.  It doesn’t define us.  And the Web can’t move heaters into an orange grove when the temperature drops to freezing.

But Jack could.  And he did.  Without any assistance from Berners-Lee whatsoever.

Zombies are people too…

16 04 2010

War has been declared on The Orion.

In the wake of the Humans v. Zombies game on campus, an opinion piece was written by an Orion staff member that caused a lot of anger and controversy. It hasn’t cooled down yet, either.

Words were used referring to the players as “assholes”, “chump”, “moron” and “mentally incompetent”. Understandably, many people weren’t happy with the descriptions.

This is where the First Amendment runs smack into reality.

Many people think that the amendment gives them the right to say whatever they want. That’s not the case. What it says is, “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press…”

Congress can’t do that. Private citizens? Not included in that little part of the Constitution.

No, you don’t always get to say what you want. The university is a little fiefdom of sanctuary in the middle of the real world. Student journalists enjoy protections, especially at Chico State, that regular journalists simply don’t have.

Leave the confines of The Orion, and what you thought was funny will never make it through the editing process.

There seems to be a tendency lately for college papers to print things simply because they can. I’m not sure if it’s a reaction to not having parental supervision, or if some editors just thought that this inflammatory column was a good idea.

If words like “mentally incompetent” were used to describe PRIDE members, there’d be an uproar. That would be a good thing.

I’d like to know that some thought was put into whether this should be printed. I’d like to believe that there was discussion once the final product was turned in.

Or maybe I don’t. Because if there was discussion, and it still was approved, that would concern me more than anything else.

The First Amendment isn’t a club to beat down others. It’s a shield to protect people from those who seek to take away our rights.

Future journalists should keep that in mind.

New tasty McNugget news! With spicy comment sauce!

8 04 2010

My grade was on the line. So were the other 20-odd people in the radio broadcasting class.

The instructor looked down at us and uttered those fateful words.

“Write copy for your on-air newscast. Inverted pyramid, eight news items, weather and traffic. You have fifteen minutes,” he said.

And then, the kicker.

“If your news item is more than four lines long, it’s TOO long. Cut it. People won’t listen that long.”

I thought when I left radio, that idea would go out the window.

That shows you what I know.

It seems that writing for the Web has become much like radio—short bites of information, with entertainment in between.

The new style even employs the same format as radio. The words are different, but the idea is the same: open with the big station promo, tease to what’s coming up, promote your fellow DJs, and get your listeners to call in because people love to hear themselves on the radio.

Writing for the Web now? Open with the big headline, tease with a good summary deck, hyperlink to other writers, and keep those comment boards open because people love to see themselves in print.

I’m not sure I like how this is going. That copy assignment for my radio class had me sweating. What goes? What stays? Is it too long? Too short? Does it say what it needs to say?

That’s the real problem. We’ve gotten used to the McNugget version of news. We don’t explore on our own. We’ve outsourced our own curiosity to people we think are trustworthy.

News organizations aren’t doing the public a favor by chunking up the news. We’re not helping ourselves by letting them. And considering the state of radio, perhaps it’s not a good idea to copy a dying industry.

Chunks belong in my peanut butter. Not news writing.