Thursday, June 29, 2017

Lights and Sirens

Friday, Oct. 27

9:55 a.m.: Generic fire call

Passengers were evacuated from a UC shuttle that caught on fire outside Warren Student Activity Center.

7:40 p.m.: Suspicious person

A bearded Latino male in his 40s wearing a fur-lined jean jacket was seen loitering in Price Center. According to the reporter, the man looked as though he did not belong. The suspect left the area when spotted.

11:01 p.m.: Noise disturbance

A call brought officers to Regents Road, where the reporter complained that the apartment above them was making too much noise doing their laundry. Subjects cooperated.

Saturday, Oct. 28

10:50 a.m.: Animal call

John Muir College Residence Dean Pat Danylyshyn-Adams reported a brown pit bull running in and out of the street in front of the Che Cafe.

Sunday, Oct. 29

1:22 a.m.: Suspicious person

Police were called when a group of three to four males were seen pushing a female on a skateboard.

12:27 p.m.: Preserve the peace

Officers were brought to RIMAC Field when a small crowd of people was seen yelling and screaming at each other.

Monday, Oct. 30

10:55 a.m.: Medical aid

A 20-year-old male at Birch Admissions fell backward and hit his head. While he was conscious, breathing and not bleeding, his mother believed he was not responding properly.

3:36 p.m.: Report of burglary

An unknown suspect stole two dragon-boat racing paddles and a pair of sunglasses from a locked vehicle in Pangea Parking Structure. Report taken.

3:57 p.m.: Person down

An elderly male, possibly a transient, fell down a dirt hill between Isaacs Hill and Southwest Fisheries Science Center. Unable to locate.

Tuesday, Oct. 31

12:08 a.m.: Illegal camping

Officers responded to the Glider Port on Torrey Pines Scenic Drive when it was reported that transients were camping on the beach.

8:26 a.m.: Report of grand theft

Two computers and a printer were stolen from Humanities and Social Sciences building. There was no sign of forced entry. Report taken.

2:36 p.m.: Noninjury accident

A vehicle rolled out of its stall in Lot 704 and collided with another vehicle. No injuries reported.

10:40 p.m.: Party disturbance

A female student called police after she was invited to an ""alcohol party"" in Asia Hall.

Wednesday, Nov. 1

10:05 a.m.: Citizen contact

Police were contacted when a door was reported stolen from an office in the Student Center. It was confirmed to be that of the Koala office, but the reporter had no information on the suspects. Report taken.

11:38 a.m.: Citizen contact

An unknown suspect broke into two massage chairs in the Price Center lobby, presumably to steal coins. No suspect information was provided.

3:52 p.m.: Citizen contact

A student reported that an unknown male sold him a fraudulent parking pass outside the information booth on Gilman Drive. The student later received a ticket for $300.

Editorial: Petitions for a Gov. Student Fee Buyout Misplaced

This time last year, legislators and college lobbyists and officials celebrated Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's student fee buyout plan with appropriate Hollywood-like excess. His move to buy out $75 million worth of increases in college student fees incited a flurry of praises — 'historic,' 'relieving' and 'progressive' made up a small selection of the public bravado on last year's move.

A year later, the pendulum swings, and the descriptors are noticeably different. The governor's current budget contains no safety net, spurring UC Student Association President Bill Shiebler to tell the Daily Bruin, 'Students are feeling angry, frustrated and betrayed.'

But this is no highway robbery. Schwarzenegger promised no buyouts beyond his election year and the state's nonpartisan analyst's office publicly fretted that the governor's one-time save would upset a delicate, gradual and predictable system of fee increases. Even this board scolded the plan's shortsightedness.

So as student groups begin their host of Sacramento-bound petitions to advocate another buyout, they should realize that context does not favor them. Schwarzenegger will be battling a billion-dollar deficit while trying to push other cost-heavy agendas, including his expansive health care plan.

Students would be smart to lobby for other efforts, including the revival of the empty line item in this year's budget for academic preparation programs, an outreach tool that serves disadvantaged and underrepresented students. There are worthier causes, most of which serve more students than another one-time buyout — and that deserves attention.

Education Takes a Back Seat to Economics

Go to college, pick a useful major and graduate in order to get a decent paying job with benefits, preferably dental and medical. Sounds like well-meaning advice from elders, but it's no longer just good guidance — it's a way of survival.

Earning a degree is not about furthering one's education, it's simply smart economic reasoning. Today's college is not just for academic exploration, but for workforce preparation. Degrees show employers what we are capable of — learning. It's not necessary to know the history of South America for a job in business, but what is needed is the ability to quickly learn something and do it well.

A college education is an investment in human capital, and, more specifically, human labor. A more highly educated workforce is more productive, which is why many employers demand college graduates. According to the College Board's Education Pays survey in 2006, a more educated workforce leads to more economic growth as more worker interaction leads to higher productivity, more effective management and quicker integration of technology.

Technology continues to advance at a rapid pace, creating a growing desire for knowledgeable workers. Thus, science- and technology-based degree holders have the opportunity to make the most money and are in the fastest-growing field.

Outside those fields, the highest demand is for graduates with specializations. Professional schools lead the way to even higher salaries because of a much smaller pool of candidates with such training. Wide discrepancies exist between bachelor's degree holders, but someone with an advanced degree can make more money.

As more companies require college graduates, more students will want to gain that type of education. According to basic economics, what happens when demand goes up and supply stays the same? Price goes up. The total cost for four-year institutions grew an average of 5.7 percent during the 2006-07 school year, which comes to a 35-percent increase in overall tuition over the past five years, as reported in the survey. As a result of a higher demand for a college education — made evident by the growing number of applicants each year — tuition continues to climb.

Tuition rates also climb because of a lack of competition. When everyone wants to go to an Ivy League school, they charge as much as possible. Although there is a wide selection of colleges across the county, a monopoly of education remains — which means that to get a good job, one has to pay to play. A well-known school is what many employers and professional schools look for, and cost often reflects reputation. Yale University costs more than Phoenix University for a reason.

Young students are suffering from the rising costs; nearly two-thirds graduate from college owing money. We dive deep into debt for a degree and pay for it in the years to come. According to Experian Group, a credit reporting company, all types of debt are up among 20-somethings, including student loans, credit cards and installment debt.

So not only does a college education benefit employers (a more productive workforce) and the schools (rising tuitions), but we pay for it and pay for it dearly, drowning in debt in the meantime. Where do we benefit?

By getting a diploma, we are investing in job security. Nationally, unemployment is much lower among those holding bachelor's degrees (2.3 percent) than those who only finished high school (5.4 percent). Degrees also typically ensure a higher pay: In 2005, median earnings for college graduates were $13,900 higher than median earnings for high school graduates.

So as universities become more economically oriented, wealth is on the mind of the average student. In the 2006 annual UCLA survey of college freshmen, nearly three-quarters thought it was very important to be financially well off. And when the average grad has loads of debt, satisfaction tends to be lower. The best things in life are free, but money is what's on our minds.

Overlooking the huge price tags, universities are centers for research and the undergrads are simply decoration. Schools make huge amounts of money off of discoveries and professors are there to make them, and sometimes teaching is underemphasized. Especially in the math and science departments, professors — who are leaders in their fields — often stand in front of lecture halls with students staring blankly at the chalkboard. The best in his discipline may be the worst teacher. The focus here is on research — where the money is to be made — and not always on education.

The university is not what it used to be. There are no protests raging with students lighting themselves on fire and the government isn't gassing students. There are no top research scientists on our campus figuring out how to defeat the Soviet Union. Instead, the universities are highly bureaucratic cogs of our society, degree machines, where lucrative discoveries are the focal point. Higher education is a fantastic economic investment for any young person — just don't think it's only about your education.

Judge Blocks Construction of Local Jewish Center

The eagerly awaited construction of a Jewish center for UCSD students has been delayed yet again, this time by Superior Court Judge Linda B. Quinn, who declared that an environmental study must be conducted before construction begins.

""We were really surprised and disappointed in the ruling,"" said Rabbi Lisa Goldstein, the executive director of Hillel at UCSD. ""We have done everything the city has asked us to do.""

Hillel, a Jewish student organization on campus, has been fighting La Jolla property owners for seven years to develop a 12,000-square-foot complex on a vacant lot adjacent to campus. The lot is a triangular piece of land that is situated at the intersection of North Torrey Pines Road and La Jolla Village Drive, across from Revelle College. Since the group was given exclusive rights to the land last November, construction approval has been stalled indefinitely by the lawsuit that brought about the recent ruling.

Attorney Todd Cardiff of Coast Law Group represented the two citizen parties that sued Hillel: Taxpayers for Responsible Land Use and the La Jolla Shores Association. The parties filed the lawsuit because of community and environmental impact concerns.

There is considerable apprehension among the residents of the nearby La Jolla Shores neighborhood that the proposed student center is inappropriate for the community.

""Certain people have moved out just under the threat that Hillel is going to build a student center in the lot,"" Cardiff said.

The center is intended to to be a community hub for Jewish students who find it hard to congregate on campus, according to Goldstein.

However, due to the location of the proposed student center, foot traffic in the surrounding neighborhood would increase by a possible 120 students. Foot traffic would be heavier on Friday nights in particular because of evening Shabbat services. The La Jolla Shores community, which consists predominately of single-family units, is opposed to the disturbance that would likely arise due to the influx of traffic and students.

While the Superior Court did not find sufficient evidence that the student traffic would be overwhelming of the residents of La Jolla Shores, the court agreed that the Hillel proposal could have a significant effect on the environment. Several witnesses have identified various birds of prey living in the eucalyptus trees on the property, including peregrine falcons.

The petitioners claimed that Hillel and the City of San Diego deliberately suppressed a report on the discovery of birds of prey in the eucalyptus trees before clearing the trees for construction. Hillel denied the accusations. Ironically, the city cut down three of the four eucalyptus trees in the lot in 2004 - the same trees that allegedly house various species of birds of prey.

Ultimately, the City of San Diego and Hillel must file an Environmental Impact Report before any further action takes place. The ruling also mandates that all previous decisions and agreements must be declared void, which presumably includes the sale of the property. As of early last week, the court has yet to decide on the status of the land sale.

Hillel currently has two options: to file the Environmental Impact Report, a process that will take about six months, or appeal Quinn's ruling.

""I suspect that sometime this [coming] week we will have a clearer sense of what we will do,"" Goldstein said. ""At some point we will be able to offer amazing services to the students of UCSD.""

Recordings: Rush – Snakes and Arrows

Classic-rock radio mainstays Rush are unimpressed with the state of the world and feel the need to let it know. Granted, they haven't released a killer album since Signals in 1982, and its masterful predecessors Moving Pictures and the criminally underrated A Farewell to Kings are even further gone.

It should come as no surprise that their state-of-the-world album Snakes and Arrows (did Samuel L. help them out?) doesn't rank up there with the legendary rock-god riffs that showed us that Tom Sawyer really did have a mean, mean stride. This new venture kicks off with two relatively decent tracks - ""Far Cry"" and ""Armor and Swords"" - which, on a greater album, could serve as decent filler. From there, Rush descend into hollow religious insights, pun-filled political sleepers and lyrics cheesed in anti-Bush rhetoric that even Neil Young wouldn't touch (in ""The Way the Wind Blows,"" singer Geddy Lee wants to know why we let our ""child get left behind"") - not to mention three, count them, three droning instrumentals. Even the percussive beat of Neil Peart (still the greatest drummer of all time) and the Jimmy Page-lite guitar of Alex Lifeson fade into the expressionless noise of repetitive crescendos and stunted melodies. Once successful in combining the heavy metal of Led Zeppelin with the experimental prog-rock of Pink Floyd, Rush repeat the same error of their past 25 years: They abandon the progressive virtuoso that once connected them to their fans. Then again, this calls for another tour, delivering generations of pseudo-psychedelics the epic sounds of yore blasted through 3,000-watt amps three inches from their faces. Just like the good ol' days.

A.S. Elections a Model for On-Campus Advertising

At 7:59 p.m. on the first Sunday of spring quarter - just seconds before campaigning for the A.S. general election officially began - Price Center and Student Center were abuzz with nervous activity. Students from competing slates eyed each other politely but uncomfortably, all poised to seize the prime poster real estate on the high balconies. By 8:01 p.m., nearly all free wall space was brightly draped in either pink or green.

It's amazing what the A.S. promotional machine can do when it puts its heart into it. And it's a shame that this zeal for advertising seems to die with the elections.

It's no secret that UCSD students are not nearly as involved as they might be. During the most recent election, candidates bemoaned the limited attendance at athletic events and the poor turnout at TGIOs and Nooners. Last week, the A.S.-planned May Ball was sacked when only 12 tickets were sold. Where were the ceiling-to-floor posters for these events?

There's a reason Bear Gardens are successful, beyond the general attractiveness of beer: Price Center is plastered with Bear Garden posters a week in advance. Similarly, a tremendous campuswide effort goes into bedecking the university with blue and gold for Spirit Night, which usually produces the largest, most energetic crowds of the entire year (as players for both UCSD basketball teams will attest).

E-mail flyers, the old standby of A.S. advertising, are too easy to forget or ignore. Facebook-based campaigns are limited to Facebook users (and you have to be invited, to boot). Posters are effective, but only on the grand, wall-to-wall scale that we see almost exclusively during student elections. So where are they for the rest of the year?

The A.S. Council certainly knows how to run a promotion campaign when it wants to - and it should want to more often.

'Gracie' Takes Sport-Flick Stereotype Offsides With Cloudy Family Values

These days,perhaps even more attempted than the penguin movie is the soccer movie. But ""Gracie"" is no ""Bend It Like Beckham."" True, both awkward tweens are forbidden from playing the sport they love, but rather than relying on amusing, simplified anecdotes about a turbulent culture clash, the latest ode to America's football underdog makes the game a somber one, dribbling in death, loss and deep-rooted family turmoil.

Courtesy of Picturehouse Films
Carly Schroder stars in Davis Guggenheim's ""Gracie,"" a cliche-dodging true story set before women's soccer existed.

Based on the life of Elisabeth Shue - who plays Gracie's mother, Lindsay Bowen - ""Gracie"" follows an adolescent's fight to become the first female on her high school's varsity soccer team at a time when girls' soccer wasn't an option. Because the year was 1978 (not to mention the film is loudly touted as semiautobiographical), what would we not believe? The tragic death of Gracie's venerated older brother (a highly predictable dramatic twist - the uncomplicated, too-good-to-be-true character is so saintly that we know something has to happen to him) prompts the ambitious blonde (Carly Schroeder, ""The Lizzie McGuire Movie,"" ""Firewall"") to fight for his vacant place on the team. And, of course, she strives for the respect of her crazily competitive father Bryan Bowen, played stone-cold by a graying Dermot Mulroney (""The Wedding Date,"" ""The Family Stone""), who pushes his three sons to be stars but refuses to train his lone daughter. Gracie only manages to snag her father's attention after a barrage of angsty teen antics - carefully choreographed to classic '70s music. Only then does dad finally changes his tune, realizing that soccer may be a more suitable extracurricular activity for his daughter than bar-hopping and making out with college boys in the backseat. Though Gracie soon proves a ""fierce"" (in the words of her mother) trainee, there are no magical Rocky-esque training montages here: Gracie's goal is truly a long shot, smacking her with more instances of truth and far fewer moments of victory than the heroes of her inspired sport-flick predecessors.

Despite semiunavoidable genre cliches - reckless teenage turmoil, manufactured metaphors (i.e. the Bowens' caged bird that ""will never fly"") and Gracie declaring, ""I am tough enough"" - ""Gracie"" often grips with the tight-laced vigor of a new pair of cleats. Schroeder gives a painfully sincere performance, and Davis Guggenheim (Academy Award-winning director of ""An Inconvenient Truth"" and, surprise, Shue's husband) crafts a dark, rainy aesthetic that carries the film sincerely through its lows. Though it's not a common soccer movie, ""Gracie"" is still one of those sports stories that takes itself very seriously - and after all, as the young star's mother reminds us, ""It's only a game.""

State Court Casts Seals Out of Cove


The colony of harbor seals at La Jolla’s Casa Beach will be displaced after the 4th District Court of Appeals decided to uphold a 1931 trust and dredge the sand. (Erik Jepsen/Guardian File)

To the dismay of many involved UCSD students and staff, a state appellate court ordered sand dredging at La Jolla’s Casa Beach — better known as the Children’s Pool — last month, thereby ousting a seal colony that has lived at the site for over a decade.

Members of the UCSD community have been active participants in efforts to preserve the seals’ home for several years, despite the site’s historic designation as a children’s area. Students have volunteered to guard the seals’ designated area, educated visitors and conducted research, while others have written letters and spoken at city council meetings.

Dredging the sand requires city officials to declare the seals a public nuisance and health threat. The officials also must acquire permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the California Coastal Commission, which has a history of supporting marine wildlife.

Jim Hudnall, charter member of the Society for Marine Mammalogy and the activist who convened the first general public meeting at the La Jolla Public Library in 1999, said he felt let down by the ruling.

“I am dismayed at the appeals court’s decision because the La Jolla harbor seal rookery is the southernmost [one] in the United States,” Hudnall said.

Under a trust established in 1931, in which the governor handed over certain submerged state lands to the city, the beach was intended to be a bathing pool exclusively for children as well as a public park. More than a decade ago, however, seals began gathering and finally overtook the children’s pool, prompting the city to limit access to swimmers, divers and tourists.

The 4th District Court of Appeals ruled 3-0 to restore water quality by dredging the sand and removing the seals, whose feces are said to contaminate the water. Court documents estimate the cost of sand dredging to fall between $250,000 and $500,000.

Hudnall said the land could be returned to the state for management purposes, rendering the court decision moot.

The plan to dredge the beach alarmed UCSD professor emeritus Douglas L. Inman, a specialist in coastal oceanography and sedimentation, because of the impact it would have on the beach and those surrounding it — including accelerated cliff erosion.

“Two years ago I called a meeting and went to the sight to show what would happen,” Inman said. “[The meeting] was attended by city councilmembers and engineers. It would’ve diluted the entire area of sand that right now has a tentative balance.”

Some have suggested the city open the sluiceways, which can serve as gates in the breakwater — originally meant to be open — to allow the ocean water to flow more freely.

“They’ll have to pump sand out to open them, but if the sluice gates function as they were supposed to, it would re-establish some equilibrium,” Inman said.

Rachael VanderWalde is the current education and policy director for the Animal Protection and Rescue League, whose graduate work at Scripps Institution of Oceanography was based in informative signage directly linked to the seals.

“Just looking at the trust without looking at the biological needs, in my opinion, is not the best decision,” she said.

VanderWalde also said that public attitude toward environmental causes has drastically changed since the trust was drafted in 1930, a decade during which the seals were hunted to near extinction.

“Over and over again, we hear the controversy framed as ‘humans versus seals’ when obviously it is not — no seal has ever written a letter or given an interview,” professor of anthropology Jim Moore said in an e-mail. “It is between humans with one definition of recreation: active, sporty, using the environment; and humans with another definition: passive, watching and enjoying the environment.”

The San Diego City Council has proposed a compromise by allowing swimmers to occupy the pool during the summer, while providing special protection during the seals’ birthing and pupping season from December to May by installing a rope barrier.

Revelle College junior Aaron Hieber has volunteered to guard the designated seal area since his freshman year.

“The only in-water human use of the beach I’ve seen there is an entry point for scuba divers,” Hieber said. “I feel the best thing to do would be to remove the sea wall and restore the beach to how it was in 1930, and let nature determine what happens to the seals when the beach is in its natural state.”

Moore said the implications of the court’s decision pertain to more than just the seals.

“[The seals’] presence is a potentially powerful message to all the foreign tourists who visit La Jolla that American concern for wildlife and the environment is not just lip service,” Moore said. “Asking Africans to deal with elephants and lions in the name of conservation, but unwilling to accept any ‘hardships’ ourselves is hypocritical.”

A public opinion poll commissioned by APRL in May showed that eight out of 10 San Diegans favor limits on use of the Children’s Pool to protect the harbor seals.

San Diego City Attorney Michael Aguirre said he intends to appeal the decision to the California Supreme Court.

Electoral Culture Shrouds Offbeat Oval Office Hopefuls

NATIONAL NEWS — With all the premature brouhaha over next
year’s presidential elections, it’s probably a safe assumption that most
Americans have yet to make any decisions as to which candidate to support. Last
weekend, the Florida Democratic Convention, an event that helps constituents
make decisions about issues and candidates, was boycotted by all but one
presidential candidate.

One would expect the near 3,000 attendees to applaud and
support the one candidate who actually decided to show up, but those at the
rally were fixated on something else entirely: those who weren’t present.
Clearly something is rotten in the state of Florida.

The boycott was born after a violation of Democratic
National Committee regulations, when the Florida state legislature rescheduled
its primary to Jan. 29 (as opposed to Feb. 5), a move only permitted in Iowa,
New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina. To punish the brazen state
legislature, the DNC agreed to forbid presidential campaigning in the state and
preclude Florida’s 210 delegates from participating in next year’s national
convention in Denver.

The ill-attended convention has already become a bit of an
embarassment for state Democrats, with a pending lawsuit against the DNC and
rumors of plans to sack the chairwoman of the Florida Democrats, Karen Thurman.

So who was the Lone Ranger in attendance?

Former-Alaskan-senator turned-presidential-hopeful Mike
Gravel, who, in recent voter polls, sadly trails behind “other” and “not
voting,” had the daring to show up despite the embarrassing political bathos,
defying the DNC’s moratorium on Florida presidential campaigning.

If one so much as casually watched some of the earlier
Democratic debates, Gravel was hard to forget. Remember the endearingly
cantankerous, graying man who famously skewered an opponent with, “Who are you
going to bomb today, Obama?” Yeah, that’s him.

In addition to his straight shooting, Gravel boasts an
illustrious track record. He has made a name for himself in the course of
American political history, lauded for his efforts in ending the draft after
the Vietnam War and circulating the scandalous Pentagon Papers.

By winning the hearts of progressive liberals with antiwar,
pro-choice and pro-same-sex marriage rhetoric, at first glance it may appear
that little distinguishes him from his wealthier Democratic contenders (compare
Barack Obama’s $33 million in fundraising to Gravel’s paltry $130,000 in the
same three-month period). However, his more controversial causes have been
startling for some, including marijuana decriminalization, abolition of the IRS
and income tax and probably his most well-known and unprecedented measure: the
National Initiative. This is a theoretical, constitutional amendment whereby
federal legislation could be introduced, modified or even vetoed by everyday
citizens via ballot initiatives. It also proposes an accompanying regulatory
body, the Electoral Trust, which would supervise this process.

Politically disillusioned students have begun to find hope
in Gravel and his forward-looking policies concerning healthcare, climate
change and nuclear disarmament. Finally, young voters are getting excited about
politics.

“I don’t need Hillary money,” he said during one of his many
nearly deserted fundraisers. “She gets a million in a night. If I can get just
$10 million, I will win.”

But as with most dark horses (and Gravel is about as dark as
they get), the road to the White House is grim. Gravel’s fans will cite the
success of the formerly obscure Jimmy Carter, who in 1976 snagged the
presidency by a comfortable margin. In that spirit, Howard Dean’s progression
from obscurity to being a veritable frontrunner in 2003 gives Gravelians a
semblance of hope.

Political pundits have recognized the underground,
Internet-driven success of Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich, but Mike Gravel
remains the laughingstock of American politics. The experts fail to look beyond
his falsely “peevish” disposition and dwell on the “inevitable failure” of his
campaign. In so doing, they lose sight of his genuine concern for the country’s
well-being.

In an electoral culture characterized by eggshell-walking,
doublespeak and monetary dependency, the candidates who are devoid of capital —
but brave enough to speak the truth — are almost invariably left in the dust.
It’s shameful that a country founded on inviolate principles of equality and
freedom can harbor such a system, and in the process deny presidential
aspirants like Paul, Kucinich, Joe Biden and the affable Gravel a rightful
chance at making it to Pennsylvania Avenue.

Authorities Overreact to Student Socializing, Exploit the New Visibility of Facebook

STUDENT LIFE — In a society where political correctness and
an over-obsession with caution and safety prevail, there is very little wiggle
room for anything illicit. When such a guarded mantra is combined with
technology that allows anyone with an e-mail address to access unlimited
photos, blogs and social networks, the margin for those wishing to get away
with prohibited activities shrinks yet again. The question at hand is the
severity and implications of these prohibited actions that are now being
unearthed by social networking Web sites like Facebook and MySpace. Events that
decades ago would have, for the most part, gone unnoticed are now being harshly
punished, leaving this guinea pig generation of Internet users to struggle with
what technology offers and the need to adapt to and alter patterns of
socialization.

The recent allegation brought against Sigma Nu sheds light
on an issue that has always existed but has only recently, due to new
technology, become more dynamic and contentious: hazing.

Hazing is wrong, and no one should ever be made to do
anything against his or her will that causes any sort of physical or mental
harm. According to the Web site of Sigma Nu’s national headquarters, hazing is
defined as “any action taken or situation created, intentionally, whether on or
off fraternity premises, to produce mental or physical discomfort,
embarrassment, harassment or ridicule.” These are appropriate parameters that
ensure the safety and well-being of students, but when this definition of
hazing is subjectively interpreted and expanded, too many innocuous activities
get chastised along the way.

The fraternity has found itself in hot water because an
anonymous source informed the national headquarters of possible hazing occuring
within the UCSD chapter. The smoking gun used to build a case against Sigma Nu:
photos obtained from the Facebook profile of a few fraternity brothers. This
brings up a glaring example of how anybody can abuse such social networking
sites in order to strike a serious blow to both individuals and whole
organizations.

Neither local chapter President Robbie Holmes nor the
national Sigma Nu organization have yet to reveal the photos’ exact contents,
leaving the specific hazing incidents in question up for debate. Although
purely speculation, it is fair to assume that the pictures contain at least
some instances of underage drinking, which could fall under the category of
hazing, as it entails that the pledges were forced to drink in order to be
allowed into the fraternity.

It is one thing if the alleged Sigma Nu hazing pictures
showed senior members pinning a freshman pledge to the ground while forcing a
beer bong down his throat, but if the pictures turn out to show nothing more
than different varieties of underage drinking, then no serious punishment
should be dealt. Students join fraternities and sororities knowing very well
that it means partying and drinking, and in many cases, they pledge for those
exact reasons. The willingness of students to join these Greek organizations
under their own free will should be respected, and as long as there is no threat
of any real harm befalling them, then the students should be allowed to
discover for themselves what they have chosen to participate in.

There are, of course, examples of blatant hazing, and these
should be used as a platform to eliminate events that take initiation way too
far. In 2005, a Chico State fraternity pledge, Matthew William Carrington, died
after he was forced to drink excessive amounts of water, literally drowning to
death. Rumors and tales of hazing that would sicken the average UCSD student —
from naked “elephant walks” through the student center to defilement of private
property to forced public defecation — abound from other college campuses.
These incidents are glaring and disturbing, and should be avoided to maintain
civility and an overall sense of morality on college campuses.

Recently, these horrific examples have been clumped together
with comparably minor offenses under hazing’s wide umbrella, largely thanks to
the role played by social networking Web sites. It would be stupid for any
student to post pictures of a hazing event that obviously caused immense
damage, but there appear to be no such hesitations when it comes to posting
pictures of drinking at parties, as evidenced in the ubiquitous pictures of
students drinking that can be found on Facebook profiles. Without the
availability of hard evidence, the pictures showing less serious activities are
all that the authorities have in order to stop any hazing that may occur.

Underage drinking is illegal, and if students are caught in
person under the influence of alcohol, they’re in a situation to be justly
punished. If underclassmen are found drinking in a campus dorm, they are merely
written up and required to complete some community service. If a minor is
caught drinking at an off-campus party, more often than not the police simply
ask them to empty their drinks and leave the party. So why do pictures of
underage drinking found on Facebook merit more serious punishments?

With no frat row, Sigma Nu parties are thrown in houses scattered
around the greater San Diego area, and when these parties get busted by the
cops, most of the time the multitude of students that had just been partaking
in illegal activities are allowed off scot-free. Yet it is only now that the
red flag of “hazing” has been thrown up due to Facebook pictures that the
fraternity finds itself facing serious retribution.

It is absolutely ridiculous to use any content found on
these social networking sites as the sole evidence in a case. People can
straight-up lie in blogs to try and impress friends and rambunctious students
tend to exaggerate in front of a camera, adding embellished elements to the
photos found on their Facebook profiles. While there is a slight chance that
some information and pictures have been fabricated, the reality is that these
pictures are most likely indicative of students’ illegal actions. Although
these pictures may show a kid drinking alcohol, they do not prove that he did,
and that is the most important distinction that can be made. It is understandable
that authorities would see these pictures and use them as a starting point to
then gather more substantiated evidence, but on their own, the images are only
hearsay. Unless administrators can research and find out if the contents of an
incriminating photo are, in fact, valid, they should not be able to use these
pictures as the basis of prosecution.

The availability of pictures and blogs online has added a
new dimension of paranoia a la Big Brother. Students at parties must now make
sure not to be photographed with any incriminating substances, hiding their
beverages before pictures are snapped, or simply refusing to be in the picture
at all. Athletes in particular must make a concerted effort to portray images
of virtue, and considering it is a well-known fact that the UCSD sports teams
throw the best parties, this is often a very difficult task.

The recent suspension of the UCSD women’s ultimate Frisbee
team is a perfect example of what can now happen when a member of a sports team
carelessly posts pictures of generation-long customs. The yearly ultimate
Frisbee initiation party is not a site of ritualistic hazing, but a celebration
of the season to come and a warm welcome to a new batch of freshman players.
But when pictures were found on Facebook showing supposed underage drinking,
the team was suspended for the entire 2007-08 season.

The social outlets available to UCSD students are thin
enough as it is, so seeing Greek organizations and sports teams robbed of their
social components is a great travesty for student life. The national
headquarters of Sigma Nu is leading the hazing investigation of UCSD’s chapter,
leaving campus administrators with very little say in the subsequent
punishment. Considering administrators want to improve the university’s social
life with their creation of the Loft, a new campus nightclub, imagine the
statement that they would be sending students if they made a stand of
solidarity with Sigma Nu and campaigned for them to receive as little
punishment as possible from the national headquarters. Creating new areas for
socializing is easy enough for the school because it can claim all credit for
the innovation, but strengthening the already existent social groups would be a
much greater show of support for their supposed desire to eliminate UCSD’s
stereotype as UC Socially Dead.

The difference between malicious hazing and good-natured
socializing must be distinguished ­­— if not, students will become frustrated
and huge levels of animosity will be created. Until administrators realize that
pictures found online are nowhere near enough evidence to unleash their
bureaucratic wrath, students must refrain from posting any complicit
information. Sigma Nu should not be made the scapegoat for all hazing, and
every effort should be made to keep administrators from exploiting the social
networking in which this generation of students has become so ingrained.