College life is like a giant, highly advanced Petri dish, where the university is the scientist and the students are thousands of little rapidly evolving bacteria, with the former trying to grow the latter into a healthy community within the confines of their artificial plastic tray.
Usually, this works reasonably well, and under the watchful eye of their educators, the bacteria learn and develop into fine, upstanding human beings who eventually can leave the protected village, pursue lucrative jobs at Google and create little Petri dishes of their own.
Sometimes, however, the grand plan goes awry, like when certain bacteria get their older buddies to sidle over to the liquor store on the outskirts of the dish, buy some cases of Jameson and dump them into what previously had been a nourishing solution of coffee, takeout pizza and the occasional salad of organic spring greens from Trader Joe’s.
Now swimming in their little corner of booze, it’s no surprise when a few of the more impressionable bacteria misbehave, especially within the community of Greeks, some of whom may as well be sponsored by Budweiser.
This has been going on for generations. Many of the little Greek bacteria like their setup, and the university, to be sure, benefits exponentially, as those students often grow up to work at Goldman Sachs, where they can earn six-figure salaries, cash in stock options and give back to the institution of higher learning that helped get them there.
Of course, this is nothing new. Whether we were in a frat or not, many of us were those bacteria once, even locally so.
When I was 19 and a one-celled organism, a friend and I toppled a stop sign and carried it around the neighborhood for no other reason than we happened to slosh by, lean against the pole and discover it was loose.
This occurred about two blocks from the police station.
One-celled organisms are not so smart.
The good thing is that they develop very quickly and their upside potential is limitless.
So it is that Cal Poly is once again tasked with the challenge of trying to get some of its charges to grow up faster than they may like. In the past few months, three new reports of alcohol-fueled sexual assaults have emerged to tarnish our college
This comes in the wake of last year’s drinking issues, which led the university to suspend all Greek activities while its leadership took on the task of writing a lengthy set of new policies they hoped would result in more responsible partying.
To no one’s surprise, I would guess, this admirable project has not been quite so successful as we would all have hoped, and some less responsible students truly are living down to their origins, perpetuating the same old behaviors and getting into the same old trouble.
As a result, Cal Poly is once again putting the fun on hold and sending the Greeks back to the drawing board, with a short timeline of 30 days to offer a framework for a safer, healthier fraternity and sorority environment.
I applaud the university for its efforts and hope Greek leadership can get the rank-and-file to take the problem seriously.
For its part, the Greek community must embrace the mandate seriously, especially with its least mature members.
They must look out for each other better, especially at times when some may be at less than full mental capacity.
They must find ways to socialize that don’t end with a police officer knocking on the door.
And they must enforce a more responsible attitude and hold each other accountable, even if the lout stripping off his shirt and propositioning women is your best bro.
Practically speaking, I don’t think substantial change will occur in a month or even a year, but if everyone is committed and each new class of students takes the problem more seriously than the last, traditions — even Greek ones — can be changed.
Ultimately, if lesser individuals still insist on selfishly damaging the well-being of the group, if they can’t find a way to grow and live within the Petri dish as it were, out they can go.