Vincent Safuto’s Weblog

Notes and observations

No excuse for abuse of veterans

The hotel room was trashed. Really trashed.

Like, the place smelled of stale food, most of which had been thrown in the hallway – and some in the rooms — and was congealing on the walls.

I walked in and a fellow member of my academic fraternity looked up, bleary-eyed and hung over. Next to him was a tray of food. None of it had been eaten. All of it had been thrown.

The Phi Theta Kappa convention I had attended in 1989 hadn’t been that much fun for me. I lived in the area and refused to take a hotel room. Our chapter of the community college academic fraternity had a major problem. The chapter head was a very abrasive woman in her 40s who was adept at causing people to not be involved beyond their initiation ceremony and dinner.

She had about nine kids from five different men, and was majoring in education. The thought of her being unleashed on children as a teacher sickened me. Like a dope, when I was ordered to bring her neck brace – the aftermath of a car accident — to the ladies’ room, I had done it even though I said a woman should have to do it. They couldn’t find a female member of the group who’d do it. She was universally despised and feared.

I brought her the neck brace, then got in my car and went home. I never participated in another Phi Theta Kappa event again.

The propensity for some college kids to run wild is a confirmed fact. When you go to college as an adult, your main focus is on getting your degree, learning what you need to learn and moving on to a better career. There were plenty of folks who had that view at Palm Beach Community College when I attended the school.

There were very few outside activities I could participate in, and for a time Phi Theta Kappa and the student newspaper were the ones that fit my schedule. But after the hotel incident, I refused to be associated with the group. Someone, probably an underpaid hotel maid, had had to clean up that destroyed hotel room.

But when I read that a group of University of Florida fraternity members had basically run wild at an event, and had attacked a group of disabled veterans at a retreat, I at first thought I was reading something off “The Onion” or another joke news site.

The Zeta Beta Tau fraternity is suspended at UF after basically going nuts at a Panama City Beach resort and not only spitting on veterans, according to news reports, but throwing bottles of beer, hurling insults and urinating on an American flag.

As usual, the head of the fraternity said this was unacceptable behavior, as did the president of UF, who took a break from counting his money to babble some nonsense.

The fraternity, which was on conduct probation for hazing, said it suspended three members.

I was sickened to read this, but not surprised. Even when you put regular college students into a hotel, you have to expect a disaster.

In the early 1990s, Florida Atlantic University had a housing problem on campus as well as a boredom problem. The college had never told its incoming freshmen that there wasn’t a football team, something all naïve high school grads thought every college needed to have.

One day, a bored student had gotten a container of mercury from an unlocked chemistry lab, brought it back to the dorm building and began having fun with it. He contaminated his room, the hallway and even managed to contaminate one of the manmade lakes on campus. When someone finally realized what was going on, the dorm had to be evacuated.

Students were put up in a hotel, and I still remember walking down the hall and seeing the utter chaos and destruction that had been wreaked. One student told me outright, “They’re destroying the hotel.” She was furious because she was taking an overload of classes to finish her semester, graduate and start grad school, and all her books, notes and other items (including clothing) were in the dorm that she was not allowed to enter now.

One of the biggest dolts on campus was the president of the student body, and he told Don Horine, then the Palm Beach Post’s education reporter, that the incident was the fault of the university administration. “If there was enough to do on campus, the student wouldn’t have gone looking for something to do in a chemistry lab.”

“Oh, come on,” Horine said. “Give me a break.”

What happened at Panama City Beach is the fault of the students, but also their parents. Hotel rooms are for using and while there is housekeeping, they’re not so you can go crazy. Maybe that’s a lesson that needs to be taught in colleges today.

Too bad some brave military veterans found out it’s not always so.


April 26, 2015 - Posted by | Life lessons, Living in the modern age | , , , , , ,

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