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No Cover, Fourteen Drink Minimum

"I Felta Thigh, We Be True to Thee....."

This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, November 28, 2001.

All small towns are, strictly speaking, corrupt. They have to be, because there are probably no coldly objective individuals to rule. It's hard to be a judge or a district attorney when the kids brought before you are an endless stream of your child's classmates or the spawn of your friends or your own children. It is under these circumstances that the observation of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. - that the law is designed not to grant justice but to keep the peace - seems most relevant. As Chesterton said, only children are innocent, and therefore want justice. Adults are compromised, and therefore prefer compassion, especially from their neighbors.

But what is relevant in Boulder or in the America of the last century to Justice Holmes is less so today. I offer a local illustrative example of what is a common, tangentially trivial affair. A Boulder sorority chapter, whose residence hall is not located on the CU campus but on land within the city limits, was recently under the gun for having two described pledges come down with a severe case of alcohol poisoning. Representatives of the sorority and the pledges and witnesses all said at the time that this was because of a night of mandatory drinking, fourteen different drinks, as part of a pledging ritual, and that the girls were indeed pledges, and so this might fall under the heading of mere hazing. After it was apparently and sorrowfully called to their attention that - because of a string of admitted deaths under similar circumstances across the nation in the last decade or so - 'hazing' composed of such stupid endeavors has a shiny new set of judicial whips available to use against the guilty parties, the sorority and the former pledges and all the witnesses suddenly realized that the girls were indeed already members of the sorority and so everyone was exempt. There is only a wink, wink, nudge tone to the newspaper article on this case of grand perjury and false evidence which, in any case, does not strictly remove culpability from the sorority or any adult for allowing such. In any case, one of the poisoned girls was only seventeen, by law a minor must have a responsible adult, and of course there are those pesky drinking laws.

Nobody, not even me, wants to see a bunch of teenagers and barely twenties hauled off to prison for such stupid offenses as drinking contests, although I could be wobbled if you insist on my seeing the drunk driving, the health issues, the infliction of insurance culpability on the innocent that a night of mandatory drinking at different locations requires. And I am not in favor of singling out a sorority in a city composed of fraternal orders of drunken violent louts, and I speak as a former officer of a Phi Delt chapter.

What does annoy me, and I hope you as well, is that this obvious series of lies and distortions in this case will be allowed to stand, and be so allowed solely because the city and University both fear the financial clout and the purchasable attorney such large wads of cash can attract, of the parents who don't want the daughters held up on charges. Further, no member of what is laughingly called the Greek system wants this to proceed, simply for the stunning reality that fraternities and sororities could easily be construed as chronic criminal organizations, given the aggregate police encounters through the years. If you tally up the reported and unreported deaths by drugs and alcohol, most frat houses look a lot worse statistically than their periodic wholesaler, the scrawny local pot pusher on the Hill. The Greek system survives only on the financial and legal support of the social climbing alumni, which can indeed be intimidating, and no University or DA wants to deal with them. Not this week. Not ever.

But here we have another example of how our children have their first brush with the law tainted by corruption, lies, and the easy assumption that money and lawyers paid for by others will make everything okay. If you're white and wealthy, anyway. Otherwise, your first brush with the law for, say, selling a bag of pot can get you sent up for years. This is why so few people think the justice system, as opposed to the law, is fair, and that it is, simply, tilted towards the rich. They think that way because it is true. So the University of Colorado, by allowing this truism to play out, is at least giving their students an education in reality.

But it is very, very wrong. Because the parents of the sorority girls would have sued everyone if their children had died of alcohol ingestion. Or imagine if their daughter, driving away after a night of drunken revelry, had struck an innocent party crossing the street, just like happened a few weeks ago on the Hill, and kept going. Of course, that was different because the driver was a stripper, not a sorority girl. The stripper is guilty, a sorority girl somehow falls into that gray area featuring threatening phone calls by powerful attorneys.

This is Dark Cloud.