WRCB Channel 3 recently did a story on an incident at a fraternity at UTC involving intoxicated, out of control students, and bottle rockets. On their facebook page people have spoken out, both for and against, the story, the students, with many people asking why is this news, and what's the big deal? Claiming that this behavior is acceptable, just a part of growing up, nothing previous generations haven't done, etc. I can answer one of those questions... what's the big deal? Allow me to introduce you to my son, Chris.
Several years ago, had I heard this story, I too would have asked what's the big deal? Students maybe not showing the best judgement, but, the world didn't explode when the bottle rockets went off did they? Losing your only child is a pretty big deal, my friend.
I was a single mother, to a wonderful son named Chris. Chris had a very bright future ahead of him. Despite the hardships he faced as the only child of a young unwed mother, we both persevered, and he received a full scholarship to a major university. He was headed to college, and then onto med school. He wanted to be a pediatrician; he loved kids. All of that was snuffed out one chilly fall night. I got the phone call no parent ever wants to get. My son was dead. And as the investigation went on it was revealed he had died at the hands of his "brothers", his frat brothers, in a stupid stunt that has changed so many lives forever.
My son was beaten, tied down to a chair, and straight liquor, of all kinds, forced down his throat until he passed out. He was then released from the chair, and actually put in bed (his "brothers" were taking care of him you see, so they claimed.) However no one checked on him until several hours later, and when they finally did, they found him dead. He had choked on his own vomit.
This incident wasn't labeled as a hazing incident because Chris had already been accepted into the fraternity and already been hazed. This incident happened well into his college career, he was almost finished with college in fact. But, boys will be boys as they say, and what some have tried to play off as horsing around gone wrong, or a party that got out of control, is in fact much more serious than that. And while I know Chris does share some responsibility in what happened to him, he was not the one who tied someone to a chair, beat them and then left.
And this is where things absolutely must change. Chris's death at the hands of his fraternity brothers is not an isolated incident, it happens all across the country, a lot more often than you would think. And it keeps happening because society has deemed this out of control, alcohol soaked behavior both at fraternities and sororities, acceptable. We are becoming a culture that accepts excuses, irresponsibility, and passing the buck. And it's costing our kids their lives.
Chris was 21 when he died. His college friends and fraternity brothers have all gone on to have successful careers, some have married, and started their families. Last week I went to the first birthday of one of his fraternity brothers' first child. Tomorrow, on Chris's birthday, that fraternity brother will be coming with me to put flowers on Chris' grave. It's a very sad ending, an ending that did not have to be. But endings like this will keep happening and our children will continue to pay the price until society changes and helps our young men and women understand that life isn't always a game. Actions have consequences and sometimes those actions and consequences can change your life forever.