Thursday, May 1, 2008

Choosing Your College Based on its Sports Program, or its Dog Program

Last night I was tweeting with @podcastmama about Reed College, but the one thing that I didn't tweet about was its NCAA sports program.

It doesn't have one.

At the time that I attended Reed, the three sports that Reed College were men's rugby, women's rugby, and ultimate frisbee. None of the teams was NCAA-ranked.

So, needless to say, none of my classmates appeared in Sports Illustrated during our years at college.

It was a different story for Erin Berg, a member of the Rutgers track team, who was the first of four women in a two-page picture toward the front of the latest issue. A photographer, lying on the track, took a picture of the handoffs from two relay teams - Erin handing off to her Rutgers teammate, and two other women from another school doing their own handoff. Rutgers didn't win the relay (they placed 13th), but they made SI.

And that isn't the only time that Berg has made the paper. Back in September, she was interviewed after Rutgers fans insulted the Navy team during a football game.

A column in Tuesday’s Star-Ledger detailed a slew of obscenities directed toward the Midshipmen by Rutgers students.

The crowd yelled derogatory comments such as "F—- you Navy," "You got f—-ed up" and "You suck," according to the newspaper, which resulted in discomfort for Navy players and fans....

Rutgers sophomore Erin Berg said she was aware of some fans getting carried away with their chanting.

"I can understand where [the column] comes from," Berg said. Rutgers "students were pretty aggressive. … There was a guy in Navy apparel, head to toe, standing with friends in our student section and people were basically trying to start fights with him all night. But it’s all just a mob mentality."

Now when was the last time that a Reed College student was mentioned in the press? Um...last month.

A freshman from a private college in Portland was found dead of a drug overdose in his dorm room Saturday night, school officials said.

Alejandro Lluch, 18, was found dead by his roommate Saturday night inside their dorm room at Naito Hall.

And right away the teen’s father wanted other students to know exactly how he died, the school's president said.

And when school officials sent out an e-mail about what happened, they followed the wishes of the young man’s father.

Now there have been drugs at Reed for decades. And there have been deaths at Reed for decades. The one death that I remember from my years at Reed was the death of Amitai Brodie. However, that death was NOT drug-related; he was in a car accident if I remember correctly. Devastating.

But what killed Lluch? One letter writer to the Oregonian had some views:

So, The Oregonian decided to exploit the tragedy at Reed College to try to convince me that it was heroin that killed this aspiring student [Alejandro "Alex" Lluch] and that, somehow, he had nothing to do with his own demise.

The president of Reed College said that heroin can "screw up your brain chemistry, on the first try." And the prevailing view is that it is a medical problem, devoid of any moral considerations.

These views are counterproductive to the amelioration of addiction, for they assume zero responsibility on behalf of the user, while placing it on the chemical properties of the substance and the genetic makeup of the addict.

If these views are valid, why do people face horrible consequences in the wake of a shopping, gambling, food or love addiction? If my family has a history of criminal behavior, does that mean I'm not guilty of a crime if I commit one?

I'm sorry, but another pseudo medical approach to addiction is not going to help anything.

MIKE WELLS Southwest Portland

But perhaps heroin didn't kill Lluch, and Lluch didn't kill Lluch. Maybe Reed killed Lluch:

L ouisa Callery knows addiction. It runs in her family, so she's familiar with the denial, the excuses, the magical thinking that normal rules don't apply.

She knows the first step to battling a drug problem is admitting you have one. She thinks Reed College has one. And she wishes Oregon's most prestigious private college would confront the problem openly, as a way to protect more students and to honor her 18-year-old son, Alex, who died earlier this month of an accidental drug overdose in his dorm room.

Both she and her husband, Carlos Lluch, wonder if their son might be alive today if colleges were more honest about drug use and addiction.

"There are a lot of people responsible here, ourselves included," Lluch says. "And I'm not a temperance guy. I understand there are rites of passage. But there needs to be zero tolerance for hard drugs. Heroin, meth, you have to draw the line somewhere. Or is Alex the price we have to pay? What is the price?"...

Alex's parents thought their son had the monster beat when he arrived at Reed from California. They also thought of Reed as mostly an alcohol-and-pot kind of school. They didn't know about the hard drugs bubbling beneath the surface. Not until their son's death this month did they learn that another student had suffered a near-fatal heroin overdose in December.

They don't blame Reed for their son's death. If anything, they're beating up themselves, going over old conversations with Alex, wondering if they could've done more. They mostly wish colleges would be less worried about their reputations and more candid about problems, so that families could be more helpful and aware.

While they don't blame Reed for the death, it appears that the secrecy surrounding the other student's near-fatal overdose gnawed at them. Which is why they went public.

Luckily, Reed also makes the news based upon other topics. My out of town paper, the Los Angeles Times, quoted from a college web page on dogs:

Some Reed dogs spend more time on campus than most students. Some come with faculty and staff members, but most are associated with students. Some are restrained and well behaved, but others aren’t. They play, they frolic, they chase joggers, and they may even eat your food when you aren’t looking. For years now it’s been commonly accepted that when alumni die they return to Reed as Reed dogs. This theory of reincarnation is, however, difficult to prove, and, until now, definitive proof has never been offered to the Reed community.

They didn't touch upon dog names. In the topsy-turvy world of Reed, dogs get names like "Antigone."

I don't think Erin Berg has a dog named Antigone. Maybe Tsunami.

By the way, if you are disappointed that you just read a Rutgers blog post that didn't mention Don Imus, please see the New York Times April 6 article Rutgers Puts the Past Behind It, Imus and All, followed by the April 25 Bloomberg article Stringer Says Rutgers Program Has Benefited After Imus Remarks. (Make up your mind...)

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