Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Ripple Effect of Repercussions - DUI Part 2

This week is part 2 of our guest blogger. I urge you to consider their message and ask yourself: How do we avoid this ripple? Last week at our Greek Leadership Retreat several students talked about how we were encouraging drunk driving as a result of the IFC and Panhellenic Community Standards about bus protocols. Is that really true? Is there more we think about from this story?

So that was my experience that night. Let me tell you about my friends’. It still baffles me how people can have a 6th sense when something isn’t right. The last thing I told my roommate was “I’ll see you at the bar in 30.” She never heard from me. I never showed up. See, this could have been like any other night where my phone will die or I’ll end up going somewhere else just by being swayed by a different crowd. But something was different and she knew it.
So not only did I ruin my own night, I ruined a handful of friends’ nights as well. Apparently they assembled in a search and rescue mission once they all collaborated and realized I was MIA. They called the campus to see if my car had come in, they called hospitals, they drove around mission beach looking for a car wreck I could potentially be in, they even went to Hillcrest which was the last place I had reported being.
The afternoon I came home was one of the most emotional ones I’ve had in a while. About 2PM I returned to my house. Once my roommates heard the door slam they ran to the living room. When they saw me (looking like absolute hell) the three of us burst into tears, hysterically crying. I had no idea what to expect of them when I returned, but once they explained how they rallied the previous night to find me I couldn’t help but feel so guilty causing them so much grief. They then revealed that when they didn’t hear back early the next morning they had assumed I was dead by some unfortunate incident.
I considered jail to be the worst thing that could have happened to me until I read the police report. The section titled Probable Cause for intoxicated driving had the following checked: straddling center or lane marker, appearing to be drunk, almost striking object or vehicle, swerving, drifting, and stopping inappropriately. That was the worst part of the experience. Seeing in print how I almost killed myself, missing parked cars and almost hitting the center divider or even worse, another person. So in retrospect, I am so grateful for being arrested. It made me think how much farther I could have gone before I would have potentially ended someone else’s life or even mine.  
I don’t think I’ve cried so hard in my entire life. I don’t think it will ever wear off with being a sensitive subject. It was such a shameful experience that I never ever want to share with anyone – I want to take it to my grave as best I can, so that I don’t get that passed judgment from others. This will probably just be another DUI sob story to you that won’t differential itself from the next, but I sincerely hope it does. If you gain anything from reading my experience I hope it is something along the lines of how dangerous and stupid it is to think you’re invincible and if you push the limit long enough it will finally come back around, cuff you and throw you in jail. And that ending is only if you’re lucky – for those who are not as fortunate, that was their last joy ride and they won’t see the light of another day.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Don’t Have Your Twenty-First Be Your Twenty-Last: Part 1

This week we have a guest writer, one of our own... One who is willing to share with others so they learn and grow.
I am deeply appreciative of their message.

It’s a frightening thought to think back that that 21st birthday shot could have been my last. It goes back to the feeling “I’m invincible, nothing can touch me. I know it happens to everyone else, but not me – I’m exempt from the laws of nature and law enforcement.”
How terribly wrong I was, and what a slap in the face to find out this way. Ironic how I would pass that moment of silent judgment when people would tell me they got a DUI… that reaction of “what an idiot, how could you be so dumb to get yourself in that situation?” It wasn’t until my night of arrest that I realized I was that idiot – but more so.

The friends I know that have gotten arrested for drinking and driving were only slightly over the limit (being .08 BAC), and got pulled over for a miscellaneous reason and then got breathalized, usually showing up between .09 and .12 BAC. How could I ever pass judgment again after my incident, after I blew a solid .24 BAC aka a quarter of my entire body’s blood supply was tequila swimming steady to intensely impair my judgment.
What’s so frightening is I knew I was intoxicated but convinced only minorly so – thinking I was coherent enough to get behind the wheel and make it to my next destination of the night. What upset me most during the incident was being pulled over and questioned. My defenses went up, and I was not cooperative with the police that had be do multiple tests; fighting that I was a good student with a job and highly involved on campus and that this was a fluke incident and that jail was not an option.
There is no string of words that can do justice in explaining the arrested experience. Being handcuffed and thrown in the back of a cop car, there is no difference between you and the guy who shoots the owner of the corner gas station to rob the place, there is no difference between that initial clasp of your hands in metal behind your back and thrown into the gated back seat of the cop car. You are now a criminal, a threat to society and a danger to the innocent people around you because of your recklessness.
Then came arriving to the women’s county jail. If there was one thing I can tell you about the people who work there – they don’t give a crap about you. If you died in the cell their only thought would be “alright, one down, one less to take care of.” You are absolutely nothing to them, they view you as the scum of the earth and won’t even respond when you try to talk to them. I remember being thrown around and slammed into walls like they were moving boxes of storage that they didn’t care about dinging up on its journey to the unit. I was in my cell for about five hours – the coldest most unfortunate and miserable experience I could tell you. Hard freezing floors and nothing to try to shake off the potential hypothermia I felt I was getting. Best part: they strip you down, no shoes, no jacket, nothing. Second best part? I went out that night in a tank top and shorts. Hell seemed like a better place than here, just for the fact it was warm.
By 5 AM they finally let me out and into the waiting room with all the other girls who had gotten arrested – some were just in the wrong place at the wrong time, some were so grimy I could smell them a mile away. That lovely phone call to my mom around 5:30 was probably something she wished had been a dream, “Mom, its me… I got arrested for a DUI and am in jail.”
I finally left around 2pm, missing classes and fearful of having to explain to the teachers who took attendance where I had maxed out my absences and my grade could be lowered, “I have an excuse of why I couldn’t make it to class… although it’s not the best one.”

To Be Continued...

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Accountability vs Tattling

A few months back we had our annual Parent-Teacher Conference for our 7 year old.  If you haven't had the pleasure, she is a delightful little rascal that brings me great joy and exhaustion. She is my favorite 7 year old - and she proudly declares that to all that will listen. Zoe calls it like it is - it is truly her greatest gift. We recently learned that this "gift" has extended to her peers in the classroom. And, that bring us around to the tale of tattling.

Mr. Field: "Zoe is doing quite well.  She has an avid interest in her peers."
Dr. Womack: "Hmm." (He knew what was coming...)
Mr. Field: "But, she seems to have missed some of the lessons from the school assembly last week on tattling."

Wait, what?  There was a school assembly on tattling? Tell me more.

Zoe searching for iguanas
during our vacation to Mexico
It seems that all children at Marvin Elementary learned a valuable lesson that week. When you have something to tell, you need to ask yourself: (1) Is my goal to get someone in trouble? If yes, keep it to yourself. (2) Is someone at risk of being hurt? If yes, tell someone.

What's the difference?  Picture a family - if your sibling isn't being safe, what would you do? If they are at risk or in danger, you would most likely get help for them. Shouldn't the same be true of our fraternal brothers and sisters? As I go about my day serving students, I often encounter things that I classify as the "absurdity of life". Most of the time, these things are funny and silly moments. On occasion, there is more. That difference is where we, as a community, move to a sense of accountability.

We have a duty to protect one another. We have an obligation to take care of each other. We are a family - a family that acts when someone is at risk of being hurt. Who do you tell? Tell your president, tell your advisor, tell me... Don't sit back and wait until someone really is hurt.  As chapter members and friends - you owe this to one another. The concerns can range - financial issues, drug use, depression/loneliness, eating disorders - be willing to move to accountability. Trust each other. Trust in the accountability. Trust.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

How Was My Service Today?

I am not a coffee drinker. I find my morning caffeine usually met via a large glass of iced tea. A couple of weeks ago, I was on my way into work one morning and stopped for my “usual”. After handing me my tea at the drive thru window, the woman asked, “How was my service today?” While my response was in the affirmative, I was struck by the enormity of her question. That's a pretty risky question to get a little affirmation. The reality is that in her question, she opened herself up to all kinds of criticism. Whoa.

I posted this interaction on Facebook and receiving the following response from a friend: "Could you imagine if we asked that after every interaction with an undergrad! HA... Or, if a chapter president asked us that after we spoke with them..."

Again, Whoa.

Here on the mothership, we are in a tough place. Like all organizations, we have a cycle for the health of the community, our organizations, our leadership. I would describe us to be in a place of, "The Administration doesn't understand us/care about us/listen to us." While this saddens me, it also provides me a lens to consider the question - "How was my service today?" One week into classes and I have met individually with 4 of our 6 fraternity presidents, and 2 of our 7 sorority presidents... With the rest to occur within the next week. So, how was my service today? I ask that sincerely. Our staff team works with fraternity and sorority leaders because we care about your experience. We want to know how we can better serve you. This is one of the greatest benefits of being at a place like USD. I don't recall anyone every asking me my opinion on anything when I was an undergraduate. A large, public University just doesn't afford the same level of individual education.

With every self-revelation, comes a gentle challenge... How are you making yourself known? If you have feedback or an answer to that question, are you sharing it in a way that can create change? Grousing to your roommate about how much Mandy sucks does not fix anything. As students, as leaders, you have the power to take up your authority and do something. If you are unhappy, bring that concern forward. Schedule a meeting with me or one of the other staff in our area. When you see me on campus, stop and tell me what you think. Your opinion matters... And, I want to hear from you. From you, change can begin.

At the end of the Fall semester, we held the semesterly Town Hall Meeting. One of my take-aways from our time together was the knowledge that members do not see how "the administration" benefits them. In response, we are piloting a new advising model this semester. Each chapter is assigned to a staff person in the SLIC. That staff person will be the primary point of contact and meet regularly with the president, risk manager, new member educator, and chapter advisor. Additionally, they will attend chapter events and meetings. It is my hope that through what I am calling the "Chapter Development Model" that when our staff asks the question, "How was my service?", your response is an affirmation of the love and care we give to you.

Welcome back, Team! I am looking forward to a great semester with each of you.