Michael J. Fitzgerald has been a journalist for 40 years, working as a writer and editor for newspapers, magazines and web publications. In 2014 he published the novel, "The Fracking War." In 2015, he published his second novel, "Fracking Justice." He writes or contributes to five blogs. He and his wife Sylvia Fox are the owners and principal partners in *subject2change Media, a multi-media firm involved in print, video and broadcast. He writes a weekly column, "Write On" for the daily 'Finger Lakes Times' newspaper in Geneva, NY. He was a journalism professor at CSU Sacramento from 1986 to 2011 teaching Newswriting, Column Writing and Magazine Writing.
CHICO, Calif. - Pity the president of Chico State University. A student pledge at a fraternity died in a hazing incident, a group of frat brothers just performed in a porn flick, and the university has to have its annual spring break in conjunction with St. Patrick's Day to avoid riots downtown. The students at Chico State are proud of their party image, conferred on them by Playboy magazine years ago. I went to school there (M.A. 1983) and taught for three years - and you bet I went to a few parties. But the situation in 1986 when I left was dangerous but nearly under control. During what we called 'Pioneer Week,' students wandered around drunkenly for most of the time - including coming into classes so tanked they passed out. I had a few incidents like that and had other students (the sober ones) haul the drunkard out. There was no use calling the university police - there were too many incidents. That whole holiday has since been cancelled - the city police couldn't handle the crowds. A lot of the culture is typical fraternity, but a lot of it also grew out of the famous movie, Animal House, which is a wonderful film. But the problem is that the students at Chico State think it's a model and not a parody. Every male student who sees the movie wants to be a combination of Bluto Blutarsky (the late John Belushi) and Otter (Tim Matheson, now starring on West Wing as a politician!). I would wager that in some of the unofficial frat houses off campuses, there are still many aging Animal House afficionados - long out of school and old enough to know better - still hanging around because of the ambiance, the booze, and maybe now the hope that some porn star might drop by. There are some advantages to teaching at a college where students don't have Animal House fantasies. At least the pledges here in Sacramento don't die in hazing incidents and we can have spring break when it best suits the academic calendar. And not a porn star in sight.