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Judging from this week's news from higher education, the 1978 comedy film "Animal House" might pass for a documentary.
Thousands of drunken students trashed the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in the annual "Blarney Blowout," injuring four police officers.
At the College at Brockport, part of the State University of New York, two students were charged with animal abuse after holding a dog upside down under a keg and forcing beer down its throat, while another student took a photograph of the fun to post on the Internet.
And at the University of Connecticut at Storrs, a female sophomore reported that she and other members of a sorority went to a fraternity house where they were "forced" to perform stupid stunts while drinking lots of alcohol, so much so that she passed out and woke up in a hospital wearing different clothes. She said she had been afraid to leave the frat house - but apparently not too afraid to drink to excess and lose consciousness.
Which is to say that she wasn't really "forced" at all - wasn't kidnapped or otherwise restrained - but was just a victim of her own bad judgment.
College officials may huff and puff about disciplining the students involved in this misconduct, but these days expulsions are about as rare as executions for mass murder in Connecticut. Besides, educational standards long ago having been replaced with social promotion. College today is less about education and more about experimenting with living at parental or public expense but without supervision. If you can get away with causing harm, you may gain life skills as valuable as the three R's.
That's why the worst offense in these incidents is the UConn sophomore's excuse that "they made me do it."
Fraternities and increasingly sororities are notorious for the indecency and cruelty peculiar to youth. A woman who enters a fraternity house is taking her life in her hands; one who drinks there is playing Russian roulette. Parents who send such a credulous and defenseless child off to college should be charged with risk of injury to a moron.
And those who call such criticism "blaming the victim" should explain why people aren't to blame for their own stupidity. Even elementary school kids know not to try swimming with alligators.
Maybe, as experts say, most mentally ill people aren't dangerous, but a close reading of Connecticut's newspapers produces many reports about chronically mentally ill people who are.
Well-publicized was the recent case of the chronically mentally ill woman who beat her mother nearly to death in West Hartford just after, she said, she confessed her homicidal urges to Lawrence + Memorial Hospital in New London and a mental health emergency telephone service, only to be turned away by both.
But there are many less-publicized recent cases, like these:
• The chronically mentally ill man who stabbed his mother to death in Deep River hours after being released from a residential mental health program operated by the state.
• The chronically mentally ill man who stabbed a housemate to death in Windsor.
• The chronically mentally ill woman who nearly drowned her young son in the Naugatuck River in Waterbury because she wanted "to save him from impending doom."
The commissioner of the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services says that while confidentiality law prevents her from discussing specific cases, the department is handling cases conscientiously. Maybe it is, and it's not clear if the agency was involved in more than the Deep River case.
But a conscientious legislature might want to know about matters of life and death that can't otherwise be discussed in public. Instead of investigating this topic, the legislature's Public Safety and Security Committee is pursuing a bill to regulate noise levels in movie theaters. That's public safety and security for you.