Sunday, August 05, 2007

The Nanny State Expands Again
(or, Prosecutors Gone Wild)

As if the story in yesterday's post wasn't enough, here's another example of, IMHO, a prosecutor overstepping his bounds. In what is inarguably a tragic case where a college student drank himself to death, the local prosecutor sought--and a grand jury returned--indictments against not only the fraternity officers but also the dean of students and the director of Greek life at the college:
Two Rider University officials, including the dean of students, and three students were indicted Friday in the death of a freshman after a drinking binge at a campus fraternity house.

The school dissolved the Phi Kappa Tau chapter Friday, and authorities said the charges should send a message to students and administrators alike.

"The standards of college life, when it relates to alcohol, need to be policed carefully," prosecutor Joseph Bocchini Jr. said.
I won't argue with that in principle, but I have a huge problem with the prosecutor's actions here. Eric Scheie of Classical Values has more on this story, and I echo his reaction to the prosecutor's statement:
Come again? A student acts like an idiot and drinks himself to death, and the dean is arrested?

Not in America. Please, someone, say it's not true!
Sadly, it appears that it is. Here's more from Scheie:
All I can see is a statement that "the standards of college life, when it relates to alcohol, need to be policed carefully." Is "not policing carefully" now a criminal offense? What is the exact charge?

When I was a landlord in Berkeley I rented to students, and plenty of them drank, I'm sure. Was that my fault? How far does this "policing" go? Should the students' residences be subject to search? (Remember, these are not children; they are legal adults.) What is the dean supposed to do, and why stop with booze? If a fraternity threw a party where sex occurred and condoms weren't used and someone got an STD (say, AIDS), would they charge him with "not policing carefully"? Should the dean go into the students' bedrooms and crawl around with a flashlight?
If convicted, the dean and Greek affairs director could face the exact same penalties as the fraternity members: 18 months in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. Yet the only charge being levied appears to be "aggravated hazing." Surely the prosecutor's not saying that the dean is guilty of hazing simply by allowing it to occur on his campus, is he? If that's the case, then, as one of Scheie's commenters points out, police officers should be arrested whenever a crime takes place on their beat...after all, they're guilty of "not policing carefully" as well, aren't they?

I'll let another one of Scheie's commenters have the last word; this one calls himself "John Q Liberty," and I hope he's right: "The only silver lining here is that this may give a few college administrators pause to consider whether the nanny state and it's attendant failure to hold individuals accountable for their own actions is really such a great idea."

Holding individuals accountable for their own actions--what a concept! I think it's an idea that never should have gone away in the first place, and definitely one whose time has come again.

They'll stop having kids when they run out of "J" names: The famous (or infamous) Duggar family of Arkansas just welcomed its 17th child into the world this week. All the kids' names start with J, and the new arrival, Jennifer, is no exception. I'm not sure which is the more amazing fact--that mom Michelle has been pregnant for a total of over ten years (!), or that she's looking forward to even more kids. (And to go with my last paragraph above, I should point out that the family is taking responsibility for their actions and not expecting help from the government; according to the their website, both of the parents are licensed real estate professionals and built their own house debt-free as a family project.)

No comments: