Case in Point
The “Traditions” of Bluebonnet State University
Bluebonnet State University (BSU) is a comprehensive public institution, with an enrollment of 25,000 students, primarily undergraduate. Founded in 1913, this regional school is competing with peer institutions to advance its status as one of the state’s premier institutions, and has embarked upon a multi-million dollar capital campaign to benefit several areas of the campus. With a long history of rich tradition and strong alumni support, the fundraising effort is expected to provide much needed funds for programs, services and construction projects, supplementing the dwindling financial support received from the state and propelling its reputation as a top-tier state institution.
As the newest administrator on campus, you have been hired to serve in the role of Vice President for Student Affairs (VPSA), not only for your exemplary professional reputation at your previous institution, but also for the close ties you maintained as an alumna with BSU. During your first six weeks on the job, you conducted a “Listening Tour,” meeting with a variety of constituents across the university and within the community. Your goals are to immerse yourself in the university’s campus culture, and to reacquaint yourself with a campus that has drastically changed in the 20 years since you completed your undergraduate degree.
As you met with student leaders and alumni, you became concerned with the repeated use of the word “tradition” when referencing student events and activities. While no one has explicitly used the word “hazing,” it seems to be implied when you discussed the current culture of student life. From alumni, many of whom have already pledged significant amounts to the capital campaign, you receive a “nod and a wink” as if to imply that you understand these behaviors since you were once an undergraduate on that campus. From students, you are left with the impression they believe you will be sympathetic with the status quo and not “rock the boat.”
While reviewing your notes from the “Listening Tour,” you receive a phone call from the Dean of Students to alert you that his office initiated two hazing investigations. One matter involves allegations that several new members of a professional business fraternity were subjected to acts of servitude and drinking-related games throughout their pledge program, and most of the new members are under the age of 21.
The second hazing allegation involves members of the marching band who returned from this past weekend’s football game. The section leaders subjected the freshmen to severe beatings in order to join the secret fraternity that resulted in two members being rushed to the hospital.
As you hang up the phone, your assistant brings you several messages from alumni you know personally or met since you returned to campus who would like to speak with you immediately about the hazing investigations. The majority of the names you recognize as top donors from the capital campaign. There is also a message from your colleague, the Vice President for Development, as well as a message from your supervisor, the President, both requesting an immediate return call regarding the hazing allegations.
It seems as if BSU’s “traditions” may be changing sooner than expected. What do you do next?
What are the relevant issues?
Who are the stakeholders?
What is your plan of action/recommendation?