Speak Nicely or Shut it

Oct 052004
Authors: Kelly Hagenah

One of the first lessons I ever learned – and still to this day

remember – is that if I don’t have anything nice to say then I

shouldn’t say anything at all.

Years have passed since I first heard that motto, and while I

have never forgotten it, I still have trouble remembering to live

by it. It’s not easy to live by such standards, especially when the

whole world around me seems to shun that golden rule as well.

Americans love to gossip and we enjoy having reasons to talk

about someone. While this involves discussing people we know, (and

admit it because it’s true) most often the talking revolves around

people who aren’t in our immediate circle. Bad-mouthing has become

a form of entertainment we tend to rely on when we’re alone and

when we are with friends. Why else would Britney Spears’ Las Vegas

wedding get coverage?

So we can discuss how pathetic and unintelligent the decision

was, not how happy we were for her.

And why else would every negative aspect about college students

drinking alcohol make headlines?

Troublesome behavior needs to be present in discussions so we

can hold people and things accountable. Recently, CSU students have

been in the media spotlight for underage drinking and its Greek

Life system. Why?

Because the media know that the majority of adults aren’t

comfortable with underage drinking. Because only 6 percent of CSU

students are Greek, so most students and alumni don’t understand

every aspect of that lifestyle. And because the consequences of

binge drinking are alarming, and we all know that America loves to

use scare tactics.

As a result, people become uncomfortable, frightened and

confused, and they start reacting in ways they normally would not.

Case and point, and hitting closest to home, is CSU sophomore

Samantha Spady’s tragic death. As it should have, the news

surrounding her death seemed to stop CSU students in their


At first it got people thinking. Students began to consider the

consequences of party behaviors, and it was an important reality

check for us all. However, in the weeks that followed, and

unfortunately as more alcohol-related deaths occurred in

fraternities at other universities in the state, severe actions

were taken.

The Sigma Pi Fraternity was kicked off campus. Citations were

handed out to students and friends of Spady. A task force was

created to examine CSU’s drinking culture. And considered most

harsh by some, beer sales were suspended from Sonny Lubick Field at

Hughes Stadium. While all these actions may be considered overkill

(or by some, a weak attempt) it is how we, students and community

members, reacted to them that is truly something to consider. In

response to the harsh actions, we began to place blame, get angry

and say things that were anything but nice because we didn’t know

what else to do.

It makes me sick to think that I have actually heard people

discuss these late students in a heartless manner. It saddens me to

hear blame placed upon fellow students for a tragic death that, if

possible, would have been stopped. Will these unkind remarks solve

anything? Will placing fault bring Spady and the other students

back? Or seemingly – and sadly just as important – bring the booze

back to Hughes?

Personally, as a 21-year-old senior, I would like to drink at

football games and still be able to figure out the ways to prevent

any more alcohol-related deaths. But as important as expressing our

opinion is, it’s imperative at times to remember that lesson

learned long ago – either say something nice or say nothing at all.

Because when it comes down to it, we are all just a small part of

the bigger picture, and we can help by being supportive of each


There are times when life just isn’t fair. It isn’t fair that

students had to die because they didn’t know their limits. It isn’t

fair that blame is being handed out like candy. And while it isn’t

fair that thousands are punished for the mistakes of a few,

badmouthing the situation or the people involved won’t solve

anything. Life can be made a little nicer if we remember that

sometimes it is better to just shut it, or only say the nice


Kelly Hagenah is a senior speech communications major. Her

column runs every Wednesday in the Collegian.

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

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