Wednesday, April 19, 2006

How I Changed Florida Law

You see that picture up there? That’s Florida Governor Dan Akroyd signing into law the Chad Meredith Act, Florida’s anti-hazing statute. And, really, I should be at the signing. Because without me, that act would never exist.


Back in college, I was the president of my fraternity and as president part of my job was to attend Intra Fratenrity Council, or IFC, meetings. One week, the meeting fell just after I had returned form a grueling Drill weekend with the Marines, where I was hazed until I passed out. And loved every minute of it. Well, this particular week the topic of said IFC meeting was hazing. I was asked my thoughts on the issue, and, being the motivated Devil Dog that I was, told them, “You know, you all make hazing sound like this awful, terrible thing. Did it ever occur to you that sharing a miserable experience brings people closer together? Makes them appreciate what they’ve earned? Without any adversity, we’re just handing letters out for no reason. Used responsibly, I think hazing is a valuable tool to the Greek system.” I was fired as president 2 weeks later.

That fall, after an on-campus Ludacris concert and Game 7 of the 2001 World Series, (where the Arizona Diamondbacks beat some team I’m not remembering right now) a few of my fraternity bothers decided it would be a good idea to try and swim across Lake Osceola, the raw-sewage and crocodile infested body of water in the middle of the UM campus. Filled to the brim with alcohol and marijuana, the boys entered the water as the outer bands of a category one hurricane were descending upon Coral Gables. The group was comprised of Travis Montgomery, the individual instrumental in my firing and consequently my replacement as President, Chad Meredith and a couple of other guys named Timmy and Dave. Chad was a pledge, the other three were brothers, including President Travis. Well, four guys went in the water, and only three came out. And I’ll be damned if the pledge was the one who couldn’t swim.

Of course, it made big news. I was saddened to hear of Chad’s death, but also quickly phoned Channel 7 (Miami’s Sleaziest News Station) and gave them the names of the individuals involved. Since they’d fucked me, I figured I’d give one back. At any rate, it was a big story and the media called it a “hazing” incident since, you know, it involved frat guys and the youngest one died so it MUST be hazing. And again, I’ll be damned if every fucking news story that week didn’t mention that a “past president had made pro-hazing remarks at a recent campus-wide meeting.” I was never mentioned by name, but it was most certainly me.

In true Miami slimeball lawyer fashion, attorneys started lining up to represent the Meredith family. They took the media’s statements and ran with them, saying it was an awful incident of obvious hazing, and that the fraternity should be held responsible. Right. Because Dave, Timmy and Travis forced poor, innocent, doped-up and drunk Chad Meredith into the lake and told him he had to swim across or he wasn’t “in.” Bullshit. He was a nice kid the few times I met him, but the reason he died was out and out stupidity. On his part. And there is no one to blame for his death but him.

But in America, parents never blame their children’s flaws on the children, and instead blamed the school, the fraternity, the other guys involved, the janitorial staff, Ludacris, and Luis Gonzales for giving them all a reason to celebrate. And blamed them to the tune of tens of millions of dollars. Of course, since the media and all the parties who were never there and never met anyone involved deemed it hazing, some dipshit judge gave the Meredith’s a ridiculous amount of money for their son being a pothead idiot and deciding he could go swimming during a hurricane. God bless Lawyers. But the Meredith’s did not rest, and started appearing in Tallahassee on a regular basis with pictures of smiling, innocent Chad saying that if there were laws against hazing, he’d still be alive. No, Mrs. Meredith, if there were laws against underage drinking and marijuana use your son would still be alive. Oh, wait……

So, last year, Jeb Bush signed into law the Chad Meredith Act which, I believe, makes hazing a felony in the State of Florida. And had I not made that stupid speech, I probably would have remained president, and the attorneys would have had no basis for their argument. Had I still been president, I also doubt the chain of events that led to Chad’s death would have happened. So, if you are ever convicted of felony hazing (and is that a pussy phrase or what?) in Florida you can not only than overzealous lawyers, sensational media, and a doped-up college freshman, you can thank me. Because without White Dade, kids all over the state would still be exposed to such viscous practices as teamwork conquering adversity and respecting a title you have earned.

13 Comments:

At 7:21 PM, Blogger Sexy Lexi said...

Damn, that's some crazy shit. Seems like the man at the top always gets the blame, no?

 
At 7:40 PM, Blogger Tara said...

Dade, what did you have to do when you were hazed? Do they pick a different...er...event for every pledge?

 
At 7:49 PM, Blogger Ashburnite said...

When I was a sophomore at Penn State, our sorority and one of the fraternities were accused of hazing because one of our stupid (and supremely slutty) pledges decided to drink with the pledges of said fraternity. Well, she ended up in the emergency room with alcohol poisening. Yeah, we forced pledges to drink with pledges and get shit-faced.

Sorry it's long-winded, but long story short, I can relate.

 
At 7:55 PM, Anonymous Cliff said...

Wow, I didn't know you had called Channel 7. Question though, while I know Travis and Dave were not fans of yours, what did they have to with your firing? From what I knew you were fired, (or forced out) due to the speech. Did they report what was said to "Kurt"? And thank you for writing this blog, it's exactly what I've had to rant to the dozens of people who have asked me about it over the years. Lets not forget that the Meredith's told Travis and Dave many times over that they did not blame them for the incident, and cried with them...until the lawyers got them on the phone...

 
At 9:02 PM, Anonymous Johnson said...

WD was very unfairly hosed in this situation. I was at UM at the time this occurred and, while it sucks that this kid died, WD had nothing to do with it. I had a few beers with the people in question that night and no one forced a beer down his throat or said, "Swim across the lake with us or you're out of the frat." It sucks that so many lives got messed up b/c of one person's foolish mistake.

 
At 11:01 PM, Anonymous j said...

F dude, i can't believe you called channel 7 on them. that's pretty much a spiteful bitch move, sorry to say. i can see that from a catty D Phi E but dang...real fucked up. No one likes a tattletale.

I certainly had a role in all this. I drove Chad to the party but this girl we picked up got wasted and was puking everywhere and we had to take her home. I asked Trav to take him home instead and left Chad in his hands. Later, I am going to bed when I find those dudes using a screwdriver to get food out of Angel's fridge. I eat some while they beg me to come swim the lake. I thought about it, but the reply was "once was enough for me" and I went to bed instead.

All in all, I blame that dumb drunk lush chick. If it wasn't for her Chad is alive. The whole thing--including the actions of his parents and flippant attitudes towards it (fun off-color jokes aside)--depresses me horribly.

 
At 1:02 PM, Blogger White Dade said...

Lexi - Yeah. Although I was not actually sued by the Meredith family. I still got fied, though.

Tara - At the fraternity? Not much. It was pretty lame compared to the Marines. the worst i ever got it was in HS, though.

Ash - Drinking? At Penn St? No!

Cliff - All this happened after you turncoated and went Gator on us anyway. But Trav and Dave were writing letters to Kurt before my speech asking to fire me, then, of course, demanded it at chapter after it happened.

Johnson - I had no idea you were there that night. Cool.

J - Yes, it was a bitch move. This is the first time I ever mentioned it. Would I do it today? No. But I did a lot of things at 22 that I wouldn't today.

 
At 1:21 PM, Anonymous Cliff said...

well no, I was actually there when the speech and your firing happened...Travis was in when I left...But boy am I glad as hell I got out when I did!!

 
At 3:14 PM, Anonymous Johnson said...

Yeah, I remember b/c we were having beers over at Feeley's place at one point during the night. That's when I met him.

 
At 3:13 PM, Anonymous KMeredith said...

I can hear the sympathy in your voice of a young life lost. Wow, people like you prove the devil really exist. Fortunately, I don't have to defend my brother's honor against your ridiculous accusations because the news papers have already done so. Anyone who knew Chad Meredith would instantly know that you are out of your mind. Or anyone whom read about him in the papers. May you find God soon before it's too late! Chad's big sister!

 
At 4:07 PM, Blogger White Dade said...

What is it about family members that draws them to my comments box. I will say that Leo Sterger was much nicer. I never ripped Chad as a person, I just said he made some poor choices that ultimately lead to his death. Painful as it is to accept the fact that it was your brother's own bad judgment that killed him and not some deviosu frat boys, you realyl should start trying. Because anyone who was there knws that that is the truth. I'm sorry you can't accept reality. But I haven't gotten any hate mail in a while, so thanks.

 
At 10:04 AM, Anonymous tex said...

Oh shit- I have found something to occupy my last days at my current jobs. Months of pointless rants from a dear old friend? acquaintence? whatever.

While chad was a friend, and I can probably say I drank with him as much as anyone in the chapter, underage as well, its true. He brought his own pot, and actually bought his own beer if i remember correctly.

And also, the entire settlement was reversed. Dave and Travis won the appeal, and the suit against the fraternity was dropped because the family and lawyers mistakenly sued the national fraternity scholarship fund. You can't do that....

 
At 6:23 PM, Anonymous Jess said...

Weird...I randomly was watching something on the E channel about hazing and was amazed to hear an act was passed about my friend Chad. I, too, was a freshman at UM that year and had the pleasure of getting fucked up with Chad a number of times. He was the sweetest kid! My boyfriend at the time took his death really hard, as did many. We even put flowers and a blunt wrapper by the lake that morning..haha. I don't really know who is to blame in this situation, but it was definitely gut wrenching when Chad died. I wish his family will find some kind of piece. Of all the assholes I encountered at UM, Chad was the polar opposite of that and didn't deserve to die. I am only 25, and know 2 ppl that are dead from my class of friends at UM...SAD!

 

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