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How I graduated college on 'triple secret probation'

Updated: Mar 26

Yes! Triple secret probation! If you’re a fan of the comedy classic “Animal House,” you know what double secret probation is. Triple secret? Never heard of it you’re saying.


Neither did I until I was first placed on disciplinary probation for a fraternity kidnap gone wrong , then placed on disciplinary probation a second time two months later for being the unlucky fraternity officer whose signature was on an unsanctioned toga party event form, and my third offense was for trying to outrun campus police after I borrowed a friend’s truck to tow our fraternity chariot to campus where I dropped it off and headed back to the frat house reasoning that campus cops can’t pursue you off campus. Wrong again and here’s how I earned this distinction.


Kidnapping your pledge master while pledging a frat is a time honored tradition--but kidnapping one in the Administration Building was not a great idea, particularly when you and your two pledge brothers are set up by a beautiful but devious sorority girl named Judy who unbeknown to us at the time happened to be our pledge master’s girlfriend.


“All you have to do,” she said, “is to wait for your pledge master outside the classroom in the hallway, and when Richard comes outside, one of you will tackle him, the other can sit on him and hold him down, and the other one can handcuff him. He’s all by himself and you’ll know when to spring on him when I come out of the class first and give you the sign,” she smiled.


On queue, we impatiently waited in an administrator’s open doorway right next to the classroom door with muscles tensed and eyes fixed on our prize, but as we were ready to pounce on him, a demure administrator asked us what we were doing. I ignored him at first, but he persisted, so when I told him we were on a fraternity kidnap, he quoted a section of the campus rule book against such things, which I replied to the meddlesome administrator Mr. Jacobs, over my shoulder, “Nothing is going to stop us, so you can take your rulebook and shove it up your…!” Well you get the point, and so did he—immediately dialing campus police. Undaunted, we held our ground until the last student left the classroom and when we realized we’d been set up, we bolted from the building to safety.


For two days my pledge brothers and I were on edge, waiting for a summons to the Dean’s office. But it never came, so I enjoyed myself that afternoon with Judy, whom I left for a short time to buy us lunch from the cafeteria so we could watch a school rally while we ate outside. When I returned, she informed me that a professor, who matched Mr. Jacob’s description, had asked her who that young man beside her was and she replied of course with my full name.

Doomed, there was only one choice to make and with my college career at stake, so I made my way directly to Mr. Jacob’s office and explained to him that I lost my temper because he reminded me of my stepfather who used to beat me. Impressed by my willingness to come forward and turn myself in, he took pity on me and stated he was not going to recommend suspension, and instead, “I’m going to recommend to the Dean you receive psychiatric therapy with the school Counselor, Mr. Green.”


Doomed again as there was no way to fool a shrink with this story I made up about my non-existent stepfather who used to beat me—I reluctantly made my way to Mr. Green’s office. Amazingly he never suspected otherwise and instead reveled in my past and about my Playboy Bunny mom, and how I grew up a wild hippie child of the sixties, and when my mom, my brother and I hitch-hiked across the United States in 1968—all true stories! After one therapy session, I was free to go and placed on disciplinary probation for a year.


Barely a quarter into the start of my probation period, my fraternity was suspended for still serving alcoholic beverages at parties, and already its Social and Rush Chairman, myself along with the executive officers were placed on disciplinary probation and our fraternity charter was revoked for a quarter and half until we pledged to never again to charge for alcoholic beverages and to perform extensive community service—which we did to the disciplinary committee’s satisfaction.


Because I was the only officer to have had a repeat offense, the Dean of Students, Mr. House, recommended expulsion as is customary upon two offenses but hesitated due to Mr. Green’s unique psychiatric report from my first offence. However, he made it clear in no uncertain terms that I would be expelled upon a third offense, which for me didn’t take long to come by.

After a very successful fall rush I sought to outdo myself as Rush Chairman and build a Greek chariot for the spring quarter so my brothers and I could whisk students off to their classes pulled by two Phi Taus dressed in authentic Greek costumes. To get the chariot from the garage I was working at part time, I had to borrow one of the mechanic’s Chevy Ranchero because it had a tow hitch. He warned me the day I borrowed it that the new muffler he ordered to replace the existing one with a large hole in it hadn’t arrived yet—so his car’s exhaust smoked a bit and it sounded like it was going faster than it really was.


Determined, I successfully dropped off our chariot on campus where it was a big hit with students who were tired from walking to their classes. When I returned home, thoroughly exhausted from working past midnight three straight nights to get the chariot finished, I passed a campus cop who was heading in the opposite direction. As I peered through the rear view mirror, he must have heard the deafening noise and saw the smoke from the muffler when we passed each other under a bridge, and turned around, and was soon behind me as I neared the end of campus.


With the freeway onramp in front of me, the campus cop pursued with his emergency lights on, but I kept going, figuring he would give up as soon as I left campus. But he didn’t! He was on my tail as I entered the freeway as I thought angrily in semi-comatose condition from lack of sleep, “What kind of campus cop is this?” Apparently no ordinary cop who then flicked on his siren, and when I still didn’t stop, he aimed his service revolver at me, which finally got my attention. When I returned to full consciousness and pulled off the next off ramp and stopped the car, I was immediately handcuffed and arrested!

On the way back to the campus police station, I explained to Officer Sanchez who I was and what I was doing, and how I had little sleep and made some very poor choices, and would accept any punishment deserved as long as he didn’t report what happened to Dean House. Surprisingly, he agreed to do this after booking me on reckless driving and dropping me off at the county jail. Once released from jail after posting bail, I waited the next day to be summoned to the Dean’s office but when that didn’t happen, I breathed a sigh of relief and enjoyed reading that week’s edition of our campus newspaper the Poly Post until I came to an article that featured my arrest, titled: “Thefts, Vandalism, and High Speed Pursuit Keep Campus Cops Busy!”


Doomed once and for all and ready to accept my fate, I made my way straight to Dean House’s office where he was in the process of summoning me for expulsion after he’d just read my article. “As much as it saddens me to have you expelled,” he sighed, “I’m retiring at the end of this quarter and will leave your fate in the hands of our new Interim Dean of Students, Mr. Green.”


“Mr. Green?” I thought. “There is a god!”


To my surprise, Mr. Green so enjoyed our first encounter together, he spared me expulsion and instead signed me up for ten more psychiatric sessions where we spent our hour together each week reliving my stories about my Playboy Bunny mom, growing up in the sixties, and hitching across the USA—and how I was going to be the first in my family to graduate from college.


From that point onward as my freshman year ended all the way to my senior year, I never got in trouble again and did just that—I graduated college with some of the highest collegiate honors and as the most outstanding senior in the nation for the Phi Kappa Tau Fraternity, receiving their Shideler Award!


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