March 23, 2015 by gregrabidoux2013
“You can hang him from a tree, but he will never sign with me. There will never be a N****r in SAE (Sigma Alpha Epsilon).”
As if anyone of color or anyone with half a brain would want to be part of this SAE chapter but I don’t want to miss the real point here.
This “song” was sung by the University of Oklahoma SAE fraternity brothers Parker Rice and Levi Petit as they and their sorority sister dates were on a bus headed to a fraternity party. Unknown to these racist songbirds was the fact that one of those among them, called a “traitor” by the brothers, digitally recorded them. And the rest is a sordid, sorry and all too familiar story of racism, intolerance and alcohol-fueled offenses deep in the heart of Greek Life on campuses across America.
Or, as Rush Limbaugh and William Kristol assert, this was nothing more than just innocent wordplay that if Kanye West did the same in one of his rap songs it would be a mega-hit. At its core, Mr. Kristol argues, it is rap music and its liberal (sorry, Bill) use of the “N” word and pervasive imagery of violence against women that is the real culprit here.
I’ll get to Messrs. Limbaugh and Kristol in a moment, though they may not be totally in left (again, sorry) field.
But first, let’s be honest. The real issue is not just about some racist idiots in a fraternity that has since been closed down in Oklahoma.
Nor, is it just the disgraceful story of Kappa Delta Rho, a Penn State fraternity that for over 8 months kept a private Facebook group for hundreds of subscribers. All of whom, apparently, enjoyed seeing an endless stream of naked and partially naked young women in vulnerable and embarrassing positions. These included many pictures of women drunk or unconscious while fraternity “boys” simulated rape, anal sex and other sexual acts with these women. Several pictures apparently weren’t simulated and some were of drug deals between brothers and violent hazing, at least some of which included photos of sodomy.
Boy, that Kanye West is one bad dude.
Their fraternity chapter also was closed down in the wake of an outraged campus and public once the formerly private FB group became news. Of course, why it took nearly 8 months for fraternity folks to realize this was at its very core incredibly offensive, rude, and very probably illegal is beyond me.
The Fraternity leaders and alum who also partook of this hilarious FB page are now sorry. For what they all did or that they got caught. I’ll let you be the judge.
Neither is it solely about allegations of violent hazing and forced sodomy at the University of Houston fraternities nor about those fun-loving fraternity boys of Sigma Alpha Mu at the University of Michigan who went on a drunken rampage and caused over $300,000 dollars worth of damage at a ski lodge, including urinating on lobby furniture.
Boys will be (frat) boys, right?
Maybe it’s time to step away from the beer keg and face the facts-Greek Life, by its very nature is exclusive, judgmental, intolerant, divisive and maybe, just maybe, an outdated indulgence that higher education simply cannot afford to support any longer.
Now, before anyone overage 25 waxes too nostalgic about all those memories of drunken bonding with their brothers and how they became a “man” after a good paddling by their older “brother,” let’s sip on a few sobering statistics about campus life today, circa 2015;
- Nearly 60% of all female students on campus will experience sexual assault
- 30% of female students will become victims of rape or attempted rape with 15% being multiple victims
- 9 in every 10 rapes the victim will know the offender
- Nearly 40% of all rapes will occur during a “date”
- Nearly 70% of all sexual assaults and date-rapes will occur off-campus and most frequently at a fraternity house or setting
- 90% of all sexual assaults will occur while the female victim is incapacitated by alcohol and/or has been drugged
In short, there seems to be no shortage of up close and highly personal pictures of female victims for more “men” of honor and value like the “boys” of Kappa Delta Rho to snap and upload.
What fun. All that plus secret handshakes, how could anyone with any sanity want to ever close them down?
Look, I’ve heard the arguments for Greek Life. In fact, at times over the past few years I’ve even made them myself. I was an initial faculty sponsor to a fraternity chapter that was trying to be re-activated on campus. Several of the students were in classes of mine and I knew them to be generally “good” guys who wanted to restore a legacy they felt was worth restoring.
Over the course of the next two years I witnessed fairly up close many of those “stereotypes” non-Greeks hurl at campus Greeks everywhere. The good, the bad and the very ugly.
They and their fellow Greeks did and continue to provide much of the campus “life” on campus. They did and do engage in charitable service that many non-Greeks either simply don’t have time for or don’t make a priority. They continue many of the traditions that have simply faded away or been relegated to old yearbooks by non-Greek students. The secret initiations, pledge “hell” week, Magnolia Balls, the “Old South” debutante dances, the serenades to sister sororities.
But here’s the bigger issue. They also continue traditions and legacies that need to end. Now.
Back in December of 2014 (https://gregtheblogger.com/?s=fraternity+hazing) I wrote about the utter tragedy of Pi Delta Psi pledge Mike Deng, age 19, who died after being bludgeoned and beaten while blindfolded and in a sack by his loving fraternity “brothers” as part of a traditional, hazing process. Earlier this year I wrote about the hazing of young high school football players that was “inspired” by older fraternity brothers. And truth be be told, this hazing was forced sodomy and rape. Welcome to the team boys, now you are scarred for life. No need to thank us.
So, the question becomes, not whether Kanye West or rap music in general is to blame but can fraternities continue to exist without the traditions and rituals which in large part make a fraternity a fraternity? And without which I would argue would make them far less attractive and compelling for both male and female pledges of a certain mind-set and value-system to join.
I mean, have we ever heard of ritualistic sodomy and humiliation be a prerequisite to join and be inducted into a fraternity or sorority based solely on academic prowess?
So, where do we go from here?
Well, I don’t pretend to “get” all rap music. Okay, not even a little of it. And I will give Messrs. Limbaugh and Kristol this much-When you constantly rap about violence towards women and toss the “N” word around with seeming indifference all for big, fat profit, it’s tough to get too indignant when others do the same.
On the other hand, the OK boys were pretty clear where they stood on lynching and racism. Tough for me to whip up any sympathy there.
At a time when higher education is desperately seeking enrollment and tuition and virtual or “schools without walls” are posing an ever-larger competitive threat the issue of Greek Life and its very real and perceived negative impact on campus cannot be ignored.
This isn’t some Hollywood fantasy version of what fraternity life is or ever was in its Animal House hey-day.
No, this is about taking real and necessary steps to ensure all our students, female and male are safe and that the alarming numbers of campus sexual assault and rape go down, way down, if not become a vestige of the past.
The real question now is should Greek Life itself become a vestige of the past or does it deserve yet another chance to reinvent itself to be part of higher education circa 2015 and beyond?
Ipsa scientia potestas est.
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