I don’t have too much to say today. So I’ll just share a few links that might help shed some light on what’s been on my mind for the past few hours.
Recently, the University of Oklahoma cut ties with its chapter of the fraternity Sigma Alpha Epsilon in light of a video surfacing where members were chanting racial slurs.
While appropriate disciplinary action against the fraternity is being explored, many people are pushing for something more valuable: a change in the culture. This one chapter of SAE is definitely not the only group guilty of this kind of behavior, as evidenced by the trending Twitter hashtag #NotJustSAE.
Last night, I learned that my alma mater has its own problems with Greek life culture. An email from January 2014 went viral among the student community. I won’t share the email here, but the language was just awful. When I saw it, I thought it was a joke. I mean, the kind of language that was used was almost a caricature of privileged frat bro mentality, how could it be REAL? At the school I attended, no less?
In this email, the author expressed his excitement for rush week, as many people would; it’s an exciting time for anyone in a Greek organization. However, in this very short, 3-sentence email, he is able to do a few things:
- Use 3 racial slurs in a row, seemingly in an attempt to impress with how many he can use in one breath
- Demean women
- Write the phrase “f*ck consent”
I think I stared at my computer screen when I saw this and then immediately hopped over to Twitter. I know that my school community is active on Twitter, especially the POC community. My alma mater was out for blood.
The president of our university released a relatively tame statement last night. This was rather late at night, so I understand why it wasn’t thorough. Today, he took to Twitter to answer the many student concerns about this email. After all, folks were calling for expulsion, banning the fraternity. They were criticizing the weak “diversity training” that was going to be mandated for that fraternity, the lack of attention to more effective sexual assault education for Greek organizations.
I don’t have much else to add that hasn’t already been said. Something needs to be done. Free speech does not infringe upon freedom to be offended. People felt unsafe after reading this email, especially WOC (women of color). That doesn’t mean that the student should be doxxed or have to feel unsafe himself, but something needs to be done. It is not a coincidence that people associate Greek life with these types of incidents. It is not a smear campaign designed to paint them in a bad light. There is a problem within these organizations, maybe stemming from the fact that many of them date back over a century and, because of the insular nature of fraternities and sororities, have not had external checks on their culture.
Not really in the mood to say much else about these incidents at this time. But please do let me know what you think.
What is the best way to respond when something like this happens in your community? I was wondering this last night and stopped wondering when I checked Twitter to see that students were alerting not only the school administration but as many news outlets as they could @reply.
What would you do if you received an email like this from your rush chair?
What if the sender of this email was someone you knew well? Maybe a friend or a roommate?
What should be the disciplinary action in response to an incident like this? We get into tricky free speech territory, and SAE is already planning on seeking legal action against their university. What is appropriate? What action is best?