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Let’s Push Things Forward – Fairly

(featurecreature)– I’m a proud member of Delta Kappa Epsilon here at Amherst. Everything expressed in this article is none other than my own.

I attended the meeting about sexual misconduct this past Sunday in the Friedmann Room. There were many insightful comments, courageous survivors, and positive moments. One negative moment, however, struck me as completely counterproductive. That was the comparison of the Amherst fraternities to Wesleyan’s Beta Theta Pi—the infamous “Rape Factory,” implicated in numerous instances of sexual assault.

The reference to the “Rape Factory” served little purpose except to broadly engender fear of fraternities. They also alienate a population that otherwise could substantively add to the college-wide discourse. This style of dialogue discourages participation that can lead to honest, constructive discussion and, ultimately, reform.
While the “gray area” status of fraternities makes it difficult for the college to regulate them, it also makes it difficult for fraternity members to openly speak about fraternities. No frat member wants the administration or student body to associate him with an organization being compared to a “Rape Factory.” This lack of discussion of fraternities by fraternity members leads to misunderstanding of frats throughout Amherst.

As I interpret it, a plurality of this campus tends to sees the fraternities as a Cerberus, a three-headed monster of dogged, ignorant chauvinism similar to fraternities at other campuses. This image contains inaccuracies. First, fraternities at Amherst share few similarities with fraternities at large in America. While I feel uncomfortable discussing specifics in this forum, I know this point has salience and would love to discuss with anyone who has interest. (I may be anonymous, but the ACV Editors know who I am. They can get me in contact with you.)

Second, these frats, so consistently lumped together, are three separate entities that have mutual respect for each other but have next to no formal, inter-fraternal communication or cooperation. To compare one to the other is to compare the Miami Heat, Denver Broncos, and Boston Bruins: they’re in the same general business, but each institution has different personnel, goals, and cultures. Equating all three is unfair for all three.

Third, many fraternity brothers have cogent, thoughtful, moderate opinions about the role of fraternities and Amherst’s social culture in general. ACVoice Editor-in-Chief Liya Rechtman is a friend of mine. This summer, we were both in Amherst and, one night, got into a discussion about rape on campus. I remember the surprise on her face when I made my first point. She expressed surprised that I had such a reasonable opinion on the issue. Originally, her surprise upset me: how could she perceive me as so ignorant regarding a serious problem on this campus? Later, however, I realized that she had little reason to think otherwise. No forum truly exists for fraternity members to converse with non-fraternity members. Because we are treated as outlaws on campus, we rarely speak up to explain our positions — thus people ascribed to us the thoughts of outlaws. “Rape factory” references reinforce this outlaw perception and discourage these “outlaws” from saying otherwise.

Since Dana Bolger’s article was published last week, I have had multiple enlightening (and enlightened) conversations about sexual misconduct on this campus with both my brothers and members of other fraternities. At the same time, I would have felt uncomfortable speaking as a member of a fraternity at the forum given the anti-fraternity sentiment. It seems like the other fraternity members in attendance felt the same way: not one of them spoke. This lack of input makes me uneasy considering that, other than women, fraternities will be affected most by whatever fruit this discussion bears.

This article certainly does not have the intention of justifying the misogynistic action of TD (or any misogyny, for that matter.) Instead, this article wants to recognize the imminent change approaching this campus. I’m a feminist and a fraternity brother because, believe it or not, there’s no reason I can’t be both. I can positively contribute to this conversation. My brothers, as well as the members of Chi Psi and TD, can positively contribute to this conversation. Most importantly, however, many of us want to contribute to this conversation. Some of us may say some ignorant things—we aren’t perfect. And we may not have the same experiences as the female attendees at Sunday’s meeting. But our goal is the same as yours: making Amherst a safe and supportive place for everyone. I hope, as this conversation pushes forward, an environment exists where frat brothers can speak candidly about their experiences here. Together, I expect us to move towards a more ideal Amherst, one where fraternities exist and everyone can feel safe and respected.

Thank you for reading. I look forward to many conversations about subjects like this over the coming year.

About featurecreature

The editors of AC Voice use featurecreature to publish anonymous and guest submissions. If you are interested in posting to AC Voice anonymously or as a guest, feel free to contact us.

17 comments on “Let’s Push Things Forward – Fairly

  1. Anonymous
    October 17, 2012

    Amazing amount of restraint from the author to not explicitly state the obvious: that DKE and Chi Psi uphold a higher standard of character amongst their members overall than TD does, and therefore deserve the respect not to be lumped with it as “Amherst fraternities” in general.

  2. Anon
    October 17, 2012

    I agree that badly mediated discussions can sometimes be counterproductive. However, the many accounts of testimonials at the meeting sounded like they had extremely productive effects. I would love to hear your feminist perspective on how and why the TD tshirt personally affected you or your frat. Or perhaps, some tangible suggestions on how the conversation can move forward. I see that you believe frats at Amherst to be different than most frats. This is true. They are unregulated and aren’t required to contribute positively to the community or campus by the College. Other than that, I have heard few concrete suggestions on how allowing frats to come back to campus officially would be better than banning them, or why Amherst frats are so wonderful and undiscriminatory they can’t be simply abandoned. All I have heard is, “Let us talk and be legal, and then you’ll see.” To quote a popular president, that sounds like a pretty “sketchy” plan to me.

    • BB
      October 18, 2012

      Fraternities here at Amherst take great pride in serving in their community. I know for a fact that many of the members take pride in serving the community and making their legacy one to be remembered in a positive light.Since we can not operate on campus doing collective acts of service is difficult, but you should know there are countless examples of fraternities encouraging community engagement. Please before you pass judgement, really get to know us.

    • The Author
      October 18, 2012

      As I said in my post, get in touch with me (via ACVoice) if you would like to hear my opinions about why fraternities here are different than fraternities around the country in general. Also, I never suggested legalizing on-campus fraternal activities. You may have few concrete suggestions, but there are many fraternity members who do have concrete suggestions that could enrich the conversation. I want that enrichment to happen, but first we must do away with the stigmas and exclusiveness that were present in Sunday’s meeting.

  3. Sam Bell
    October 17, 2012

    I believe that frats are wrong for Amherst, and they negatively affect the social life on campus. However, given the state of the alcohol crackdown when I graduated and the reports that it has gotten much worse since, I think frats are probably necessary. Students do need a safe space to drink.

    I also think that frats should be open to both genders, even though I know that that doesn’t necessarily preclude mistreatment of women (see Psi U).

  4. Anonymous
    October 17, 2012

    No one really cares about frats except people in frats.

    • Anonymous
      October 18, 2012

      The recent conversation regarding the role of fraternities at Amherst would indicate otherwise. If the place of fraternities at the College is being discussed in conjunction with questions of women’s sexual welfare and the status of drinking on-campus, it seems perfectly reasonable to more cogently understand their nature and relationship with the school. It adds nothing to the discussion to demean/disenfranchise fraternity members who, as the author points out, are as interested in contributing to the conversation and engendering a safer, more open environment as the greater Amherst community.

  5. Anonymous
    October 18, 2012

    Agree with the first comment. Also the third. I visited Amherst recently (am a grad) and was shocked by the level of alcohol crackdown. Making sex and alcohol safe should be the number one priority for the administration, not saving face. As a sidenote, Amherst students love to be outraged, and there’s a fair amount of reactionary behavior I witness (on my newsfeed). Don’t have anything much to say about it, but I don’t like it

  6. Anonymous
    October 18, 2012

    Last year, a friend of mine was sexually assaulted by a member of DKE at a party thrown by DKE. TD is not the only fraternity that needs to change.

  7. Anonymous
    October 18, 2012

    It’s easy for a fraternity member to post an article to a blog indicating a desire to speak out honorably for women and for a safer environment at Amherst College when the very point is that he cannot, and therefore will not, be able to do so because of his status as a member of an underground fraternity. Actions speak louder than words. If you want to show us that you care, then do it. Don’t lean on the restrictions placed on your fraternity as a way out.

    • nope
      October 18, 2012

      What is actually being suggested here? How do you know that this person isn’t speaking out already, in other fora, without self-identifying as a frat member?

    • The Author
      October 18, 2012

      I cannot (or perhaps don’t feel comfortable enough to) help the community as a fraternity member at this point. I am actively, however, doing things to change the Amherst environment simply as a student here. If you would like to know what I’m doing, get in touch with me (via ACVoice) and we will talk.

  8. Liya Rechtman
    October 18, 2012

    If anyone is interested in talking further with the anonymous author of this post, please email amherstcollegevoice@gmail.com

  9. Matthew Weinstein
    October 19, 2012

    Speaking of DKE, when I was a sophomore living in Tyler in the spring of 1983, I came across a DKE publication entitled “The Report of the Rush Chairman” which advised DKE members how to evaluate potential members during the spring rush season. In bold block letters across the top of one of the pages, it proclaimed “NO FAGS.” You can go back and dig up my essay in the Student that semester that explained “Why ‘NO FAGS’ Is No Joke.” There were plenty of good people at DKE, no question about it, but the fraternity system had an uncanny ability to bring out the worst in them.

    • Anon
      October 19, 2012

      Why would you use an almost thirty year old example in this argument? Please give the members of our fraternities more credit than that.

    • nope
      October 20, 2012

      I don’t think anyone is seriously defending the practices of the fraternities as of thirty years ago. Or for that matter the general attitude of the public at large toward GLBTetcetc individuals thirty years ago.

  10. Pingback: Updates & News: Fresno, FAMU, UNC, OK State, URI, Binghamton, Dartmouth, Amherst | Fraternal Squib

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