By Kenny Sokan, editorial columnist
Fraternities are notorious for their scandals. If they are in the news, it is almost always because they have been caught doing something illegal, immoral or just plain stupid. In the last few weeks, one frat has been caught with a Facebook “sex book” of its conquests – unconscious women – and another is being ousted for its chanting about problems with having black people in their chapter.
Greek organizations have been around for hundreds of years. They have a society and culture all their own. Fraternities and their centuries-old traditions and secrets have proven to breed the entitled, violent, alcoholic, drug abusers and rapists. That’s not to say all men in frats have these characteristics, but if they don’t, in some form or another, they are associated with someone who does.
What once was a selling point in college tours is now the very thing diminishing the reputations of universities.
In a video that went viral, members of the University of Oklahoma’s (OU) Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) chapter and other OU students are on a bus chanting about how SAE doesn’t want – and will never have – a black member. At an emergency board meeting shortly after the video came to light, SAE national president Brad Cohen issued a statement saying he “was not only shocked and disappointed, but disgusted by the outright display of racism displayed in the video.” This is hardly the first “outright display of racism” to occur within a fraternity, especially those of southern roots, and I find it hard to believe Cohen was that troubled by the content of the video.
SAE was the first national fraternity to be established in the deep south, founded at the University of Alabama in 1856. Of the 376 members it incurred before the Civil War, 369 fought for the Confederacy and the other seven for the Union Army. Consequently, it comes of no surprise that racism is still alive within the fraternity’s walls. Additionally, months prior, the same chant was reported at the SAE chapter at the University of Texas.
The fraternity has had a string of publicized racial incidents at various universities since 2000. If these are just the ones that received attention, think about the countless others that didn’t. OU’s SAE chapter was closed effective immediately March 8, and two members of the fraternity, believed to have led the incident, were expelled.
Last week, a Facebook page created by members of Pennsylvania State University’s Kappa Delta Rho surfaced. The invitation-only page consists of photos of naked or partially nude women, some of whom are asleep or unconscious. A criminal investigation has since been launched and the chapter’s activities suspended. In a column written by university President Eric J. Barron, Barron said, “I am shocked and angered by the apparent disregard for not only the law, but also human dignity.”
See a pattern? The shock, the horror! To Barron’s credit, he did suggest a re-evaluation of the fraternity system, and I couldn’t agree more. Fraternities have been riddled with misconduct scandals for just about as long as they have been around, yet no serious change has come from the reporting of these incidents, nor the subsequent suspensions, expulsions or disbandments. These organizations that pride themselves on being gentlemen of principal and philanthropists have proven time and time again that you can’t judge a frat by its well-crafted mission statement.