Big Changes Happening on August 7, 2019.

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Constant scandals point to need to end fraternities

Fraternities were once brotherhoods that served the community and were a group of people with common interests. You could have a fraternity of lawyers, a fraternity of doctors, even a fraternity of people who share a love of “Star Wars.” I don’t know if that last one is true, but it sounds intriguing.

Now, however, fraternities are the cautionary tale of college campuses. Many of them have devolved into groups of white guys who binge drink, harass minorities and treat women like pieces of meat. For the few that still believe in brotherhood and service, the bad groups are ruining their reputations, as well.

The latest fraternity scandal saw two fraternities at Swarthmore College disbanding as it was revealed that the group’s documents included evidence of racism, misogyny and homophobia. Swarthmore is a private liberal arts college in Pennsylvania.

Among the documents leaked to two Swarthmore campus publications was a 117-page history of one of those groups, Phi Psi. CNN reported that the archive included “rape jokes, racist tropes and crude descriptions of hazing among the pages of fraternity meeting minutes and scavenger hunt lists.”

Outrage ensued at the school once the document was made public. Protesters held a days-long sit-in, and now the fraternities are closing shop. Both Phi Psi and the other fraternity, Delta Upsilon, announced they were no longer in existence.

“We were appalled and disgusted by the content of these minutes, which led us to question our affiliation with an organization whose former members could write such heinous statements. We cannot in good conscience be members of an organization with such a painful history,” Phi Psi wrote in a Facebook post.

I wish that I could say that, when I read this, I gasped in horror and said, “This is unheard of.” No, unfortunately, my reaction was more along the lines of “Not again.” It’s the latest scandal in a long line of boys behaving badly.

Here are some examples:

• The Democrat and Chronicle reported in 2018 that Syracuse University was under a black cloud after Theta Tau, a professional engineering fraternity, created an offensive video with racist and anti-Semitic language. The video was made public through a story from the campus newspaper, The Daily Orange.

• Leaders for Cal Poly Lambda Chi Alpha quit in April 2018 after a blackface incident wound up making national headlines. A photo of one of the members in blackface, coupled with another photo of frat brothers dressed like gangsters, caused an uproar in the community.

• UCLA’s Daily Bruin, in a retrospective, wrote about how an anonymous letter writer’s claims of sexual assault by someone in the Theta Delta Chi fraternity in 1990 sparked a community debate about rape culture in Greek organizations. The 2018 retrospective pointed out that, despite the conversations, we still have a toxic culture in fraternities today.

I could probably fill this whole newspaper page with examples of fraternities turning a noble notion into a gnarled abomination, but there’s only so much that a person can stomach in one story. My point is that these despicable incidents are more of the norm than an exception.

Swarthmore’s example is one other colleges should take note of. Fraternities have had their day, but with immature jerks rising to positions of power and abusing it to the detriment of others, it might be time to pursue other organizations that promote brotherhood and goodwill. Why would it be prudent to keep such dangerous organizations alive?

It’s all Greek to me.

Lee Pulaski is the city editor for the Shawano Leader. Readers can contact him at lpulaski@newmedia-wi.com.