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March 17, 1988 - Image 24

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1988-03-17

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Fratern ties




At the height of their popularity, Greek organizations
face charges of racism, violence and hooliganism


Timely sign? Illinois graffito

traveled to the University of Illinois last fall to perform at
She was only 15, a member of a high-school band that
a big game. As part of the football festivities, she wan-
dered over to the Lambda Chi Alpha house for a pre-
kickoff party. She stayed too long. And before she left, she
went upstairs, where a 20-year-old former student and ex-brother
who was staying there proceeded to sexually abuse her.
It was a nasty crime, and it set off a firestorm on the Urbana-
Champaign campus, which with 52 houses and 3,500 members has
the nation's largest fraternity system. Women's groups sprayed
graffiti on fraternity houses, accusing them of being incubators for
sexism and violence. Newspaper columns were filled with tales,
some perhaps apocryphal, of fraternity bacchanalia. And the local
fraternity leadership was moved to denounce sexual violence
while falling back on the oldest
schoolboy bleat: don't blame us,
everybody's doing it.
Sometimes it looks as though
everyone is. On campuses
across the country, fraternities
have come under fire for behav-
ior the rest of society simply
won't tolerate anymore. The
message could not be clear-
er: the campus is no longer a
sanctuary for criminal behav-
ior masquerading as childish
pranks. Consider the following
short, illustrative list. Last
month police were investigat-
ing the apparent hazing of a
freshman at Rutgers in New
Jersey who may have drunk'
himself to death at a pledge
party. Last semester a platoon
of police and state troopers
marched into a charity party
at one of Carnegie Mellon's
frat houses, rousting underage
drinkers. And last year stu-
dents were reminded that it is a
short and exceedingly unpleas-
ant journey from a fraternity
house to the workhouse. A jun-
ior at North Carolina A&T was
sentenced to two years in pris-

on for allegedly participating in the brutal beating of pledges. (In
the Illinois case, a criminal-court judge ordered the assailant to
serve a year's probation for the sexual abuse.)
Not all the problems are criminal; some are merely despicable.
Two years ago the University of Southern California suspended a
fraternity and a sorority after officials found that their members
painted "Jew Week" on the sidewalk outside a predominantly
Jewish fraternity. Last spring the U.S. Department of Justice sent
a professional "conciliator" to soothe campus tensions at Oklaho-
ma State after white members of Sigma Alpha Epsilon dressed up
as black slaves and serenaded sorority houses during a "plantation
party." Each spring, chapters of Phi Gamma Delta, a.k.a. Fiji, hold
Fiji Island parties. At a few chapters, offensive black makeup and
tropical garb are added, despite objections from the national office.
ART STREIBER At the University of Wisconsin,
the spring party cost Fiji rush
privileges last fall. And at the
University of Pennsylvania,
one of the few Ivy League
schools where the Greek broth-
erhood is thriving, officials
chastised two houses that had
hired female strippers as an at-
traction during rush. Penn
would not tolerate the portray-
al of "people as objects in a de-
grading, dehumanizing and
tasteless manner," declared
university president Sheldon
Hackney in a letter to all frater-
nity presidents.
Why is this happening now?
This should be Springtime
for the Greeks instead of
Nightmare on Fraternity Row.
National fraternity member-
ship hovers around 350,000, a
record high, and sorority mem-
bership has risen to 275,000.
But success has increased visi-
bility just as the rules of the
game have changed. Since
Hearty party: Your basic
blast on the Row at USC


APRIL 1988

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