Last week’s Op-Ed from the brothers of Delta Upsilon is, to put it mildly, absurd. I could write a thirty page paper about all the reasons that make it so, but I’ll restrict myself to a few points.
First, the authors of the Op-Ed mention the video that shows members of a Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter singing racial slurs, noting that they have been accused of “racial misconduct.” They continue, “If these accusations are true, the SAE fraternity should take action, and those fraternity members who have done wrong should be held accountable.” But the accusations ARE true. Did they not see the video in question? More importantly, this is all they say about the incident. They do not condemn these actions, or talk about ways in which they are different from this particular fraternity when it comes to issues of race.
Instead, they talk about the fact that once or twice a year they sit in front of Sharples to help Maurice Eldridge collect volunteers for the blood drive. Which is great. But it doesn’t prove that they’re not racist. Or sexist. Or homophobic. Or violators of the law. Doing community service does not exempt us from bigotry.
The DU brothers go on to talk about all of the different things they do to make Swarthmore a wonderful place to be. They “venture to say very few groups on campus contribute as much to the larger community as the Delta Upsilon fraternity.” And they’re entitled to their venturing. But I will venture now too: I am sure that the brothers of DU have contributed positively to our campus. However, they do not contribute more than most groups; they probably don’t contribute more than a small number of groups. In fact, I am willing to bet my Swarthmore tuition that Dare2Soar, Swarthmore Hillel, Mountain Justice, all of the Lang Scholars (in fact, any organization in the Lang Center), SwatFems, the BCC and IC groups, and SLAP (among many others) are doing more to make Swarthmore and our surrounding areas better places.
Perhaps more importantly, the brothers have forgotten all of the damage that fraternities have caused, and continue to cause, at our Quaker college. Though they say that they have “taken important steps to combat sexual assault,” students are still being raped and mistreated by the brothers. The current DU members are still friends with and support students that have been expelled from the college for sexual assault. DU continues to operate within a national fraternity system that is deeply and irreversibly rooted in a racist, patriarchal, classist society. And, whether they “build better men” or not, DU is and will always be an exclusionary, male-dominated, largely white group of men that control the kind of space no other group on campus has the luxury of having.
I am truly thankful that DU brothers support women’s suffrage and are bringing Jamie Stiehm to talk about Alice Paul. Sincerely, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for coming out in support of my right to vote. But please, check yourselves. This Op-Ed proves that our own fraternities are, at the very least, blind to the hundreds of issues that are innately entrenched in the U.S. Greek System. The piece is a long, masturbatory-like exercise in self-indulgence that does a miserable job of showing that the brothers have thought (even for a second) about the problems fraternities must battle against due to the sheer fact that they are fraternities — whether at Swarthmore, the University of Virginia or Yale.
I, for my part, will acknowledge their positive actions (as they ask) when they become more visible than their negative ones. If DU is so set on making sure that students recognize the value, time and effort they have placed on community service, perhaps they should drop their Greek letters and create a Lang Center-sponsored organization dedicated solely to that. Pretending that social justice is more central to their organization’s values and core mission than anything else is misleading.
Lastly, it is important for me to acknowledge why I am writing this anonymously. Given recent online backlash (and by backlash, I mean harassment, bullying) against people that have been critical of fraternities on campus, I would feel unsafe signing my name under this Op-Ed. That, in itself, is my final and perhaps most crucial piece of evidence. The brothers of DU make criticism feel physically, emotionally, mentally unsafe. Their Op-Ed makes no effort to recognize that or almost anything else of even the slightest importance.