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Willingham on frats

in Letter to the Editor/Opinions by

As I read DU’s opinion piece in the Phoenix last week, I quickly turned from curiosity to confusion as the bulk of the letter veered dramatically —some would say laughably— away from what it set out to do at the beginning.  DU juxtaposed the outrageously racist conduct of Oklahoma’s SAE chapter with their own model, which led me to think they would be talking about how Swarthmore’s DU chapter is more diverse, how it tries to combat racism, etc.  But instead we got a list of DU’s community service activities, none of which have anything to do with the apparent topic at hand.

So, sure, good for DU for being involved in a wide range of community service activities.  Their service resume is much stronger than Phi Psi’s, though my understanding is that this difference may have something to do with the requirements of national affiliation (Theta also appears to be very active in service).  It seems safe to assume that another letter will answer the bafflingly confident statement that DU does more for the community than any other organization, so I’ll focus on another confusing and frustrating part of the letter.

If DU has a model that could be an example for fraternities like SAE, I want to know how they deal with issues of racism within the fraternity and in relation to the rest of campus.  The letter mentions how DU participates in annual workshops with Nina Harris and Josh Ellow on sexual assault prevention, bystander intervention, and drug and alcohol safety.  If attendance is mandatory, these are all good things.  I would like to hear about similar conversations being held about racism and diversity.  When DU encourages underclassmen to pledge, how much do they actively reach out to people from diverse socioeconomic and racial backgrounds?  I remember racist epithets being used within the fraternity house during my freshman year but do not remember a public apology or explanation of how the fraternity changed conversations with pledges to include discussions of respectful language.

I’m not asserting that these things don’t happen.  I’m just mentioning that if they do, they are not public knowledge.  And if DU is going to claim that it is better than SAE, they need to cite such measures as evidence.  Not having a video of a racist chant, or diverting the question to emphasize community service in other areas, is insufficient.

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