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In Greek life? We think you matter less

On Friday, we were told that three of our Greek chapters are being investigated for alleged hazing. Our community has been silent for five days.

On Saturday, we were told that a professor had acted in a manner certainly offensive and possibly illegal. I have never seen so many people come online so fast.

Why are we selectively outraged? I do not put these two reports on a scale, as if to know which is worthier of outrage. I observe that our response to one developing report does not absolve our silence towards another.

For the sake of full disclosure, know that I hold Greek life in no particular esteem. At best, it seems an odd and forced way to make friends. At worst, it’s an enclave of sexism and groupthink which can’t get from here to there without doing bad things.

However, I, like Greek-affiliated students, am a member of the Duke community. I, like Greek-affiliated students, am a member of the human community. And when I hear that people may have been abused, I think it’s the right thing to say something about that—no matter who they are.

Duke’s chapters of Delta Tau Delta and Pi Kappa Phi have been suspended, and all new member activities at Sigma Pi Epsilon have been suspended pending a hazing investigation,” read Friday’s Chronicle article. And how does Duke define hazing? Per The Duke Community Standard, “hazing is defined as any action taken or situation created, whether on or off university premises, that is harmful or potentially harmful to an individual’s physical, emotional, or psychological well-being, regardless of an individual’s willingness to participate or its bearing on his/her membership status.”

A hazing investigation across three chapters means that at minimum, three of your peers were allegedly harmed or put into harm’s way.

This story was published on Friday the 25th. We have been silent about this for five days.

Is that because we don’t like Greek life students very much?

I speak now to independents. (The relative silence of Greek organizations in the wake of these reports is reprehensible and deserving of its own full treatment.) It’s no secret that we resent Greeks. It’s an us-versus-them mentality. “They” are less-than. We perform this mentality annually in the agonized should-you-or-shouldn’t-you-columns about rushing. We perform it daily in eye-rolling conversations. When there’s a social problem at Duke, it’s the Greeks’ fault.

Consider this theory, penned earlier in the month: “I would venture to maintain that most, if not all, independent students would struggle to identify the ‘personality’ of their house, to name even one of their house’s ‘traditions,’ and to honestly assert that their house is a ‘home.’” A house is no more than the people in it. Giving the Blue Devils in Greek life their due, they’ve discovered that communities sink or swim with the effort people put into them. Who would have thought.

Consider this lovely thought from last April: “It’s no surprise that independent houses are having problems; they’re a series of communities largely composed of people that were cut from SLGs [Greeks included].” The problem isn’t with us, but with the people who didn’t like us. We aren’t failing to take responsibility for building up our own communities. We were just excluded from ready-made communities—the odds of joining which we knew to be very much against us.

We resent students in Greek life. They are the reason that we are consistently unable or unwilling to build the least semblance of community in our own situations. 

So how do we treat those involved in this process of rejecting and being rejected? We reject them from our circle of empathy when they might need us most.

Where is the outrage for these alleged victims? Where is the “L-Mo” email telling concerned pledges how to connect with Duke’s support services? Where is the strongly-worded email from President Price saying that whatever happened, the University thinks hazing is unacceptable?

Perhaps you think “So what? If something did happen, they knew what they were getting into.” Is that your reasoning? They were asking for it? Are there any other kinds of harm that you’re prepared to say victims were “asking for?” Do you believe only certain kinds of victims?

Or maybe you’re trusting the “proper channels” to take care of this. One such channel, alongside “the University” and DUPD, is the fraternities themselves. For students so concerned about systemic obstructions to justice, we seem fine with trusting the people who may be at fault to help decide whether they’re at fault. We demand independent investigations of anything that needs investigating, except for the alleged abuse of our peers.

Or you think that this is an allegation—really there’s no proof—so why react now? None of the fraternities are on record as denying the allegation.

Do Greek organizations have a gaping hole where diversity should be? Yes. Does the selectivity of Greek organizations inflict real emotional harm? Yes. I am the first person to say that Greek life does immense harm and needs to put its house in order if it hopes to retain what little of our respect it enjoys. I also believe that when immense harm is allegedly done to people involved in Greek life, they deserve the same sympathy as anyone else who may have been harmed. I am not calling for a rush to judgment. I am not calling for some kangaroo court. 

I am calling you to consider whether your silence, your quiescence about this investigation, is due to a bias against students in Greek life. 

I opened with no quotation, and I will close with no quotation, because the hypocrisy displayed by this community in the past week needs no ornament to show it for what it is. Reform housing? Reform yourselves. Do you feel big, as you go about calling out everyone else’s prejudices while keeping your own tucked in place and turning a blind eye?

My only argument is this: we shouldn’t turn a blind eye when a bad thing may have happened because of whom it may have happened to. We care all the way, or not at all. 

Tim Kowalczyk is a Trinity senior. His column runs on alternate Wednesdays.


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