Let’s Push Things Forward – Fairly

(featurecreature)– I’m a proud member of Delta Kappa Epsilon here at Amherst. Everything expressed in this article is none other than my own.

I attended the meeting about sexual misconduct this past Sunday in the Friedmann Room. There were many insightful comments, courageous survivors, and positive moments. One negative moment, however, struck me as completely counterproductive. That was the comparison of the Amherst fraternities to Wesleyan’s Beta Theta Pi—the infamous “Rape Factory,” implicated in numerous instances of sexual assault.

The reference to the “Rape Factory” served little purpose except to broadly engender fear of fraternities. They also alienate a population that otherwise could substantively add to the college-wide discourse. This style of dialogue discourages participation that can lead to honest, constructive discussion and, ultimately, reform.
While the “gray area” status of fraternities makes it difficult for the college to regulate them, it also makes it difficult for fraternity members to openly speak about fraternities. No frat member wants the administration or student body to associate him with an organization being compared to a “Rape Factory.” This lack of discussion of fraternities by fraternity members leads to misunderstanding of frats throughout Amherst.

As I interpret it, a plurality of this campus tends to sees the fraternities as a Cerberus, a three-headed monster of dogged, ignorant chauvinism similar to fraternities at other campuses. This image contains inaccuracies. First, fraternities at Amherst share few similarities with fraternities at large in America. While I feel uncomfortable discussing specifics in this forum, I know this point has salience and would love to discuss with anyone who has interest. (I may be anonymous, but the ACV Editors know who I am. They can get me in contact with you.)

Second, these frats, so consistently lumped together, are three separate entities that have mutual respect for each other but have next to no formal, inter-fraternal communication or cooperation. To compare one to the other is to compare the Miami Heat, Denver Broncos, and Boston Bruins: they’re in the same general business, but each institution has different personnel, goals, and cultures. Equating all three is unfair for all three.

Third, many fraternity brothers have cogent, thoughtful, moderate opinions about the role of fraternities and Amherst’s social culture in general. ACVoice Editor-in-Chief Liya Rechtman is a friend of mine. This summer, we were both in Amherst and, one night, got into a discussion about rape on campus. I remember the surprise on her face when I made my first point. She expressed surprised that I had such a reasonable opinion on the issue. Originally, her surprise upset me: how could she perceive me as so ignorant regarding a serious problem on this campus? Later, however, I realized that she had little reason to think otherwise. No forum truly exists for fraternity members to converse with non-fraternity members. Because we are treated as outlaws on campus, we rarely speak up to explain our positions — thus people ascribed to us the thoughts of outlaws. “Rape factory” references reinforce this outlaw perception and discourage these “outlaws” from saying otherwise.

Since Dana Bolger’s article was published last week, I have had multiple enlightening (and enlightened) conversations about sexual misconduct on this campus with both my brothers and members of other fraternities. At the same time, I would have felt uncomfortable speaking as a member of a fraternity at the forum given the anti-fraternity sentiment. It seems like the other fraternity members in attendance felt the same way: not one of them spoke. This lack of input makes me uneasy considering that, other than women, fraternities will be affected most by whatever fruit this discussion bears.

This article certainly does not have the intention of justifying the misogynistic action of TD (or any misogyny, for that matter.) Instead, this article wants to recognize the imminent change approaching this campus. I’m a feminist and a fraternity brother because, believe it or not, there’s no reason I can’t be both. I can positively contribute to this conversation. My brothers, as well as the members of Chi Psi and TD, can positively contribute to this conversation. Most importantly, however, many of us want to contribute to this conversation. Some of us may say some ignorant things—we aren’t perfect. And we may not have the same experiences as the female attendees at Sunday’s meeting. But our goal is the same as yours: making Amherst a safe and supportive place for everyone. I hope, as this conversation pushes forward, an environment exists where frat brothers can speak candidly about their experiences here. Together, I expect us to move towards a more ideal Amherst, one where fraternities exist and everyone can feel safe and respected.

Thank you for reading. I look forward to many conversations about subjects like this over the coming year.