Members of Greek organizations are typically excluded from any list of acceptable “victims” that UCSB students are allowed to publicly express sympathy towards. And yet, no other demographic in our school has faced the same level of institutional persecution and condemnation.
The past year in particular has seen a major crackdown. Four Greek organizations have been forced to shut down over the past year, and the remaining ones are being stifled by a set of strict rules that, among other things, ban alcohol entirely at chapter houses if more than 30 students are present. Because Greeks are such invisible victims, we as a community have not spoken out on their behalf, but we should.
Why do I care? I myself have never been part of a fraternity, and I have zero interest in ever joining one. However, I am deeply concerned by the way the Greeks are being treated, because I recognize that part of living in a free society means advocating for the rights of individuals and demographics you do not necessarily identify with.
If UCSB can disregard Greek students’ freedoms, why do you think they care about yours? Will UCSB go on to ban other clubs and student organizations it dislikes? Will it ban drinking for all students? Some colleges do; Dartmouth did earlier this year. The UC system recently banned tobacco on campus. How much do you trust it to advocate for your freedoms?
First they came for the frat boys, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a frat boy…
A cynic, it is said, sees the price of everything and the value of nothing. If this is true, then UCSB has chosen to view Greek life through a lens of utter cynicism.
They see the price of the Greek system on our school — boisterousness, noise complaints and occasionally even more serious crimes. What they do not see is the immeasurable value that so many people derive from it. People join fraternities and sororities to achieve some very normal human goals, including greater meaning, belonging and satisfaction. They are, in other words, pursuing happiness. Many are successful. If UCSB would take the time to listen to its students and hear some of them speak about how the Greek system has benefited them, it might be surprised.
Are there some unsavory individuals who deserve to be punished for their actions? Absolutely; and they should be punished … on an individual basis, without shutting down the organizations they are part of.
No other group would accept this sort of collective punishment. What if the state of California held UCSB to the same standard that UCSB holds the Greek system to? Our school would have been shut down long ago for a plethora of offenses ranging from violent crimes such as sexual assaults and knifings to widespread lesser offenses such as embezzlement, academic dishonesty and repeated violations of free expression.
No other group would accept this sort of collective punishment. What if the state of California held UCSB to the same standard that UCSB holds the Greek system to?
In Genesis Chapter 18, when God tells Abraham that he plans to destroy Sodom, Abraham responds, “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? What if there are fifty righteous people in the city?” And God responds, “If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake.” Abraham asks the question over and over again, with smaller numbers each time, until God finally says, “For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it.”
For those inclined to dismiss the above passage as outdated, consider for a moment how ironic it is that a cruel and primitive people who viewed gay sex as a capital crime were still, in certain ways, ahead of us at UCSB, with our supposedly enlightened and progressive morality. Whatever their flaws, the ancient Hebrews at least understood that group punishment is wrong.
I propose UCSB be as magnanimous towards the Greek system as Abraham was towards Sodom; if there are 10 righteous souls in a fraternity or sorority, if there are 10 righteous souls in the entire Greek system, then it should not be destroyed for the sake of those 10.
Nonetheless, I do not believe it will come down to such a small number. There are probably far fewer wrongdoers in the Greek system than some of the current fearmongers would have you believe. While it would be a miracle if there were no bad apples at all, the current anti-Greek hysteria stinks of a moral panic.
Perhaps one day soon, the demonization of the Greek system will take its place in history and psychology textbooks as the great moral panic of the 2010s, the latest in a long line of panics including Satanic ritual child abuse, “rainbow parties,” McCarthyism and many others. When this day comes, history will look more kindly on the people who advocated skepticism and due process than those who rushed to condemn without asking questions.
The recent scandal at the University of Virginia should have served as a wake-up call. After Rolling Stone magazine published a powerfully written allegation of gang rape against one UVA fraternity, every single Greek organization on campus was shut down without due process, and there was a wave of moral outrage which included calls for the state to treat fraternities “as criminal street gangs under state law and seize their assets.”
Soon, however, major discrepancies began to emerge in the Rolling Stone account, and a police investigation into the alleged incident turned up nothing. Rolling Stone later retracted the article with an apology for its shoddy journalism. Ideally, this scandal — and the public showpiece of UVA’s shameful overreaction — would have put an end to anti-Greek hysteria in our country once and for all.
But my hopes are not high. In the year since UVA’s scandal, there has been no change of tone, no renewed call for due process and restraint. The anti-Greek moral busybodies were happy to let us forget the whole thing. Even after the Rolling Stone article was proven false, UVA still forced Greek organizations to agree under duress to a set of strict new rules, although these were admittedly less strict than our current rules at UCSB.
If UVA didn’t learn their lesson, why should we?
Jason Garshfield wants the Greeks of UCSB to fight as hard for freedom as the Greeks in the movie “300” did.