Only a month after a fraternity at the University of Oklahoma was kicked off campus for heinous acts that poorly represented their house, another chapter has gotten into hot water with behavior detrimental to a Greek house’s values.
Over the weekend, members of Zeta Beta Tau (ZBT) from the University of Florida and Emory University apparently accosted military veterans who were sharing a resort in Panama City Beach. They poured beer on the veterans, as well as spitting on and even urinating on them. One man even reported that his service dog had been spit on. More details can be found here, here, and here.
Immediately, as was the case in the Oklahoma incident, the schools these fraternities came from began to investigate and impose sanctions, suspending ZBT from campus and working to expel guilty individuals. ZBT as an organization condemned their members, repeating often that this is not a reflection of the values they look for in their members.
And, once again, members of ZBT and the Greek system at large have to apologize for the bad behavior of a small few who are shaming their letters. I have a very close friend in ZBT. He shouldn’t have to be identified as having a common bond with the type of people who publicly humiliate the men and women who fought for our country. He should not have to apologize for belonging to an organization that not only let him in, but gave membership to these morons.
The fraternity system has a serious branding issue, and it starts with incidents like this. Too often, houses are forced to create a separation between the fraternity and it’s members. “No, it wasn’t ZBT that spit on veterans, just THOSE ZBT brothers…” “No, SAE isn’t racist, only THOSE SAE members are…” There are too many incidences when the minority is allowed to represent the majority in their bad behavior. Are there non-Greeks doing stupid, insulting things? Sure. But they aren’t being asked to represent an organization when they go out in public.
This kind of misrepresentation is present, though, even in much less blatant examples. If you ask any non-Greek alum of a major university to describe the Greek system, I would be willing to bet a year’s tuition that most would reference partying in the first sentence. Sure, the Greek system identifies with values of networking, philanthropy, and brotherhood. But nobody is noticing, because the outward appearance is that the Greek system is built for the purpose of getting drunk, getting laid, and getting into trouble.
As a non-Greek alum of a VERY Greek university, I know that I have little to no understanding of what goes on within the confines of a house. I don’t know the feeling of brotherhood and support. I don’t know what goes on in chapter meetings or in study hours. What I do know is that, from the outside looking in, it is easier to identify frat parties and hazing than it is to identify social action and philanthropy. It is easier to acknowledge the flaws than to see the values. And that is a huge problem for the thousands of brothers who ARE in a fraternity for the right reasons.
It isn’t that these values don’t actually exist. They most certainly do. But there is a serious issue in public appearance, and as long as it continues to be a problem, fraternities will have a hard time selling their brand of brotherhood without also having to answer for the idiocy of some of it’s members. The time is now for frats to clean up their organizations, imposing much stricter rules about who gets in and what brotherhood looks like, before more issues continue. Every time a fraternity allows the inappropriate behavior of one of it’s members to impact the greater whole, it is jeopardizing the future opportunities to participate as meaningful members of the collegiate community and society as a whole.
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