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"A fraternity against the world"
December 20, 2011 7:46 AM   Subscribe

Recently, a survey asking "If you could rape someone, who would it be?" was circulated among fraternity brothers at the University of Vermont chapter of Sigma Phi Epsilon. Multiple investigations were launched, including one by the police that is still ongoing, and the chapter was closed indefinitely by the national organization.

While women's rights group FED UP Vermont is pleased with the swift action, some former Sigma Ep members are surprised by how quickly the incident escalated. The former chapter president feels the fraternity has been the victim of injustice, contending the question was not sanctioned by the fraternity, and was created by one person who "just needs a hug and some sensitivity training."
posted by lovermont (228 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
Rape is bad.

Persecution of (presumably) innocent participants* of pranks is also bad.

*couldn't think of a word that identifies someone who is a "targetted participant, yet not exactly a 'victim' of said prank."

False-flag operations are also bad. (not that this applies; just sayin')
posted by ShutterBun at 7:51 AM on December 20, 2011


"Haller won't name names, but he stands by his frat brother who he says wrote the question in bad taste."

Not naming names I can get, but how the fuck do you stand by something like this? Good on the University for responding appropriately.
posted by Blasdelb at 7:54 AM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


False-flag operations are also bad. (not that this applies; just sayin')

Passive-aggressive leading non sequiturs are also bad. Just sayin'.
posted by kmz at 7:55 AM on December 20, 2011 [40 favorites]


After a controversial survey circulated by Sigma Phi Epsilon (SigEp) surfaced...

It's funny, but I just have a really hard time with this use of the word 'controversial'. It doesn't really seem like there should be much debate.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 7:55 AM on December 20, 2011 [14 favorites]


The fact that anyone at any institution where one is supposedly getting an education to be a highly contributing member of an advanced society would even have an idea like this cross their brains says a lot to me about how much our society really cares about education.
posted by spicynuts at 7:56 AM on December 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


So how exactly did this survey "circulate" and "surface"? Was it distributed among the fraternity only by email, on a web page or what? Was their any response to it by the membership? Did anyone denounce it when it showed up? Did they just ignore it, until someone in the group leaked it?
posted by maudlin at 7:57 AM on December 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


(A tangent: I love the English language sometimes. If you read the headline "No Sign Vt. Rape Survey Was Sanctioned" without any context, would you assume it was saying the survey wasn't officially permitted, or saying the survey wasn't officially condemned?)
posted by kmz at 7:58 AM on December 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


My school didn't have a Greek system, so I don't know much about how fraternities work, structurally. I can understand-- I think-- the notion that it's unjust to shutter the local chapter for something that wasn't technically the chapter's fault, but I'm probably not getting it.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:58 AM on December 20, 2011


Cliche, I know, but I just actually did it over here: *FACEPALM*
posted by Iosephus at 7:59 AM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


wrote the question in bad taste.

I can think of about 5 million other potential surveys in this vein and I'm wondering if this dude would have the balls to say the same thing if the subject had been, let's say, tossing Jews in an oven, hanging negroes from trees, dropping napalm on gooks, etc etc. Oh it's about women...har har..it's just bad taste.
posted by spicynuts at 7:59 AM on December 20, 2011 [46 favorites]


I am outraged.
posted by BobbyVan at 7:59 AM on December 20, 2011


...but I'm probably not getting it.

I should probably point out that this is in no way apologia for this grotesquely awful survey, and I hope the people responsible and all participants are made to fully realize exactly why.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:00 AM on December 20, 2011


I love the current usage of the word "controversial." It's a refreshing reminder that privilege permeates language so thoroughly that most people don't realize that "controversial" means "should be abhorrent to all sentient beings".
posted by lydhre at 8:01 AM on December 20, 2011 [8 favorites]


Good on the school for taking swift decisive action.

Bad on parents who raised a child who could even entertain the thought that that was a funny question to ask.
posted by pjern at 8:02 AM on December 20, 2011


The person just needs a hug and some sensitivity training and not the whole world telling him they hate him because he doesn't get it."

Why does it have to be one or the other?
posted by PlusDistance at 8:02 AM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also note that it wasn't even the university that shut the frat down, it was the national organization. If they want to whine to anybody, they should whine to their parent group.
posted by kmz at 8:03 AM on December 20, 2011


I went to college in the late 70s and I don't think this would have been well-received even in those unenlightened days. That someone in 2011 thought this an idea worth circulating is enough to make one weep.
posted by tommasz at 8:04 AM on December 20, 2011


This is disgusting. The fact that we are willing to debate whether the fraternity has been wronged is disgusting. This kind of prank is intolerable and I'm glad that the parent organization had the courage to say so.
posted by kalessin at 8:06 AM on December 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


Also note that it wasn't even the university that shut the frat down, it was the national organization. If they want to whine to anybody, they should whine to their parent group.

actually it appears they were shut down two ways--the university revoked their recognition and the parent group shut down the house.
posted by lester at 8:07 AM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Rape is bad.

Persecution of (presumably) innocent participants* of pranks is also bad.


Calling anyone who willingly agreed to participate in a poll that asked who they would RAPE "innocent", and calling the circulation of that poll a PRANK, is also bad.

...."Just sayin'."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:08 AM on December 20, 2011 [14 favorites]


I'll admit that I'm a little confused about what exactly the police are investigating.

But yeah, I understand why the national organization shut them down, and I think it would be pretty great if frats themselves would develop a zero-tolerance policy on this kind of thing, because having a reputation for being rape apologists isn't doing the Greek system any favors.
posted by craichead at 8:09 AM on December 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


This is disgusting. The fact that we are willing to debate whether the fraternity has been wronged is disgusting.

This doesn't make any sense. The argument is that the fraternity as an organization is effectively "innocent" of the wrong; the fact that a wrong is horrible doesn't make it disgusting to make sure you're not punishing people who aren't responsible for the wrong. This is like saying "this crime is so horrible, I can't believe we're even debating whether or not the wrong man was convicted."

I don't know whether or not the fraternity in question is "responsible" for this survey(they may well be morally culpable), but there's nothing wrong with trying to figure out if they are before you judge them.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:11 AM on December 20, 2011 [19 favorites]


The fact that we are willing to debate whether the fraternity has been wronged is disgusting.

The frat might not have had anything to do with it. If it was just a couple of members then those members should be punished and punished severely. If it got circulated with the full knowledge of whoever is in charge then yeah, the whole house should get shut down.

If we shut down every organization because some of their members are assholes who did something awful but without that organization's consent or knowledge, we wouldn't have a whole lot of organizations left.
posted by VTX at 8:12 AM on December 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son. - Dean Wormer, Animal House
posted by Renoroc at 8:13 AM on December 20, 2011 [7 favorites]


And holy shit, I just noticed that it was the president of that frat chapter who said the at best incredibly clueless "just needs a hug and some sensitivity training" quote. And he obviously knows who sent the original question too. JFC.
posted by kmz at 8:14 AM on December 20, 2011


from the third link:

"One individual was responsible for coming up with the appalling question," former SigEp member Wes Lewis said. "It was never answered because who it was asked to refused to answer it and the told the new member to change the question immediately."

i could easily see something like being the case here. there seems to be an awful lot of condemnation about this incident but very little about the context of this 'survey.'
posted by lester at 8:15 AM on December 20, 2011


Sigma Phi Epsilon's website slogan is "Building Balanced Men".

Their induction book, The Lifetime Responsibility of Brotherhood (PDF) has an entire chapter devoted to ethics and morals (chapter 18, pages 159-166). There is other language in the book that makes the parental organization's priorities clear.

There is probably a question of enforcement, especially for individual chapters and houses.
posted by kalessin at 8:16 AM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


What I think is interesting is that someone leaked it. If it were a casual "hey, why don't we do a survey about who you'd like to rape?" and "shut your fucking mouth you neandrathal" type exchange, I don't think it would have been leaked.
posted by kalessin at 8:18 AM on December 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


Glad to hear they were shut down.
posted by agregoli at 8:20 AM on December 20, 2011


Annie Stevens is the director of student and campus life. She says she supports Sigma Phi's decision to close down its UVM chapter because of the survey.

(Stevens) "We don't' know if it was widely sanctioned within the fraternity. [Considering] the dynamics of any club or organization, it could be just a few members and others didn't even know it existed."

(Carapezza) But Stevens says with no one stepping forward, Sigma Phi had to close the house. She says the university will continue its own investigation into how widely the question was circulated.



So, it looks like the frat closed ranks and that's why they got shut down.
posted by nooneyouknow at 8:21 AM on December 20, 2011 [14 favorites]


The frat might not have had anything to do with it. If it was just a couple of members then those members should be punished and punished severely. If it got circulated with the full knowledge of whoever is in charge then yeah, the whole house should get shut down.
Well, ok, but that may not be the point of view of the national organization. They may tell their member houses that this is such a serious issue that they must communicate to pledges that you don't joke about rape. If you joke about rape, you can get the whole house shut down. If you can't refrain from joking about rape, you can't be a member of this fraternity, because having you as a member is an existential threat to the organization. That's one way to get people to take things seriously. I mean, I bet they're not going to have any future problems with people circulating rape-jokey surveys.
posted by craichead at 8:22 AM on December 20, 2011 [11 favorites]


The best thing about closing Greek System houses is that the houses can be repurposed for rather nice housing options accessible to all students, which is what they have done at Columbia.

When I was in college at the very-Greek UIUC I asked this question at AskMefi about whether or not there were movements to get rid of the Greek system. Honestly, at UIUC the Greek system was a force for bad, mainly rich kinds living in mansions where they drank, partied, and kept a large stock of homework and tests from past classes to cheat with.

When I attended college in Sweden I was thrilled to see what they had done with their Greek-like system, which was to remove the exclusiveness, limit student leadership (professors and alumni helped run the houses) and turn the houses into hubs of culture, intellectual discourse, and good beer.
posted by melissam at 8:22 AM on December 20, 2011 [8 favorites]


we wouldn't have a whole lot of organizations left

You're absolutely right, but it's up to the organizations themselves to determine the quality of the membership and the ability to properly regulate and enforce standards.

When the organization's president himself admits that the troubled individual meant no wrong and only needs a hug and some sensitivity training, the rest of us know that said organization has lost its way and would maybe benefit from some closure to be reopened at a later date with new management. Just like it happens in the real world.

Granted, I do believe the decision to close the chapter indefinitely would seem pretty harsh to the uninitiated, but given the negative national exposure and what one would perceive to be a shortness of patience in dealing with this type of behavior, I cannot say that I'm surprised that the national organization decided to extirpate rather than treat.
posted by jsavimbi at 8:22 AM on December 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Multiple investigations were launched, including one by the police that is still ongoing...

Offensive and disgusting, yes. I would not want to be associated with these assholes. But where is the criminality?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 8:23 AM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Calling anyone who willingly agreed to participate in a poll that asked who they would RAPE "innocent", and calling the circulation of that poll a PRANK, is also bad.

...."Just sayin'."


I'm still looking for any evidence that this was more than just a prank, though. Did people "willingly participate"? Who? Did fraternity members knowingly circulate the poll as a serious thing? Who?
posted by ShutterBun at 8:24 AM on December 20, 2011


I wonder how the survey was circulated, how people responded to it, and whether it was immediately stopped by the people in charge. Because if it was circulated internally, lots of members responded, and the people in charge didn't try to stop it, I don't see any innocent victims being punished.
posted by jeather at 8:24 AM on December 20, 2011


JFC

Fuck
Marry
Kill
posted by Dano St at 8:25 AM on December 20, 2011


Same shit, different day. Fraternities at my college pulled unbelievably misongynistic crap every term; they'd get caught, get called out, whine about how they were only joking/it was just a few guys in the house, get sanctioned, rinse, repeat.

If you've never spent time on a campus with a large fraternity presence, you have no idea.
posted by rtha at 8:27 AM on December 20, 2011 [6 favorites]


I'm still looking for any evidence that this was more than just a prank, though. Did people "willingly participate"? Who? Did fraternity members knowingly circulate the poll as a serious thing? Who?

It really sounds like the big issue is that someone leaked information about the survey's existence, but no solid details about its context could be sussed out. The fraternity chapter closed ranks to protect the guilty, defended that decision, and the national organization shut them down because of it.

Unfair, possibly, but the message it sends is simple: "If you have a fraternity member who's associating your group with approving (of even hah-hah jokey) treatment of rape, don't protect them from the consequences or your house will face the consequences."
posted by verb at 8:28 AM on December 20, 2011 [11 favorites]


Yeah, what all this boils down to is that we don't know enough to pass judgement, one way or the other. Strikes me that deferring to the college and national fraternity is about all that can be done.

Unless we get more information, about all that's going to happen here is one-upsmanship for how much tsking we can do.
posted by Malor at 8:29 AM on December 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


But where is the criminality?

Obviously I don't really know, but I would guess the police are looking into who actually answered the question, and whether that could be construed as rape threats.
posted by kmz at 8:31 AM on December 20, 2011


One of the members had recently been convicted on a voyeurism charge. This may be why the police started poking around.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 8:31 AM on December 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


"I don't know whether or not the fraternity in question is "responsible" for this survey(they may well be morally culpable), but there's nothing wrong with trying to figure out if they are before you judge them."

While that is a logically sound reading of this, it is also incredibly tone deaf.

If you were to hear about someone being held for a burglary in your neighborhood, would you begin to speculate about their innocence? I suspect you would quite naturally construct a narrative for the event leading to the arrest from the perspective of someone with a home in the neighborhood who could have just as easily been a victim. You would be unlikely to construct the narrative from the arrested persons point of view.

The problem with issues relating to violence against women is that most men NEARLY ALWAYS construct their narrative of events from the perspective of the most prominent man involved. ShutterBun is so solidly entrenched in the shoes of the men involved that just 5 minutes after the FPP was posted he already knew that the men involved were "innocent" and began to speculate about "false flag operations", whatever the fuck that could possibly mean in this context. If only women on campuses had so hard a time finding deeply fucked up shit that they had to go around planting it, that would actually be a wonderful day.

On preview, we honestly don't know much about the context of the survey, but we do know enough to say that the fraternity closing ranks around the survey distributor should get them shut the fuck down.
posted by Blasdelb at 8:31 AM on December 20, 2011 [23 favorites]


Not naming names I can get, but how the fuck do you stand by something like this?

Sometimes standing by someone is taking them aside and saying "Dude, this is in incredibly poor taste and horribly offensive. What the hell is wrong with you?" Or maybe it's holding a beer over your head and yelling "WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOoooooooooooooo!" It's hard to tell the speaker's intent from a single sentence.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 8:35 AM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Andddd Animal Housed in about 13 minutes :-)

Seriously, I hate social fraternities. Getting up in arms about this is like complaining that the policeman who was spraying everyone with a fire hose called you a nigger. The whole show from top to bottom is about diverting attention from the ostensible business of college, which is supposedly about getting an education, to what is apparently the REAL business of college to many of a certain class, which is to make connections and to draw bright lines about whom is whom and whom is nobody (God, I hope I got those pronouns right).

It's classist at its fundamental core. You could not remove the classism from the system and have it still be what it is, what appeals to these assholes about it. The fact that it is sometimes racist, sexist, etc. should not really surprise anyone.
posted by randomkeystrike at 8:38 AM on December 20, 2011 [12 favorites]


RobotVoodooPower: One of the members had recently been convicted on a voyeurism charge. This may be why the police started poking around.

The chapter was on probation, too: Sig Ep’s chapter at UVM was placed on social probation this fall and prevented from holding events the rest of the semester. That sanction followed an underage drinking incident at the house in October, according to records obtained by the Free Press.
posted by lovermont at 8:38 AM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


...Er, I should clarify, not *police* probation, but I mean there was underage drinking, which is illegal and certainly wouldn't help as far as police attention is concerned.
posted by lovermont at 8:45 AM on December 20, 2011


if the extent of the punishment is the closing of the house I fail to see what qualifies as "punishment"
posted by edgeways at 8:49 AM on December 20, 2011


*"One of the members had recently been convicted on a voyeurism charge. This may be why the police started poking around."

From the link,

"Under a deferred sentence, if Nann abides by the terms of probation for 18 months, the criminal conviction will be wiped from his record. Nann needs to meet with the reparative board and have no contact with the victim, said Deputy Lamoille County State’s Attorney Christopher Moll." ... "The plea offer was made because of Nann’s age and that the case was Nann’s first offense, Moll said."

Heh, 14 year old black kids get tried as adults in in America, but rich white adults who are old enough to drink and to have voted in two elections, as well as got caught red handed, get no sentence and no record because of their age. What a country.

"Police said they wanted to go to Nann’s house in Stowe to get his computer to ensure no images had been transferred, but Nann balked, Stewart’s affidavit said. When told that police would obtain a search warrant, Nann agreed to go with police to his home. Police seized the computer. As officers left, Nann’s mother asked why Stewart was there, according to court papers. Stewart replied that her son was 'into a little trouble and he could tell her about it,' Stewart wrote in his five-page affidavit. 'Nann then ran off into the woods.'"

Damn, and here I thought the kids who run go to jail forever if they don't get shot in the back, must be another white people justice thing.
posted by Blasdelb at 8:52 AM on December 20, 2011 [8 favorites]


IANAFB, but I'm a UVM student, and some of these folks are acquaintances. SigEp's social probation for that drinking incident ended literally two weeks before this went down. From what I understand, the leak happened when a member forwarded the email to a group project group "accidentally," and one of the group members either was a member of FED UP, or passed the email along.

UVM actually has a pretty significant focus on diversity and social justice - a prevailing thought the last couple of weeks was "Really? You're gonna do this HERE?" UVM Greek Life is actually known for their commitment to that kind of thing on a larger level.

They didn't deserve to be shut down (and like people said upthread, the national organization shut them down, the University suspended them while they investigated.) Honestly, they need more education and to work out for themselves why this is such a heinous thing to say or do. Instead of having some punished frat guys learning why what they said was wrong, we're gonna have a bunch of angry frat guys, pissed off, who still don't see the big deal.

Side note: UVM Greek Life makes up about 8-9% of students, so it's not a particularly large presence.
posted by papayaninja at 8:54 AM on December 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


If you were to hear about someone being held for a burglary in your neighborhood, would you begin to speculate about their innocence? I suspect you would quite naturally construct a narrative for the event leading to the arrest from the perspective of someone with a home in the neighborhood who could have just as easily been a victim. You would be unlikely to construct the narrative from the arrested persons point of view.

Well, you're completely, 100%, could not be more wrong about that, at least as regards to me. When someone is accused of something, I always construct the narrative from the accused's point of view, seriously, read my posting history, I defend everyone. If someone is accused of something, I feel like you have a moral duty to make sure they're in the wrong before you punish them (officially or socially) for it.

I apply that standard to everyone, even rich white men. My attitude toward this has zero to do with the fact that it's about women or rape.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:56 AM on December 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


They were not closed for the poll. The house was closed because they were asked for the name of the offender, and instead of following their own ethics code and providing it, the membership closed ranks and hid him.

The house was already on probation for underage drinking. They broke their own rules.

This punishment seems reasonable to me.
posted by FunkyHelix at 8:56 AM on December 20, 2011 [20 favorites]


It's hard to know how bad this was out of context. I know it sounds bad, but think of the songs sung by rugby or hockey players; there is no suggestion that anyone singing such a thing is endorsing any of the behaviors within.
posted by Mitrovarr at 8:56 AM on December 20, 2011


Okay, so everyone else has already been outraged; I just wanted to offer a little of a different perspective. I don't think I need to add to the comments analyzing how terrible and offensive this stunt was.

I went to a huge state party school, class of '03, so that makes me 30 years old. I was a confused young adult, very socially awkward, alcohol problem, family problems, etc. Not every white male who goes to college is from some country club WASP background. I said some incredibly offensive shit in college. I thought some incredibly offensive shit in college: racist, misogynistic, you name it. It took me to about age 23-24 to finally understand how wrong all of this was. Some of us are "late bloomers," so to speak. Some of us had to teach ourselves tolerance because we were taught intolerance.

Look, I understand why this chapter needed to be shut down, this is obvious and the more important issue, but I also can still have empathy for the person who circulated this survey. He may be sociopathic, I don't know. Or, he may just like I was, confused about what is/is not appropriate, because he was never taught this. Not everyone who is 18-20 years old had the benefit of a liberal grade school education and exposure to what is or is not appropriate speech. It doesn't mean he is a "neanderthal" or that his is a criminal. He may have been frustrated by women and channeling his anger. Young men are not very good at this. Being drunk doesn't excuse one's actions, and neither does being a 19 year old confused adult. But background can explain actions.
posted by gagglezoomer at 8:58 AM on December 20, 2011 [12 favorites]


It was a "survey."

That means they could have been accumulating answers and counting up the votes for celebrities, for example-- or for women attending the school.

And that's where I think the criminality would really begin.
posted by jamjam at 8:58 AM on December 20, 2011


Pretending like this isn't tacitly accepted behaviour by frats is disingenuous at best.
posted by clvrmnky at 9:01 AM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Offensive and disgusting, yes. I would not want to be associated with these assholes. But where is the criminality?

Well, if there had been responses to the rape survey, and then it turned out that email chain members actually did rape those women, that would be very serious.

If you were to hear about someone being held for a burglary in your neighborhood, would you begin to speculate about their innocence? I suspect you would quite naturally construct a narrative for the event leading to the arrest from the perspective of someone with a home in the neighborhood who could have just as easily been a victim. You would be unlikely to construct the narrative from the arrested persons point of view.

What are you talking about? Our criminal justice system has defendants innocent until proven guilty. We're free as non jury members to speculate all we want, but when it comes to levying punishments, you do begin with the presumption of innocence.

Either way, the reason for shutting down the frat was the cover-up, not so much the rape survey itself. Between the cover-up and the survey itself, neither of which the frat denies, it looks like shutting down the house was a pretty reasonable response to the evidence before the national frat.

if the extent of the punishment is the closing of the house I fail to see what qualifies as "punishment"

Erm, the closing of the house. What else did you expect the national frat to do?
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:03 AM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also, just fyi everyone, conducting a survey about who you'd like to rape more is not a crime. This is protected speech. Please link to the quote showing the conspiracy to actually commit a crime in connection with the survey and I'll change my mind.
posted by gagglezoomer at 9:04 AM on December 20, 2011


Threats are not protected speech.
posted by kmz at 9:05 AM on December 20, 2011 [6 favorites]


Did fraternity members knowingly circulate the poll as a serious thing?

The point isn't really whether it was serious in the sense that it was an exercise in rape planning, I don't think. The point -- to me, at least -- is the concern that the frat was an environment where at least somebody thought that asking this question was funny. I agree that without knowing more, it's best not to draw too many conclusions. And I agree that this alone does not make somebody an irredeemable creep for life, and I agree that most of them probably had nothing to do with it, and so forth. But that's the part of it that freaks me out and concerns me, is the thought of somebody sitting there thinking, "You know what would be great fun? Asking everyone to speculate about raping women."
posted by Linda_Holmes at 9:05 AM on December 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


That means they could have been accumulating answers and counting up the votes for celebrities, for example-- or for women attending the school.

And that's where I think the criminality would really begin.


So we're supposed to grade the advocacy of sexual violence based on how many times someone's been in movies now?

WTF?
posted by zombieflanders at 9:06 AM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


The problem with issues relating to violence against women is that most men NEARLY ALWAYS construct their narrative of events from the perspective of the most prominent man involved.

Bullshit. "Most men" don't "nearly always" think anything alike and it's a fucked up concept of gender that would make such sweeping statements. But here's a thought that I'm sure aligns me in your mind with cavemen and fratboys: a survey in someone's inbox is not "violence against women". Sticks and stones... Words do reflect culture, but they don't actually hurt anyone.

Hence, good that the chapter honors brotherhood by protecting their own and simultaneously good that national frat and university are taking it seriously. A big fat meh on the outrage though. And, yeah, bullshit about any conclusions regarding "most men".
posted by Dano St at 9:09 AM on December 20, 2011


If you were to hear about someone being held for a burglary in your neighborhood, would you begin to speculate about their innocence?

Yes, yes I would. I think the failure of people to consider the possibility that someone accused of a crime that strikes near to them may not, in fact, have committed that crime is one of the most dangerous of the many irrational forces to which we all seem to be subject. In fact, I quite often, as a mental exercise, try to imagine how I would react if someone very close and dear to me were the victim of a violent crime and the police apprehended a suspect--precisely because I am always so saddened by the fact that when some poor shmuck is freed from prison by DNA evidence twenty years after being railroaded for a crime they didn't commit the family of the victim almost always remains in a state of deep denial, insisting that this person MUST be guilty, despite the flimsiness of the case against them.

If we can't ask "might this person be innocent" then we're just a lynch mob--plain and simple.
posted by yoink at 9:10 AM on December 20, 2011


Also, just fyi everyone, conducting a survey about who you'd like to rape more is not a crime. This is protected speech.
I think you're probably right. But nobody has yet faced any criminal sanctions, and we don't actually know what the police are investigating.
posted by craichead at 9:13 AM on December 20, 2011


Also, just fyi everyone, conducting a survey about who you'd like to rape more is not a crime. This is protected speech. Please link to the quote showing the conspiracy to actually commit a crime in connection with the survey and I'll change my mind.

No, it's not a crime, but it's also true that the frat members have not had criminal punishments levied against them. Their chapter exists at the pleasure of the national organization and the university, both of which have clear codes of conduct. Also, police are investigating the frat, probably to see if there had been actual rapes committed by fraternity brothers. A conspiracy charge would make more sense if members had been talking about raping Jane So-and-So and then a member of that conversation actually did - there might not be a conviction, but there could certainly be an indictment.

Threats are not protected speech.

Not really true. The rape survey was never meant to be released outside of the email chain. It was not communication made to the people who would have been the victims, and as such, harassment laws, etc. would not have applied. Likewise, while speech intended to incite imminent lawless action is not protected speech, the speech here was probably not incitement, and it certainly didn't concern imminent lawless action.

If this was just a joking conversation between fraternity brothers, which it appears to have been, then it was just a tasteless conversation. Otherwise, every game of "fuck marry kill" would qualify as criminal conduct as well.

That said, that's all just about the criminal side of things. The university and the national frat are both free to, and right to, levy other punishments against the local frat chapter.
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:14 AM on December 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


When I attended college in Sweden I was thrilled to see what they had done with their Greek-like system, which was to remove the exclusiveness, limit student leadership (professors and alumni helped run the houses) and turn the houses into hubs of culture, intellectual discourse, and good beer.

Yeah, a lot of schools in the States turn them into "theme housing". It's usually for different minority cultural groups (so a Latino house where people speak mostly Spanish, etc.), and then there's often an arts house, music, sometimes a lefty environmentalist commune. You have to apply for membership to live there (but there's no ridiculous pledge process), and they throw parties (sometimes they also are required to do service projects). They serve basically the same purpose for the college as fraternities/sororities, except their membership is non-white people, radical leftists, art/theatre/band kids, and freaks of all kinds. So, anti-frats, basically.

These groups don't really have the same bad reputation as frats, but as organizations they are basically the same. I think it's very obviously because there isn't an entrenched culture of privilege, arrogance, and misogyny. If the colleges that still have Greek systems want to make them work, they're going to have to try, somehow, to change the culture of the existing fraternities. It's not clear how to do this, because what makes the frats attractive to potential members is that culture.
posted by vogon_poet at 9:15 AM on December 20, 2011


Blasdelp write: Not naming names I can get, but how the fuck do you stand by something like this? Good on the University for responding appropriately.

I didn't hear the guy saying he was standing "by something like this". He said he was standing by his friend who wrote the survey. And I don't think he is even saying that what the guy did was something he agreed with; he is just seeming to say that he refuses to pile on the guy with hate because of what this guy did.

Regardless of whether the appropriate action was taken by closing the chapter - I have no information so I have no opinion - I do think friends should stand by each other, when they do horrible things. I hope my friends will stand by me, anyway. Being a friend means loving a person unconditionally, and it sounds like that is part of what the guy is saying.

I also think it's really easy to hate someone you don't know at all. Hence why it's so easy on the internet and through political organization to demonize other people as though they were less than human. I suspect that this guy is unable to do that because unlike anyone else involved, he knows the guy who did it, and therefore does not have the luxury to pretend that he's a cartoon character that can be easily pissed on.

Which is ironically even what his friend could not see when his friend wrote a survey inviting people to dream about raping women. Most of those guys, I'm hoping, if they did affirmatively respond to the survey could only rape those women in their minds, because they were raping non-real mental pictures. And insofar as rape and sexual violence can only occur because people first dehumanize the other person, thereby making it lower cost to actually torture them for their own gratification, I can definitely see why it may be socially beneficial to come down hard on this kind of thing like a hammer. But my general point is that however we respond corporately does not necessarily mean that the right choice individually is continually dehumanize people just so it's easier for us to kick the shit out of them.
posted by scunning at 9:21 AM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


"I was a confused young adult, very socially awkward, alcohol problem, family problems, etc. Not every white male who goes to college is from some country club WASP background. I said some incredibly offensive shit in college. I thought some incredibly offensive shit in college: racist, misogynistic, you name it. It took me to about age 23-24 to finally understand how wrong all of this was. Some of us are "late bloomers," so to speak. Some of us had to teach ourselves tolerance because we were taught intolerance. "

Oh God, this was me. I was a horrible person. I was thinking about this just yesterday - some of the horrible, rotten things I have said and done - I am glad I was able to escape that, and slowly reinvent myself. If I had to live with a big red letter sewn onto my clothes - "A" for Grade A - Asshole - I don't think I would be able to handle that. I am literally a different person. It was almost as if I didn't even see human beings as human until my twenties, and my adolescence was a period of insanity. You can't imagine.
posted by Xoebe at 9:22 AM on December 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


scunning: " I didn't hear the guy saying he was standing "by something like this". He said he was standing by his friend who wrote the survey. And I don't think he is even saying that what the guy did was something he agreed with; he is just seeming to say that he refuses to pile on the guy with hate because of what this guy did."

By not revealing the person's name to the fraternity's national organization, he's pretty much saying that he does not think the guy should be punished for what he's done. That's not "piling on the guy with hate." It's a statement that the guy should not be held responsible for his actions.

In my mind, that's "standing by something like this."
posted by zarq at 9:29 AM on December 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


Whoo! Another synthetically outraged lynch mob who are, for the most part, being opportunistic and are proving themselves just as idiotic as the frat-boys.

I mean really, you wouldn't take opinions or statements by these drunken idiots on almost any topic seriously, but because it is convenient to do so, this quiz becomes a heartfelt, thought-through, genuine statement of intent.
posted by epo at 9:31 AM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


The former chapter president sounds like a kid who has never faced hardship or consequences before. There are a hundred ways that someone with that title could have deescalated this situation. Instead he has melancholy regrets about never tuning the piano. Cry me a river.

Hint #1: You were in an authority position and responsible for creating a safe and non-hostile environment. Take ownership.
Hint #2: It's never too late to set an example. Take the Consent is Sexy Pledge. Donate your would-be membership dues to a Crisis Line.

In my experience it seems like a lot of the time legacy organizations are structured so that the least rock-the-boaty person is flagged for pseudo-leadership. So this throw-up-your-hands, what-could-I-have-done attitude isn't super surprising.
posted by Skwirl at 9:31 AM on December 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


Whoo! Another synthetically outraged lynch mob who are, for the most part, being opportunistic and are proving themselves just as idiotic as the frat-boys.

Lynch mob? They were shut down by their own parent organization:
“Without suggesting that every member had knowledge of this questionnaire, the questions asked in the document are deplorable and absolutely inconsistent with our values,” Brian Warren, executive director of the Virginia-based fraternity, said in a statement.
posted by en forme de poire at 9:34 AM on December 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


I didn't even see human beings as human until my twenties, and my adolescence was a period of insanity. You can't imagine.

Oh yes, brother, yes I can. At a high school friend's house there was huge a Nazi flag hanging in the living room. This was considered okay.
posted by gagglezoomer at 9:34 AM on December 20, 2011


I mean really, you wouldn't take opinions or statements by these drunken idiots on almost any topic seriously, but because it is convenient to do so, this quiz becomes a heartfelt, thought-through, genuine statement of intent.

Because this apparently bears repeating: Their own fraternal organization thought it was bad enough for them to take action. Nothing synthesized here.
posted by zombieflanders at 9:39 AM on December 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


Sticks and stones... Words do reflect culture, but they don't actually hurt anyone.

Can we dispense with this tired trope already? If you want to say "I've never been hurt by words," groovy. You are not everyone on this planet; you are fortunate that words have never hurt you - congratulations. Perhaps you could use some imagination to create a scenario where your experience is not universal and there are people who do not share it, who are in fact deeply damaged by words. It's a reality that doesn't happen to be yours; count yourself lucky and step back from telling people who are different from you that they're not *really* hurt, or they should only feel hurt if they actually get beaten, or whatever your personal metric of hurt encompasses.
posted by rtha at 9:39 AM on December 20, 2011 [35 favorites]


epo: "I mean really, you wouldn't take opinions or statements by these drunken idiots on almost any topic seriously, but because it is convenient to do so, this quiz becomes a heartfelt, thought-through, genuine statement of intent."

Fraternities have a problem with rape. So do sports teams. They are all-male organizations that can foment environments where rape becomes more likely, and they can also harbor rapists. There have been studies on fraternities and rape.. There have been books written on the subject.

So no, a survey is not a "genuine statement of intent." This is not to condemn all fraternities or sports teams. But considering all of that an incident like this is worth investigating objectively.
posted by zarq at 9:41 AM on December 20, 2011 [8 favorites]


I'll admit that I'm a little confused about what exactly the police are investigating.

posted by craichead at 8:09 AM on December 20 [1 favorite +] [!]
My guess: they are investigating under the theory that where there is smoke, there is fire.
posted by ben242 at 9:50 AM on December 20, 2011


"I was a confused young adult, very socially awkward, alcohol problem, family problems, etc. Not every white male who goes to college is from some country club WASP background. I said some incredibly offensive shit in college. I thought some incredibly offensive shit in college: racist, misogynistic, you name it. It took me to about age 23-24 to finally understand how wrong all of this was. Some of us are "late bloomers," so to speak. Some of us had to teach ourselves tolerance because we were taught intolerance. "

Oh God, this was me. I was a horrible person. I was thinking about this just yesterday - some of the horrible, rotten things I have said and done - I am glad I was able to escape that, and slowly reinvent myself. If I had to live with a big red letter sewn onto my clothes - "A" for Grade A - Asshole - I don't think I would be able to handle that. I am literally a different person. It was almost as if I didn't even see human beings as human until my twenties, and my adolescence was a period of insanity. You can't imagine.


I noticed you two are men.

Your comments are the perfect example of male privilege. Not meant as an accusation; it's great that you were able to reinvent yourselves.

You were able to reinvent yourselves.

You can't say as much for women who are raped; women who "sleep around"; or, um, women. Because we're women. You get the chance to reinvent yourselves. There is no scarlet "A" being put on the men who wrote this rape survey, they're merely facing consequences that will help them realize what you did.

But as a woman? Guess what? I can't reinvent myself as someone who won't be a target of this sort of survey. Because I'm a woman.
posted by fraula at 9:52 AM on December 20, 2011 [33 favorites]


ShutterBun is so solidly entrenched in the shoes of the men involved that just 5 minutes after the FPP was posted he already knew that the men involved were "innocent" and began to speculate about "false flag operations", whatever the fuck that could possibly mean in this context.

Not so much convinced of "innocence," though applying a certain amount of "until proven guilty." Given the dearth information about the infraction, combined with the swiftness of retribution against the frat in question, it seemed (at least somewhat) reasonable to include "false flag" as a possible (albeit remote) circumstance.

It's obvious someone was at least "guilty," (i.e. the question was asked) but there seem to be plenty of questions surrounding the circumstances. If my questioning the circumstances / outcome of the situation as seen as some kind of tacit approval of rape culture, I dunno what.
posted by ShutterBun at 9:52 AM on December 20, 2011


If you want to say "I've never been hurt by words," groovy.

That's not what I wanted to say. Yes, words can hurt, but they are fundamentally different than physical violence. And please don't disregard(what little we know of) the context: a private email thread. Nobody shouting "I wanna rape you" in anybody's face. Yes the survey is an artifact of rape culture, but it is not "violence against of women".
posted by Dano St at 9:57 AM on December 20, 2011


There is no scarlet "A" being put on the men who wrote this rape survey

I know, you see these examples of male privilege all the time. Let's take a hypothetical. Suppose four hyper-privileged white males were accused of raping a poor black stripper, like Harvard Crew members or something. I'm sure no one would jump to conclusions of their guilt. Or that they would have to hire vast legal teams to clear their names if they were wrongly accused. And surely, no prosecutor would have the audacity to prosecute these men without a locked-solid case.
posted by gagglezoomer at 10:02 AM on December 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


"I mean really, you wouldn't take opinions or statements by these drunken idiots on almost any topic seriously, but because it is convenient to do so, this quiz becomes a heartfelt, thought-through, genuine statement of intent."

We should take these drunken idiots seriously because they create an unsafe environment for women. You noticed the link upthread where one of them was caught filming women in a locker room right? We need to take them seriously because even if they arn't capable of a coherent thought, they are perfectly capable of violence against women, and at the very least have already succeeded in changing the environment of campus to one that is much scarier.

"What are you talking about? Our criminal justice system has defendants innocent until proven guilty. We're free as non jury members to speculate all we want, but when it comes to levying punishments, you do begin with the presumption of innocence."

No one is on trial here, but I'm talking about the measurable differences between how people understand and process topics related to violence against women as opposed to other crimes. That a handful of men in this thread have already jumped up with how they always look at EVERY accusation from the perspective of the accused, when already primed to do so, doesn't change the fact that for most crimes not related to violence against women most people immediately identify with the victim and judge the relative guilt or innocence of the accused as well as particularly the magnitude of the crime from there.

This thread would look very different if it was a question in a survey about which Jews should go to a gas chamber first, or which African American students would look best on a tree. No one would be identifying with the frat or figuring that any of the excuses put forward in this thread could be valid.
posted by Blasdelb at 10:04 AM on December 20, 2011 [9 favorites]


So do sports teams. They are all-male organizations that can foment environments

Sports teams are not all-male.

This is not to condemn all fraternities or sports teams.

I don't understand why you bring up sports then. There must be some relationship you are trying to convey.
posted by Dano St at 10:06 AM on December 20, 2011


Suppose four hyper-privileged white males were accused of raping a poor black stripper, like Harvard Crew members or something. I'm sure no one would jump to conclusions of their guilt. Or that they would have to hire vast legal teams to clear their names if they were wrongly accused. And surely, no prosecutor would have the audacity to prosecute these men without a locked-solid case.

Is this some sort of new-fangled "reverse privilege" argument?
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 10:06 AM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I know, you see these examples of male privilege all the time. Let's take a hypothetical. Suppose four hyper-privileged white males were accused of raping a poor black stripper, like Harvard Crew members or something. I'm sure no one would jump to conclusions of their guilt. Or that they would have to hire vast legal teams to clear their names if they were wrongly accused. And surely, no prosecutor would have the audacity to prosecute these men without a locked-solid case.

It's weird how people talk about "rape" all the time like it's something that's ever really happened. Google Duke Lacrosse; that whole thing was a fraud!
posted by gerryblog at 10:08 AM on December 20, 2011


Dano St: " Sports teams are not all-male."

I meant all-male sports teams.

Dano St: " I don't understand why you bring up sports then. There must be some relationship you are trying to convey."

Studies have shown that members of all-male sports teams are disproportionately represented in sexual assaults.
posted by zarq at 10:08 AM on December 20, 2011


It's weird how people talk about "rape" all the time like it's something that's ever really happened.

It's weird how people talk about "rape" all the time like its something that men, society, the police or lawmakers never take seriously.
posted by gagglezoomer at 10:14 AM on December 20, 2011


This is not criminal, as near as I can tell ... but, then, nobody is facing criminal charges.

A lynch mob is a nasty thing. they unfairly persecute people, and (in the case of an actual lynch mob) kill them. Nobody here is doing that.

"Who would you rape" is free speech, sure, which is why nobody has been punished for it by any government agency.

What happened here ... the only thing that happened here ... is that some stupid fucking fratboys said some misogynist shit that made their parent organization look bad, then closed ranks and refused to give up the chief misogynist dipshit. So the parent organization said "fuck you, you can be misogynist on your own time, guys."

You know what this isn't? It's not Duke LaCrosse. It's not Harvard Crew. It's not a situation where anyone is facing anything more serious than "not being part of Future 1%ers,"or whatever the fuck they're calling themselves.
posted by Myca at 10:14 AM on December 20, 2011 [17 favorites]


I know, you see these examples of male privilege all the time. Let's take a hypothetical. Suppose four hyper-privileged white males were accused of raping a poor black stripper, like Harvard Crew members or something. I'm sure no one would jump to conclusions of their guilt. Or that they would have to hire vast legal teams to clear their names if they were wrongly accused. And surely, no prosecutor would have the audacity to prosecute these men without a locked-solid case.

If you've got clear evidence that this isn't a fluke and that the majority of rape cases are brought falsely, we're waiting for it. Otherwise, one instance does not invalidate all the others.
posted by zombieflanders at 10:15 AM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's weird how people talk about "rape" all the time like its something that men, society, the police or lawmakers never take seriously.

The ENTIRE SUBJECT OF THIS THREAD is about a group of men that didn't take rape seriously.
posted by gerryblog at 10:17 AM on December 20, 2011 [14 favorites]


This thread would look very different if it was a question in a survey about which Jews should go to a gas chamber first, or which African American students would look best on a tree. No one would be identifying with the frat or figuring that any of the excuses put forward in this thread could be valid.

Well, you can't really say "no one" if there are people (including, but not limited to, me) who say that they would react identically in that thread. I will say again, that I would react the same way. Also, unless you've got an actual thread along the lines of your hypothetical out there, I don't see the point of bringing it up. I actually think that thread would look more or less identical to this thread, so all we've got is speculation based on some vague "feeling" about what this community is like.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:17 AM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


That's not what I wanted to say. Yes, words can hurt, but they are fundamentally different than physical violence. And please don't disregard(what little we know of) the context: a private email thread. Nobody shouting "I wanna rape you" in anybody's face. Yes the survey is an artifact of rape culture, but it is not "violence against of women".

If I were this guy's mom, sister, or girlfriend, I'd feel pretty violated. Maybe they don't - that's cool, that's them.
posted by rtha at 10:23 AM on December 20, 2011


Dano St: "I don't understand why you bring up sports then.

To clarify this a little... many studies that examine/survey acquaintance rape, alcohol binging and fraternities also look at members of college sports teams, and the data frequently shows that members of both groups are more likely to be involved in rape incidents than non members. They are far more likely than any other groups to be involved in gang rape incidents -- rapes that include more than one rapist.

There are a number of postulated reasons for this, including that both fraternities and sports teams, as all-male environments, can promote a form of rape culture in which the sexual victimization of women is considered acceptable.
posted by zarq at 10:23 AM on December 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


All this hand-wringing over presumption of innocence would make more sense if these were actual criminal proceedings. Neither Metafilter nor the national Sigma Phi Epsilon organization are courts of law.

Unless the local president of the frat is running some kind of long con against his own house, we know that somebody in the frat wrote the question, and in fact he knows exactly who it is and is shielding him. And we also know that the question was spread wide enough to get leaked. What else do we need to know before we get to criticize them?

I wonder if y'all are also this careful before say, criticizing bankers? Lt. John Pike? Don't they deserve presumption of innocence too?
posted by kmz at 10:27 AM on December 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Also, just fyi everyone, conducting a survey about who you'd like to rape more is not a crime. This is protected speech.

We investigate people who joke about killing the president. I have no problem with also investigate people who joke about rape. If there was no actual criminal behavior, there will be no charges, but police are right to investigate where there may be a suspicion of misconduct.

I for one don't know that this is just a joke. It was a survey about who people want to rape. Unless I hear otherwise, I will neither assume to be a joke or to be serious, but I think it's worth investigating.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:29 AM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Unless the local president of the frat is running some kind of long con against his own house

Hold on -- is it not possible that several years ago a cabal of rabid feminists recruited one or more men to infiltrate this fraternity in order to bring it down from the inside through ill-considered email threads, and thereby discredit the fraternity system nationwide? Couldn't this conspiracy go all the way to the top? Wouldn't it have to? Why are people so quick to rule this out?
posted by gerryblog at 10:32 AM on December 20, 2011 [6 favorites]


All this hand-wringing over presumption of innocence would make more sense if these were actual criminal proceedings. Neither Metafilter nor the national Sigma Phi Epsilon organization are courts of law.


Right! Right right right right right right right.

ALLLLLLLL that fucking happened is they lost their cushy little clubhouse, and they lost it because they made national look bad.

That's it.

Feel bad for them? What the fuck for?
posted by Myca at 10:33 AM on December 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


fraula, it's obvious that systemic sexism (and other discrimination) is a tenacious problem and those of the discriminated population have fewer opportunities. However, I think you are confusing internal changes of worldview with privilege given by a power structure. Both males and females can change their attitudes from accepting the discrimination to rejecting it. Hopefully the people involved in Sigma Phi Epsilon can change their attitudes.
posted by demiurge at 10:38 AM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Can anyone explain to me what earthly purpose the fraternity/sorority system serves? To my mind, the words carry connotations of scandal, drunken parties, date rape, and academic mediocrity. I'm honestly curious - despite working in a university setting, I never seem to encounter any reasons to change these views.
posted by richyoung at 10:38 AM on December 20, 2011


I am curious about how the survey was accidentally leaked. Did the person who leaked it try to get it stopped but was unable to, because the guy who wrote it just needed a hug? I'd like to know a lot more about the story, but so far I believe:

Whoever wrote this, responded to it, or passed it on is a creep. Not an irredeemable creep, but a creep. Whoever okayed it, tacitly or otherwise, is a creep. There's no inherent right for a fraternity to exist, or to be in a fraternity, so having one shut down for breaking university and parent organizartion rules strikes me as completely fair.
posted by jeather at 10:40 AM on December 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


Can anyone explain to me what earthly purpose the fraternity/sorority system serves? To my mind, the words carry connotations of scandal, drunken parties, date rape, and academic mediocrity. I'm honestly curious - despite working in a university setting, I never seem to encounter any reasons to change these views.

Officially, it's to encourage an atmosphere of brother- or sisterhood and, in some cases, either bolstering certain cultural backgrounds ("historical" organizations) or broadening them. Unofficially, it's to ensure that people have strong bonds between people with the "right" connections after moving on from the academic world, whether those be professional, personal, or a combination of the two.
posted by zombieflanders at 10:45 AM on December 20, 2011


To my mind, the words carry connotations of scandal, drunken parties, date rape, and academic mediocrity.

Rape is a serious problem, and you need to expand that beyond "date rape." Greek organizations have not done enough to stamp that out.

But as for the drunken parties, scandal, and academic mediocrity, you're just describing the central tendency of college students.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:51 AM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


As to the question of if it's a joke, feminist campus purports that they received a copy of the survey:

It’s actually kind of nerdy and cute, until you get to the final three “personal questions.”

1. Where in public would I want to have sex?

2. Who’s my favorite artist?

3. If I could rape someone, who would it be?


If it was intended as a joke, it's not contextualized to be read as a joke. Instead, it appears grouped in with non-jokey questions, and a non-jokey email in general. Now, I suspect it's just the work of somebody who is spectacularly tone-deaf, but, then, my feelings are that this sort of thing should be treated like threats of suicide are treated. Even if you suspect there is no actual intended action in the statement, treat it as serious until you can confirm it isn't. Which sounds as though it is what the police are doing.

Why? Because a lot of people commit suicide, and a lot of people get raped, and I prefer not to disregard as being unlikely something that statistically isn't unlikely.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:52 AM on December 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


Can anyone explain to me what earthly purpose the fraternity/sorority system serves?

Traditionally, it's upper class networking and privilege enforcement. Lately, I think it's more the scandal, drunken parties, date rape, and academic mediocrity you mention, with a strong flavor of racism.

I work at a large Tier 1 university. The flavor of the place is very progressive and integrated -- except during rush week, where everyone breaks up into little groups sorted by race and sex and ethnicity. It's like "hey, we're doing a great job overcoming historical patterns of segregation and oppression ... OOPS HA HA JUST KIDDING, BLACK KIDS OVER HERE, WHITE KIDS OVER THERE, ASIAN KIDS ACROSS THE STREET." Fuck all of that. If I were an administrator I'd be hovering over all of those organizations just waiting for them to slip and I'd come down on them like a ton of history.
posted by zomg at 10:54 AM on December 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


But as for the drunken parties, scandal, and academic mediocrity, you're just describing the central tendency of college students.

Heck, it's what I majored in!

That being said, as Fraternities have battled against accepting blacks, gays, and Jews, among others, I'd say a big function of fraternities is as an institution for protecting privilege.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:56 AM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Can anyone explain to me what earthly purpose the fraternity/sorority system serves? To my mind, the words carry connotations of scandal, drunken parties, date rape, and academic mediocrity. I'm honestly curious - despite working in a university setting, I never seem to encounter any reasons to change these views."

I also work in a university setting and had the same confusion until I ran into the general connotations you left out: that they're a way to leverage unearned privilege into more unearned privilege. That they do this by facilitating institutionalized cheating, providing unchallenging living environments, purchasing situations where sex is easy and doesn't require self-understanding, and ultimately shuttling 'the right kind of people' into 'the right kind of jobs'.* Everything else seems to be either cynically generated smokescreen or attempts of varying but inherently lesser effectiveness to harness the model for the less privileged.

*All but two U.S. presidents since 1825 have been fraternity men, and 63 percent of the U.S. presidents' cabinet members since 1900 have been fraternity men. Studies show that 76 percent of Congress, 71 percent of the men listed in "Who's Who in America," and 85 percent of the Fortune 500 executives belong to a fraternity. Additionally, Since 1910, 85 percent of the Supreme Court justices have been Greek.
posted by Blasdelb at 11:12 AM on December 20, 2011 [7 favorites]


if the extent of the punishment is the closing of the house I fail to see what qualifies as "punishment"

Fraternities cost money to join, doubly so if you live in the house. I doubt they'll be getting their money back, and now they have to find housing elsewhere in the middle of the academic year, which is not prime apartment hunting season and may mean that they cannot find on campus housing. So that's a direct financial cost to the members.

I don't know if they remain members of the national fraternity or if they lose that as well.

Given that, as far as we know, no actual criminal activity came out of the survey, even indirectly, I'm not sure that the fraternity's punishment should go much beyond that. If the author of the survey is identified, the school has other options including, conceivably, expulsion. I don't know what the University of Vermont's code of conduct is like, but personally I think he deserves formal censure, a mark on his academic record, and mandated counseling. Expulsion or other public punishment is only likely to (further) embitter him against academia and women.
posted by jedicus at 11:15 AM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Can anyone explain to me what earthly purpose the fraternity/sorority system serves?

I'm not close to many people who were in fraternities except my brother-in-law, so I can really only speak for him. For him, it seems like it was genuinely for camraderie. He's someone who likes having a group of guy friends and who gets a lot from that kind of support. In high school he got it from people on his football team; in college he got it from his frat. While he clearly has a lot of the markers of "privilege," I don't think he joined for networking/privilege enhancement, and any networking he's done since college has had a lot more to do with the small, private, preppy Northeastern liberal arts college he went to than his frat. I have no idea how accepting his frat was.

I say this partially because it's important not to treat "frats" as a monolithic entity, at my college there was a frat that was all Jewish and compeltely dry and a frat where the guys like to smear dollar bills with feces and drop them on the ground across the street from the frat house. People join them for all sorts of reasons, and they don't really serve one "purpose."
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:16 AM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


doesn't change the fact that for most crimes not related to violence against women most people immediately identify with the victim and judge the relative guilt or innocence of the accused as well as particularly the magnitude of the crime from there

Yes, they do: and that has lead to a lot of innocent people languishing in jail. I'm not sure why you're holding up this mindset as an ideal.
posted by yoink at 11:23 AM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


jedicus: " Fraternities cost money to join, doubly so if you live in the house. I doubt they'll be getting their money back, and now they have to find housing elsewhere in the middle of the academic year, which is not prime apartment hunting season and may mean that they cannot find on campus housing. So that's a direct financial cost to the members. "

The fraternity has about 45 members, 20 to 25 of whom live at the Sig Ep house on Main Street. They must move out of the house during Christmas break, Stevens said, and the school will help them find other housing.
posted by zarq at 11:25 AM on December 20, 2011


I say this partially because it's important not to treat "frats" as a monolithic entity, at my college there was a frat that was all Jewish

I was a member of the Jewish frat at my campus. Sexism was rampant. I would not have been surprised if this email came out of that fraternity. I left after a month or so.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 11:25 AM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also, just fyi everyone, conducting a survey about who you'd like to rape more is not a crime. This is protected speech.


Yup. And if some private citizens want to discuss hypothetical rapes amongst themselves, that's their business. Tacky and offensive and I hate it, but there's nothing to be done except try to educate them.

But if UVM wants to continue to collect my tuition dollars (I am a student there, albeit not involved in Greek life), I would appreciate a bit of discretion in making sure that the organizations they sanction maintain some basic standards. I have no problem with these standards including "Joking about rape is not cool. Ever." Apparently I'm not alone here.

Yes, it's unfortunate that some people uninvolved with this thing had to get punished for it. But, hell, I've found a great way to not have to be punished for the crass, misogynistic behavior of others. It's called not joining a goddamn frat. Working pretty well for me so far.
posted by DiscountDeity at 11:28 AM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I was a member of the Jewish frat at my campus. Sexism was rampant. I would not have been surprised if this email came out of that fraternity. I left after a month or so.

I didn't mean to suggest that the Jewish frat couldn't be sexist, just that a dry Jewish frat in Chicago is a different context than a all-white frat at a giant public university in the South. Generalizations about "frats" make as much sense as generalizations about "colleges."
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:30 AM on December 20, 2011


Generalizations about "frats" make as much sense as generalizations about "colleges."

Outliers don't necessarily obviate the behavior of the mainstream. Yes, there are undoubtedly fraternities that do not support support or encourage misogyny. I have not been in the frat system for quite a while, but, when I was, those were the exception rather than the rule. And, as my experience in fraternities was that they are about as slow to change as a glacier, without hearing that there has been a concerted effort in the Greek system to address this, I am going to go ahead and assume it is still the norm. An assumption that is bolster by the fact that stories like this continue to appear with great frequency.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 11:34 AM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


The fraternity has about 45 members, 20 to 25 of whom live at the Sig Ep house on Main Street. They must move out of the house during Christmas break, Stevens said, and the school will help them find other housing.

Ah, well, never mind then. Sounds like they aren't losing much more than their dues and a bit of hassle.
posted by jedicus at 11:40 AM on December 20, 2011


I'm not sure why you're holding up this mindset as an ideal.

(If you don't mind my interjecting.)

It's not about it being the ideal, it's about there being more than one kind of unfair.

Assuming guilt in all instances is very very unfair. This is a kind of unfair that black men have to deal with most often.

Reaching for justifications of innocence in all instances in all crimes against you also very very unfair. This is a kind of unfair that women have to deal with most often.

I think it's racist-or-a-justification-of-racism to look at the repeated harassment of black men by police in America and start arguing that some stops are justified. It's true that some stops are justified, but to bring that up all the damn time is to imply that most stops are justified, and that shit ain't true.

I think it's misogynist-or-a-justification-of-misogyny to look at rape culture and the ongoing harassment of women in our culture and start talking about presumption of innocence and protected speech all the damn time.

This isn't a case where anyone is being prosecuted for their speech. If you think the consequences faced by these misogynist fratboy jerks are excessive (losing their exclusive misogynist fratboy jerk house), then make the case for that. Talking about how we shouldn't send people to jail for shit they say only makes sense if jail is something anyone in this situation is anywhere fucking near, and they're not.

They're simply not.
posted by Myca at 11:43 AM on December 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think it's misogynist-or-a-justification-of-misogyny to look at rape culture and the ongoing harassment of women in our culture and start talking about presumption of innocence and protected speech all the damn time.

Well, since this isn't a case about a crime then talking about the "presumption of innocence" is inappropriate. Any time we're talking about a crime then we have to start from the presumption of innocence, no matter what the crime is.

That said, my comment which referenced some similar principles to the presumption of innocence wasn't about the legal presumption of innocence, it was about not imputing culpability to a group of people for something one of them did, without evidence that they were all responsible. I'm not sure if that evidence is there or not, since I haven't done any kind of investigation in to this event, but I'm not going to presume it is, just because frats are full of people I already don't like, which is what I see going on in this thread.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:51 AM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Can anyone explain to me what earthly purpose the fraternity/sorority system serves?

This is certainly atypical, but for me it was a safe place to be a Python-spouting dork.

But at the same time...

I say this partially because it's important not to treat "frats" as a monolithic entity

Even if there are atypical houses, typical house is typical. There's a broad central tendency that, while probably not hugely worse than the average student, still isn't positive. And, along with a few other organizations like men's sports and ROTC, they can have serious problems with hazing and other bad behavior that unaffiliated students would more or less by definition be less prone to.

The most I'd say is that school culture is probably a lot more important than anything to do with greek organizations. It's not like the average students at Penn State or ASU are going to stop being drunk pinheads if you abolish fraternities and sororities there, nor are students at MIT going to be even more high-achieving if they abolish them.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:51 AM on December 20, 2011


these misogynist fratboy jerks [who live in a] exclusive misogynist fratboy jerk house

What are you basing this description on? You know these people belong to a frat and that one of them asked a stupid question. Do you know more than that? From that bit of data, you are perfectly comfortable talking shit about 45 individuals?

Feel bad for them? What the fuck for?

Because of people spewing baseless crap about them over a game marry-fuck-kill and a bunch presumptive anger about who they are and who they represent.
posted by Dano St at 12:03 PM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Who would you rape is the equivalent to who would you fuck? I don't think so.
posted by agregoli at 12:10 PM on December 20, 2011


Not equivalent, but the comparison is to "kill".
posted by Dano St at 12:11 PM on December 20, 2011


Also, just fyi everyone, conducting a survey about who you'd like to rape more is not a crime. This is protected speech.

I suggest you could test this theory by putting a survey on your Facebook page about Presidents you would like to shoot.
posted by JackFlash at 12:13 PM on December 20, 2011


I suggest you could test this theory by putting a survey on your Facebook page about Presidents you would like to shoot.

Your comment is stupid. Were I as stupid as your comment, I would take you up on your challenge. I would then be interrogated by the FBI and SS and told I was a dumb ass, there would be a media story, and then there would be no prosecution, but I didn't commit a crime. Just because I would get grilled by the FBI doesn't mean it's a fucking criminal act.
posted by gagglezoomer at 12:17 PM on December 20, 2011


Also, there are special statutes that apply greater protection to threats against government officials than private citizens. Even so, I still believe as survey on facebook entitled "which president would you most like to murder death kill? X _ Y _ Z _" would not be illegal.
posted by gagglezoomer at 12:22 PM on December 20, 2011


Connecting to another trend, I noticed #itsnotrapeif trended worldwide just a few days ago on Twitter. #disgusted #inappropriate.
posted by pelican at 12:24 PM on December 20, 2011


What are you basing this description on? You know these people belong to a frat and that one of them asked a stupid question. Do you know more than that? From that bit of data, you are perfectly comfortable talking shit about 45 individuals?


Circulating a 'who would you rape' survey is a misogynist act. Supporting someone who circulated a 'who would you rape' survey is a misogynist act. Since that seems to be what the frat did ... yep. I'm perfectly comfortable calling them misogynists.

Comfortable? Hell, I find it relaxing.
posted by Myca at 12:25 PM on December 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


Circulating a 'who would you rape' survey is a misogynist act. Supporting someone who circulated a 'who would you rape' survey is a misogynist act.

See, I'm not so sure about that. I mean, yes - there is misogyny involved, in the sense that it's harm to a woman being advocated, but I'm not sure there's a hatred of women as a singular driving force behind the question, or any of the other actions the young men (or idiots, if you prefer) took.

It seems to me that they're selfish and hedonistic and, yes, privileged, but there's a whole lot of ground covered besides misogyny here. These young men are being groomed to be Part of The Problem.
posted by Mooski at 12:31 PM on December 20, 2011


"Thoughtcrime does not entail death: thoughtcrime is death."
-1984
posted by jcrcarter at 12:32 PM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh Lordy, here we go.
posted by kmz at 12:34 PM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yes, I remember back in 1984, when fraternities regularly had to give up their members for execution for daring to think about rape. But since it is now 2011, and that law is no longer in effect, I wonder if we can discuss what is actually happening, rather than a misappropriation of a quote by Orwell that he himself would have balked at.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 12:41 PM on December 20, 2011 [8 favorites]


Supporting someone who circulated a 'who would you rape' survey is a misogynist act.

This is true, but I'm not sure that "refusing to identify" and "supporting" are the same thing. I think any decent friend would refuse to identify the individual in this situation knowing what a shitstorm would likely fall on said individual. If somebody I knew did something like this I'd probably tell them to not be such a fucking neanderthal asshole... but I wouldn't rat them out barring some other circumstance of which we're not aware. The punishment would likely far outstrip any actual harm.
posted by Justinian at 12:44 PM on December 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think any decent friend would refuse to identify the individual in this situation knowing what a shitstorm would likely fall on said individual.

My friends know enough not to make me complicit in their fuckups, and, if they ask me to keep their fuckups secret, they are on a timeline to publicly out themselves, because I don't find it an especially friendly act to be sucked into somebody else's shitstorm.

Also, somebody who sends me an email asking me who I want to rape is not my friend.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 12:46 PM on December 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


You don't sound like you remember what it was like to be a stupid college kid, nor sound like much of a friend.
posted by Justinian at 12:48 PM on December 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


The person in charge of the fraternity has a different responsibility towards reporting than a friend does.
posted by jeather at 12:48 PM on December 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


You don't sound like you remember what it was like to be a stupid college kid, nor sound like much of a friend.

I am not a good friend to people who think rape is funny. I am not their friend at all.

As to being a stupid college kid, nobody I knew in college behaved at all like this, and I think you are minimizing it by behaving as though it's just something young people do.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 12:50 PM on December 20, 2011 [10 favorites]


Oh, I should rephrase that. There were some people in the fraternity who I can imagine doing something like this, but never did when I was a member, and I wasn't a member long.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 12:52 PM on December 20, 2011


Piety fight!
posted by gagglezoomer at 12:52 PM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't think it's something young people do; I think it's something you take the guy aside and extremely forcefully make it clear it is unacceptable.
posted by Justinian at 12:53 PM on December 20, 2011


I think it's something you take the guy aside and extremely forcefully make it clear it is unacceptable.

And I think it's something you demand they take accountability for, and, if they refuse to, and insist you cover up for them, they have shown they are not your friend.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 12:54 PM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


The person in charge of the fraternity has a different responsibility towards reporting than a friend does.

That's possible but I don't think it's necessarily true based on the facts at hand. It's a good objection to what I said but I'm not convinced.
posted by Justinian at 12:55 PM on December 20, 2011


I don't think it's something young people do; I think it's something you take the guy aside and extremely forcefully make it clear it is unacceptable.
I think that's kind of what the national fraternity did.
posted by craichead at 12:55 PM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think that may have been the right thing to do; I was only making a specific point, that I don't think refusing to identify the idiot who sent the original email is necessarily a terrible, misogynistic thing. No decent friend would send someone out to the wolves like that.
posted by Justinian at 1:01 PM on December 20, 2011


I think that's kind of what the national fraternity did.

And yet they're still the bastions of the privileged 1%ers who <3 rape. Typical of "sports teams" and "most men" really.
posted by Dano St at 1:02 PM on December 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


As far as the police looking into the survey, it could be in relation to Vermont's hazing law:

“Hazing” means any act committed by a person, whether individually or in concert with others, against a student in connection with pledging, being initiated into, affiliating with, holding office in, or maintaining membership in any organization which is affiliated with an educational institution; and which is intended to have the effect of, or should reasonably be expected to have the effect of, humiliating, intimidating or demeaning the student or endangering the mental or physical health of a student. Hazing also includes soliciting, directing, aiding, or otherwise participating actively or passively in the above acts.
posted by lovermont at 1:03 PM on December 20, 2011


"Thoughtcrime does not entail death: thoughtcrime is death."

This is jackassery. I recently stomped on the red hot button of PTSD of a friend of mine who has in fact been raped and who was nearly killed by her ex-husband (as aside, this is why F-M-K games/jokes aren't funny). And I did it totally innocently and with all the good intent in my heart that was possible and still I did it.

And I took my lumps for it and am still rebuilding trust with my friend after that. I do that by being humble, respectful, careful, intentional, responsible.

I don't do it by asserting my right to be as big a jackass as possible. I don't do it by making my friend just live with the fact that I'm a loudmouthed, opinionated buttmunch.

In fields where we are talking about epic life issues (like rape), it is responsible and adult to be careful and humble. To apologize for offense given and to reach out in all humility to fix what we can and be responsible to the rest.

That's our job as adults. Asserting your independence to think and say what you want is something to aim at repressive governments, fascist police organizations and civic administrations. That's what it's for.

It's not for browbeating other individual folks that you know. It's not for asserting or prove your independence from all communities. It's not for being a jackass.
posted by kalessin at 1:05 PM on December 20, 2011 [7 favorites]


If you choose to be the president of your organization, you have a greater responsibility to the organization as a whole, and the institution it operates under, than you do to one of your brothers. If you don't want to take on that kind of responsibility, that's fine; no one is going to force you to run for president.
posted by rtha at 1:05 PM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


No decent friend would send someone out to the wolves like that.

Let me just point out that, as commendable as this notion may be, this is precisely the sort of way privilege perpetuates itself. Instead of having somebody take it on the chin like anybody else would, people act as a buffer between their misconduct and the result of the misconduct, apparently thinking that a stern lecture from a friend is all that is required.

I am not just a friend to the men in my life, but also the women in my life, and to humanity as a whole. And this was an unfriendly gesture by the one person, and the fraternity protecting the person from public scrutiny was an unfriendly gesture, particularly to the women who had been targeted by it.

So you can go ahead and insinuate that I am a bad friend. I will simply respond that my idea of friendship is more expansive, and does not include codes of silence to keep misbehavior from accounting for genuinely terrible behavior.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:06 PM on December 20, 2011 [12 favorites]


misbehavors from accounting, rather.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:08 PM on December 20, 2011


I don't know the exact responsibility of whoever is in charge of the fraternity. I would think it involves not allowing misogynist shit like this to go on without comment, and also to punish misbehavior when it occurs. it appears that neither of these were done, so perhaps the person in charge considers himself in a friendship role. In which case, that person shouldn't be in charge at all.

It's not clear whether reporting is part of the responsibility, but it isn't obvious that it isn't.
posted by jeather at 1:09 PM on December 20, 2011


And I think that one has to weigh the likely punishment and the misbehavior, and deciding that more harm than good will come of publicly identifying the miscreant in question is not a "code of silence" but part of being a decent human being and friend. It's why we generally don't report our friends for copyright infringement but, one hopes, would do so for mass murder. This falls in between those end points.
posted by Justinian at 1:10 PM on December 20, 2011


t's not clear whether reporting is part of the responsibility, but it isn't obvious that it isn't.

I certainly agree with this. It's possible that the president of the fraternity chose friendship over his official role. But I don't think it is obvious either way.
posted by Justinian at 1:11 PM on December 20, 2011


According to the article, that chapter was social probation already; this was probably the scandal that broke the camel's back.
posted by cass at 1:11 PM on December 20, 2011


I've never regretted protecting a friend.
posted by gagglezoomer at 1:11 PM on December 20, 2011


Justinian: " This is true, but I'm not sure that "refusing to identify" and "supporting" are the same thing. I think any decent friend would refuse to identify the individual in this situation knowing what a shitstorm would likely fall on said individual. If somebody I knew did something like this I'd probably tell them to not be such a fucking neanderthal asshole... but I wouldn't rat them out barring some other circumstance of which we're not aware. The punishment would likely far outstrip any actual harm."

And in so doing you'd be protecting someone who is perpetuating rape acceptance. In doing so, you'd become part of the problem.
posted by zarq at 1:12 PM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've never regretted protecting a friend.

Has that protection ever hurt somebody else?
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:13 PM on December 20, 2011


In the same way that not ratting out your friends for torrenting all their movies contributes to a culture of copyright infringement, I guess.
posted by Justinian at 1:14 PM on December 20, 2011


It's why we generally don't report our friends for copyright infringement but, one hopes, would do so for mass murder. This falls in between those end points.

And I think it is a measure of our privilege where we place it between the points. I place "asking people who they want to rape" closer on the continuum to mass murder than copyright infringement.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:15 PM on December 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Well there you go. While it's a shitty thing to do and one which should be slapped down hard, I think that's so over the top as to damage your own position and make others take it less seriously.
posted by Justinian at 1:16 PM on December 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Justinian: "In the same way that not ratting out your friends for torrenting all their movies contributes to a culture of copyright infringement, I guess."

Someone being sexually assaulted / raped is simply not the same as something being stolen anonymously. As someone said above, the equivalence to the question "Who would you rape?" here is "Who would you kill."
posted by zarq at 1:17 PM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


You insist on addressing me directly, so I will respond in kind: Your comment about a "culture of copyright infringement" suggests to me that you don't take the subject of rape culture seriously, and your prideful claims that closing ranks around somebody who has made predatory comments in a mass email cause me to not take you particularly seriously.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:18 PM on December 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


I should probably clarify that when I stomped my friend's PTSD hot button I did it unintentionally and innocently.
posted by kalessin at 1:20 PM on December 20, 2011


As someone said above, the equivalence to the question "Who would you rape?" here is "Who would you kill."

I don't think that's the right equivalence though, since no one would care one bit if I sent out a survey asking people who they wanted to kill. People might think it in bad taste, but no one would be suggesting that I am evil or "part of the problem."

I think the comparison made above to "who would you lynch" is a bit more apt.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 1:21 PM on December 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Justinian: "culture of copyright infringement"

It's also worth noting that there is a long history in human culture of protection of rapists and victim-shaming rape survivors. Placing that on an equal level as copyright infringement is ridiculous.
posted by zarq at 1:21 PM on December 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


Someone being sexually assaulted / raped is simply not the same as something being stolen anonymously. As someone said above, the equivalence to the question "Who would you rape?" here is "Who would you kill."

Wait, what? I wouldn't "turn in" a friend for discussing "who would you kill" unless I had some reason to believe they were serious about actually killing someone--and I have a hard time imagining most people would.
posted by dsfan at 1:21 PM on December 20, 2011


Cass: According to the article, that chapter was social probation already; this was probably the scandal that broke the camel's back.

Sig Ep has more bad behavior in its past, too:

From the first link in the post: In 1993, the parent organization revoked the UVM chapter’s charter, saying hazing and other behavior placed the national office at risk of a lawsuit. Pledges were asked in interviews to tell a racist joke, say what they would do with a stripper they had seen the previous night, and describe their sexual encounters. The charter was restored in 1997.

In the late 80s, the Sig Ep chapter president's car, parked in front of the house, displayed the words "Kill queers" on it. (pdf link)

(I grew up in the Burlington area. I was in high school when the car thing happened and remember the uproar surrounding it, 'though I can't remember if they were sanctioned/punished for it.)
posted by lovermont at 1:22 PM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Placing that on an equal level as copyright infringement is ridiculous.

Which, if you've read the thread, is why I specifically and prominently said it fell on the spectrum BETWEEN copyright infringement and mass murder.

the equivalence to the question "Who would you rape?" here is "Who would you kill."

I actually disagree. I think "Who would you rape?" is a worse question. Not because rape is more serious than murder but because asking "who would you kill?" is more obviously unserious because there really isn't an equivalent "murder culture" to rape culture. But if it needs be said, I dont think a friend would rat out someone for a "who would you kill?" survey either.
posted by Justinian at 1:26 PM on December 20, 2011


Your comment about a "culture of copyright infringement" suggests to me that you don't take the subject of rape culture seriously

Which you could only believe if you decide to interpret remarks out of context, since I have specifically stated the opposite to the position you assign me.
posted by Justinian at 1:28 PM on December 20, 2011


In the same way that not ratting out your friends for torrenting all their movies contributes to a culture of copyright infringement, I guess.
posted by kmz at 1:28 PM on December 20, 2011



Has that protection ever hurt somebody else?

Probably. I've hidden a friend's cheating on his girlfriend. I've outed another friend's drug use to his girlfriend. I regret the latter, not the former. My close friends and I are very close, and we share with each other our darkest, deepest thoughts. We have a lot of dark shit that torments our souls. I will protect them against the world even when they are against it to the very line of the law.
posted by gagglezoomer at 1:28 PM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Which you could only believe if you decide to interpret remarks out of context, since I have specifically stated the opposite to the position you assign me.

The context here is that you seem to think the appropriate response to somebody you know participating in creating a hostile environment for female students is to hush it up in the name of friendship.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:30 PM on December 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


I will protect them against the world even when they are against it to the very line of the law.

In my world, that's called an enabler.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:31 PM on December 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


six-or-six-thirty: "After a controversial survey circulated by Sigma Phi Epsilon (SigEp) surfaced...

It's funny, but I just have a really hard time with this use of the word 'controversial'. It doesn't really seem like there should be much debate.
"

You'd think, but after that whole Penn fiasco, it's clear the Patriarchy still flaunts itself and has a lot of followers.
posted by symbioid at 1:31 PM on December 20, 2011


kmz: yay you quoted one comment out of a whole thread and reposted it free of context. Good job.

Bunny: I see the context as you being willing to throw friends to the wolves into a situation where the punishment will far outweigh the crime, and to do so simply to make yourself seem pious.
posted by Justinian at 1:32 PM on December 20, 2011


Justinian: " Which, if you've read the thread, is why I specifically and prominently said it fell on the spectrum BETWEEN copyright infringement and mass murder."

No, I've read every word you said. I was responding specifically to this comment:

Justinian: "In the same way that not ratting out your friends for torrenting all their movies contributes to a culture of copyright infringement, I guess."

...which pretty much draws an equivalence between them.
posted by zarq at 1:34 PM on December 20, 2011


In my world, that's called an enabler.

Then we can officially disagree.
posted by gagglezoomer at 1:35 PM on December 20, 2011


which pretty much draws an equivalence between them

But not a moral equivalence or one of seriousness. But, hey, if you want I'll once again say that sending this email is worse than copyright infringement, though not as bad as mass murder.
posted by Justinian at 1:37 PM on December 20, 2011


Bunny: I see the context as you being willing to throw friends to the wolves into a situation where the punishment will far outweigh the crime, and to do so simply to make yourself seem pious.

And I see you as seeing comments about rape as being so unserious as that you have decided for yourself what the appropriate response is, and your claims that this is in the name of friendship as being equally pious. And that's what men do, and that's why it's called privilege. They get to decide that friendship is more important than women's safety, and that they know best about how to respond to comments about rape, and that they should close ranks around people who make questionable public statements about rape. That it's just college kids being stupid college kids, and, hey, they're a friend, and they shouldn't have to deal with things like this. Never mind the women who actually are raped, and how they are affected by something like this. Because they aren't your friends.

Stop accusing me of piety. Your as guilty of it as I am, in your own way. But your supports rape culture.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:38 PM on December 20, 2011 [13 favorites]


"Thoughtcrime does not entail death: thoughtcrime is death."

do you mean to say there was thinking involved in this?
posted by pyramid termite at 1:40 PM on December 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Oh, bite me, you're talking about a stupid kid who acted like an asshole and wrote a completely unacceptable email. Ok, good. Now you're going beyond that and asserting that anyone who doesn't want this asshole branded for the rest of his life (in this age of google) for an idiotic error as a purveyor of rape culture. That's pure arrogance.
posted by Justinian at 1:40 PM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Justinian: " But not a moral equivalence or one of seriousness. But, hey, if you want I'll once again say that sending this email is worse than copyright infringement, though not as bad as mass murder."

So you were being sarcastic? Okay.
posted by zarq at 1:42 PM on December 20, 2011


Bite me?
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:42 PM on December 20, 2011


Yes, how terrible. Much more polite to call the people you disagree with proponents of rape culture.
posted by Justinian at 1:43 PM on December 20, 2011


Now you're going beyond that and asserting that anyone who doesn't want this asshole branded for the rest of his life (in this age of google) for an idiotic error as a purveyor of rape culture.
I don't think you know what would have happened if they'd named the perpetrator, and I'm not sure why you're assuming it would have been anything dire. But I'm sort of weirded out by the idea that people who minimize rape shouldn't face any consequence more serious than a stern talking-to. I'll freely admit this is a major hot-button for me, and maybe I just can't think clearly on anything having to do with rape on college campuses. But it seems to me that this is actually kind of an encouraging story that suggests that national fraternities, if not necessarily local chapters, are taking seriously their responsibility to make it clear that rape isn't a joke.
posted by craichead at 1:45 PM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yes. I am saying that people who close ranks around friends who send out mass emails asking who people want to rape are proponents of rape culture. And I am astonished that this is getting any argument. It is the very definition of rape culture.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:46 PM on December 20, 2011 [15 favorites]


No, you're going beyond that and saying anyone taking issue with how you phrase the context is supporting rape culture.
posted by Justinian at 1:49 PM on December 20, 2011


No, you're going beyond that and saying anyone taking issue with how you phrase the context is supporting rape culture.

I am not. I apologize if I wasn't clear.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:51 PM on December 20, 2011


How would you frame the context?
posted by shakespeherian at 1:51 PM on December 20, 2011


But I'm sort of weirded out by the idea that people who minimize rape shouldn't face any consequence more serious than a stern talking-to.

The fraternity was shut down. Surely that's of more consequence than a talking-to? I don't think anyone has taken issue with that decision.
posted by Justinian at 1:52 PM on December 20, 2011


Bunny Ultramod: Yes. I am saying that people who close ranks around friends who send out mass emails asking who people want to rape are proponents of rape culture. And I am astonished that this is getting any argument. It is the very definition of rape culture.

I think there's a significant different between agreeing with him and not wanting the public to railroad the hell out of him. Considering it made national news and got the frat dissolved, I think it's pretty likely the consequences would be somewhat dire (expulsion wouldn't surprise me at all, and death threats from the public are all but a given). This is, I think, somewhat disproportionate for what amounts to a creepy and stupid comment. I think shaming from your friends and perhaps some light counseling should be enough. It's probably just some stupid kid.
posted by Mitrovarr at 1:52 PM on December 20, 2011


It's probably just some stupid kid.

"Probably not actually a rapist" is a risk that it's easy for men to take.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:55 PM on December 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


How would you frame the context?

That the appropriate action was taken institutionally when the frat was shut down, and that his friends refusing the single out the individual who wrote the email in question were preventing their friend from possibly facing serious repercussions which they could reasonably believe would far outweigh the initial infraction. (On preview) Mitrovarr says it well; his friends not ratting him out isn't rape culture, it is not wanting to see a guy villified on national news. Which is what would happen. This thread is itself evidence of what would happen.

I am not. I apologize if I wasn't clear

Well, I apologize if I misread you.
posted by Justinian at 1:56 PM on December 20, 2011


The fraternity was shut down.
The fraternity was shut down because its members adhered to the guy code, which you defend, which says that guys don't rat out other guys for some no-big-deal thing like minimizing rape. The rape-minimizer might face some consequence which you believe to be excessive, and you're the ultimate arbiter of these things. Since you think the consequences might be excessive, then a good guy will just take his guy-friend aside and give him a stern talking-to. And anyone who disagrees with you about the excessiveness of the hypothetical punishment or the sufficiency of the stern talking-to or anything else is an asshole, because you say so.
posted by craichead at 1:57 PM on December 20, 2011 [9 favorites]


In fairness, he never said asshole. Just "not a good friend."
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:58 PM on December 20, 2011


I don't think anyone has taken issue with that decision.

Half the thread was people taking issue with that decision.
posted by kmz at 1:58 PM on December 20, 2011


Bunny Ultramod: "Probably not actually a rapist" is a risk that it's easy for men to take.

Clearly, we should condemn him on the basis of making one creepy comment once.
posted by Mitrovarr at 1:58 PM on December 20, 2011


Then I think maybe you're disagreeing on the seriousness of the infraction rather than the context. Which is why, I believe, Bunny Ultramod suggested what he did.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:58 PM on December 20, 2011


Half the thread was people taking issue with that decision.

I meant anyone in the current discussion rather than earlier in the thread but, yeah, I was unclear. This is one reason I miss threaded discussions rather than all in one big pile.
posted by Justinian at 2:00 PM on December 20, 2011


Clearly, we should condemn him on the basis of making one creepy comment once.

Do we know it was just once? Do we know anything? Or have we just collectively decided that this is just some dumb college kid who made a perfectly understandable mistake, and that's as far as it should go?

Again, as men, we take no real risks by coming to this conclusion.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 2:00 PM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


craichead: The fraternity was shut down because its members adhered to the guy code, which you defend, which says that guys don't rat out other guys for some no-big-deal thing like minimizing rape. The rape-minimizer might face some consequence which you believe to be excessive, and you're the ultimate arbiter of these things. Since you think the consequences might be excessive, then a good guy will just take his guy-friend aside and give him a stern talking-to. And anyone who disagrees with you about the excessiveness of the hypothetical punishment or the sufficiency of the stern talking-to or anything else is an asshole, because you say so.

I get what you're saying, but if I'm not to trust my own judgement, whose am I to trust?
posted by Mitrovarr at 2:01 PM on December 20, 2011


adhered to the guy code, which you defend, which says that guys don't rat out other guys for some no-big-deal thing like minimizing rape.

This is the sort of bullshit faux-rephrasing which contributes to the poisoning of discourse on Metafilter. That it is no way something I would consider a fair summary of my position and I think you know that.
posted by Justinian at 2:01 PM on December 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Bunny Ultramod: Do we know it was just once? Do we know anything? Or have we just collectively decided that this is just some dumb college kid who made a perfectly understandable mistake, and that's as far as it should go?

Again, as men, we take no real risks by coming to this conclusion.


What kind of risk mitigation behavior are you advocating? Making him a pariah and getting him expelled is almost certainly going to do the opposite of helping him.
posted by Mitrovarr at 2:04 PM on December 20, 2011


That it is no way something I would consider a fair summary of my position and I think you know that.

It's a fair paraphrase. It recontextualizes what you're saying, but sticks to the exact same points you make. You just probably don't like seeing it from somebody else's perspective other than your own, but that's not poison. From my point of view, since I also see this viewpoint as supporting rape culture, it's medicine.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 2:04 PM on December 20, 2011


While there can be problems with statistics, before you say, "Probably some stupid kid" check this out from the wikipedia college rape page:

"Fifty-five to seventy percent of gang rape perpetrators belong to fraternities. Eighty-six percent of off-campus attempted rape or sexual assaults are at fraternity houses.[11] College gang rape tends to be perpetrated by middle- to upper-class men.[12]"

"There are higher incidents of gang rape within fraternities for many reasons: peer acceptance, alcohol use, the acceptance of rape myths and viewing women as sexualized objects, as well as the highly masculinized environment. The Neumann study found that fraternity members are more likely than other college students to engage in rape.[11] Part of the prevalence of fraternity rape may be due to the fact that some colleges do not have complete control over the privately-owned fraternity houses.[2] Although gang rape on college campuses is an issue, however, date, acquaintance, and party rape are more likely to happen.[12]"

How do you think a group of guys decides they are all on the same page with raping someone? Exactly what sort of conversations do you think encourage their mindsets to go this direction? What if naming off people you want to rape IS EXACTLY THE KIND OF SPEECH that brings groups of guys, or individuals to think that rape is hot and that "most males secretly want to rape my buddies understand"

What if this kind of a speech has a direct causal relationship between real rape?

I tried to pull up some more content on research on fraternity rape statistics and attitudes toward sexuality/women/"forced sex"/rape/violating and degrading women but quite honestly it makes me want to vomit, so you can go find that yourself if you'd like.
posted by xarnop at 2:06 PM on December 20, 2011 [12 favorites]


Making him a pariah and getting him expelled is almost certainly going to do the opposite of helping him.

He did something stupid, presumably. Let him come forward, explain himself, and find out what people want him to do to make up for it. People make public asses of themselves all the time. They also make up for it publicly. Refusing to name him does nothing to protect him -- his name will come out. It just makes it seem like he won't take responsibility, and that's going to stick with him a lot longer than the initial offense.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 2:06 PM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I understand that, Bunny, but you could take almost any position and recontextualize it in a way to make it unappealing to the person who said it. I probably did a little of it earlier in the thread with your own position which was a mistake. We should probably just let people on all sides speak for themselves.
posted by Justinian at 2:07 PM on December 20, 2011


That was a response to Bunny's comment involving It recontextualizes what you're saying. Quoting is important in these fast threads.
posted by Justinian at 2:08 PM on December 20, 2011


In any case, I think I've said my bit and we're not going to get any further here, so I'll probably bow out now unless someone addresses me specifically.
posted by Justinian at 2:09 PM on December 20, 2011


Where is this rape culture that you speak of? A couple of guys stood up for a friend that did something wrong. After which, their entire frat got shut down and the members are facing public shaming by their community for the actions of a few people. Hundreds of bloggers are demonizing this guy. So, where is the rape culture? The institution acted appropriately, and its members are being publicly shamed.
posted by gagglezoomer at 2:09 PM on December 20, 2011


Well, I think it may be worth considering the recontextualization. I will try to do the same when people recontextualize what I say, because it may be that they are simply offering an alternative, and equally valid, viewpoint on what I have said.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 2:10 PM on December 20, 2011


So, where is the rape culture?

In the behavior of the fraternity members, and in the initial comment. The fact that it was responded to doesn't mean there is no such thing as rape culture, it means that we are in a large country that has a variety of viewpoints, some in conflict with each other. This is a hopeful sign -- that the mainstream is moving away from acceptance or the minimization of rape. But it doesn't mean there aren't still people who don't see it as a very big deal.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 2:12 PM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Er, initial email. Not the initial comment in this thread.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 2:20 PM on December 20, 2011


It's dismaying how easily and glibly people (presumably, mostly guys) talk about raping other people.
posted by jiawen at 2:23 PM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


jiawen: It's dismaying how easily and glibly people (presumably, mostly guys) talk about raping other people.

Maybe I just hang with a better crowd than that, but outside of parody, dark humor, and fiction, I never ever hear anyone talking about that - not like you mean. Is this common elsewhere? I think it'd be unspeakably creepy.
posted by Mitrovarr at 2:38 PM on December 20, 2011


I don't think it's something young people do; I think it's something you take the guy aside and extremely forcefully make it clear it is unacceptable.

Well, no. If the guy is doing this in public, you make it clear in the same venue that it's not appropriate. (The venue in this story would have been the frat.) Other people who think it's funny need to hear that they're not the only ones around.

I'm also assuming this isn't the kind of thing that happens again and again, because then it's an entirely different problem.

It's possible that the president of the fraternity chose friendship over his official role. But I don't think it is obvious either way.

Ignoring the issue of naming the perpetrator, the president of the fraternity I think fairly clearly didn't do his official role -- calling it out, some sort of sanctions -- properly because if he had, the current situation makes no sense.

Now you're going beyond that and asserting that anyone who doesn't want this asshole branded for the rest of his life (in this age of google) for an idiotic error as a purveyor of rape culture. That's pure arrogance.

I know this wasn't aimed at me, but: look, I don't think this one incident should ruin the life of whoever wrote this forever and ever. But I do think that saying "well, being a rat is bad! It's important for friends to keep secrets!" is perpetuating rape culture in this case. I can understand now refusing to name the person -- I am not sure I agree, but I understand it. I do not understand refusing to tell the national organisation anything about it, and that to me is the definition of perpetuating rape culture.
posted by jeather at 2:41 PM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Re: Supporting your friends, come what may.

Where does this cross the line? Cops are friends with other cops. That shit goes on long enough it becomes the Blue Wall of Silence.

If you'd protect a friend who would send out a "who would you rape" email on a campus that's 56% female, would you protect a friend who sent out a "who would you lynch" email on a 56% black campus?

I mean, yeah, I'm down with protecting my friends too, I just want to know the rough outlines of the matter.

Furthermore, part of protecting your friends in that way is taking your lumps for it. Maybe friendship is more important to you than preventing your college from becoming a hostile place for women. That's a legitimate choice. It's one I might have made under different circumstances ... but it does necessitate placing my personal relationship above the harm done to a large group of women.

And yeah ... that's misogynist.
posted by Myca at 2:43 PM on December 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


Mitrovarr: "Is this common elsewhere?"

It is creepily common among video gamers. I've been playing a lot of Skyrim, and while I get a lot of insight from fellow gamers, it also takes a lot of gritting my teeth to deal with the all-too-frequent misogyny and rape references.
posted by jiawen at 2:54 PM on December 20, 2011


Myca: I mean, yeah, I'm down with protecting my friends too, I just want to know the rough outlines of the matter.

I guess I would say... be rational, and use your judgment? This guy made a creepy and twisted comment to his friends, but not one that necessarily points to a specific crime being imminent. The suitable punishment for that, I think, is censure or rejection by your friends - it is not making the national news with the stupid thing you said, or getting thrown under the bus by your university as a PR move. So by protecting him in that case, you are making the more just outcome more likely.

On the other hand, when cops do the Blue Wall of Silence thing, they're generally preventing the more just outcome. You don't protect your friends (or, I think, keep them at all) when they are evil or actively hurting other people. So that's a different case.

Realistically, I know there's a lot of fuzzy lines here or difficult interpretations, and some people's judgment sucks, but I can't think of a firm rule for this situation that would fit.
posted by Mitrovarr at 2:56 PM on December 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


And as to the "who would you lynch" email?
posted by Myca at 3:23 PM on December 20, 2011


Half the thread was people taking issue with that decision.

This is at all accurate in my reading of the thread. Would you show me 3 people who took issue with decision?
posted by Dano St at 3:28 PM on December 20, 2011


Look, censure or rejection includes everything up to throwing him out of the group entirely. That would still be a proportionate response (and honestly, if he was creepy otherwise it'd probably be the correct one). I still wouldn't call the news or the university president unless I thought there was an actual threat of a crime occurring.
posted by Mitrovarr at 3:29 PM on December 20, 2011


*not* at all accurate
posted by Dano St at 3:29 PM on December 20, 2011


Perhaps if men didn't keep raping women, joking about raping women, defend other guys for making rape jokes, and telling women that rape culture is no worse than copyright infringement culture so what are they getting so upset about, perhaps we wouldn't keep having to have this bloody argument.
posted by ArkhanJG at 5:15 PM on December 20, 2011 [9 favorites]


(that made more sense before stuff got deleted)
posted by ArkhanJG at 5:17 PM on December 20, 2011


That was a shitty thing to say, Arkhan. No matter what you think of the point regarding torrents, it's a point made in good faith by a member of the community. He doesn't deserve to be grouped in with rapists.
posted by Dano St at 4:11 AM on December 21, 2011


The whole point of the concept of rape culture is that we live in a world that relentlessly minimizes rape, by treating it as something funny, or as an abstraction, or as something that is somehow a small crime, rather than a big one.

It's not shitty to point out when a member participates in that sort of minimization, whether they did so in good faith or not.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 5:22 AM on December 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Rape culture is a term which originated in women's studies and feminist theory, describing a culture in which rape and sexual violence against women are common and in which prevalent attitudes, norms, practices, and media condone, normalize, excuse, or tolerate sexual violence against women. Examples of behaviors commonly associated with rape culture include victim blaming, sexual objectification and rape apologism."

I'm pretty sure that making jokes about rape (the original survey), defending the joke and the joke-maker - which there has been plenty of in this thread - and downplaying the seriousness of the attitude and privilege that leads to making such jokes, and defending such attitudes and the men that hold them is pretty much what rape culture IS.

I'm pretty sure that any women, on campus or otherwise, that were named in any of the answers to that survey wouldn't find it very fucking funny that some guy thought they were suitable to be raped. Just because it's 'between the guys' doesn't make it any better, it's still rape culture.

Downplaying women's feelings, treating it as 'just a joke' and not a serious problem is what rape culture is. It creates a space where actual rapists feel comfortable and safe to rape women - when sexual assault is a laughing matter.

It ends up where rapists don't even think what they're doing is wrong - it's just rough sex, it's what they really wanted, my mates joke about it all the time, no sometimes means yes, who cares what they think, you'd think they'd be pleased that someone wanted them etc etc.

Women are people, just like men. They deserve respect, safety and having a really common and nasty type of violation and assault taken seriously, and not treated like a joke. And if pointing that out on somewhere that's supposed to be a place full of brainy, intelligent and thoughtful people is 'shitty', well you know what? You and I are gonna disagree.
posted by ArkhanJG at 5:40 AM on December 21, 2011 [6 favorites]


The shitty part is comparing someone who disagrees with you with criminal behavior. Using a simile --illegal downloads-- to make a point about friendship and loyalty is not in any way shape or form like raping someone. Such grouping of one with the other is not discussion; it's point scoring.
posted by Dano St at 5:53 AM on December 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well, that's not what was done, Dano. The whole point, which you missed and continue missing, is not that the commentor was like a rapist, but that they were like somebody who minimizes rape, and that this is especially an issue in a world in which rape is so frequent.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 6:34 AM on December 21, 2011 [5 favorites]


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