Saturday, December 17, 2011

National fraternity is willing to throw innocent frat brothers under the bus to make a statement about conduct demeaning to women

The national Sigma Phi Epsilon organization has said there is no indication that a University of Vermont chapter of its fraternity sanctioned the online survey asking fraternity brothers whom they would rape, see here, and UVM officials have said it was unclear who wrote the survey, whether the survey was sent out, or whether anybody responded. 

Yet, prior to the conclusion of an ongoing investigation, the national fraternity said it is "indefinitely closing” the chapter, noting that "any behavior that demeans women is not tolerated by the fraternity."

Refusing to condone bad taste behavior that is in demeaning to anyone is, of course, an appropriate impulse. The national fraternity has every right to police its image and to insist that a certain level of civility is maintained. What is not an appropriate impulse is caving in to PC bloodlust and to punish all the members of a local fraternity for misconduct that might have been caused by just one or two frat brothers.  Sigma Phi Epsilon's rush to judgment smacks of politicized pandering, and that is never done for a proper purpose.

A number of questions present themselves. Two of the more interesting are as follows: first, if the survey had originated in an organization other than a fraternity, would there have been such an overwhelming outcry to punish the entire organization before it was determined whether the organization, or a rogue member, was responsible for it?  If the answer is "no," what does that say about how fraternities are perceived to the outside world, and is that perception justified?

Second, as Abby W. Schachter, writing in the New York Post, put it: "Would the . . . national fraternal organization have reacted any differently if the survey had been about potential male rape victims instead of female rape victims?"  See here.