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Fraternities Must Further Strengthen Self-Accountability

I remember the first time I was chided for shortening “fraternity” by three syllables.

Foolish Freshman, you never say “frat.” It suggests a negative connotation.

A fraternity, I was told, is more than the caricatured image unfairly molded by tales of parties, hazing and movies like “Animal House.”

There’s undeniable truth to this.

From fish fries to French toast feeds and Freezathons to clothes drives, Greek life, at least at North Dakota State, is a valuable asset to campus and our community.

But altruism alone does not excuse fraternities from scrutiny, as the media has shown this year.

Earlier in February, officials suspended the Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter at Furman University for hazing. The chapter is nearly 150 years old.

Hazing-related charges this month also suspended the Phi Kappa Psi chapter at Washington and Lee University (a member used a Taser on a pledge) and the Sigma Chi chapter at the University of Houston (details of which were not publicly shared).

Details were shared – virally – when social media recently propelled the racially charged video taken of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter at Oklahoma University. The clip, brandishing the N-word and mentions of lynching, shut the chapter down entirely.

And, as uncovered last week, police have been investigating a secret Facebook page with ties to the Kappa Delta Rho chapter at Penn State.

The KDR chapter allegedly had a “Covert Business Transaction” page (and then a second after one victim discovered the original) where members shared pictures of unassuming, partially naked women.

You think a horse having a heart attack creates negative connotations? Sorry, John Belushi in 1978 doesn’t come to mind when these atrocities are happening in fraternities today.

Unfair as it may be to discuss only the bad apples of the fraternity world, an unabashed conversation still needs to be had about the collective culture of Greek life.

One idea that P.R. majors offer in assistance: Open the windows and blinds to clear the air.

Fraternities, much like other collegiate crowds, are infamous for their confidentiality and unanimity.

While some chapters are more transparent than others, it’s still too quiet.

I remember asking my fraternity-rushing roommates freshman year about the pledge process. I didn’t get much detail, which is fine – if there isn’t activity being veiled.

I understand the mystique of secrecy.

I also understand groupthink.

A detective-written affidavit said 144 members joined the second KDR Facebook page, the New York Times reported.

At least 144 people knew of this repugnant and active page before a former-KDR member came forward.

This is the 21st century, people: How does one person even let this happen?

Policy aimed to counter these outrages – like SAE announcing last week the start of a diversity initiative aimed to fight racial intolerance – is helpful, but word-on-paper alone will not alter the landscape as much as needed.

A culture change is needed. Brothers need to hold each other more accountable than ever before.

Fraternities are a powerful source of good in this nation, and, again, the majority of the chapters are fighting the good fight.

But with power comes responsibility. Hell, as a decent human being there comes responsibility.

Don’t want to be called a frat? You’ll earn those three syllables back doing what fraternities are designed to do: philanthropic work, chapter camaraderie and upholding the most basic of morals.

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