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March 15, 2006

Fraternity suspended

My fraternity recently was suspended by Central Missouri State University and the national fraternity of Alpha Kappa Lambda for holding a “racially insensitive” party in conjunction with Martin Luther King Jr. Day (3/7 editorial, “No room for insensitivity”).

These are kids living on their own for the first time, but youth and inexperience do not excuse their behavior. Such racial statements are unacceptable at any time of life. Our nation cannot provide equality if our hearts are segregated.

There must be acceptance of responsibility for such attitudes to exist, including by us alumni. There must be acceptance of responsibility from all races of all Americans who have not done enough to improve race relations in our country.

I will work with my national fraternity and alma mater to ensure the chapter’s activities were isolated. Meanwhile, the fraternity that provided me and my brothers a support group through our college years, and friendships throughout our lives, is no more.

If this suspension results in acceptance and tolerance of others by focusing on our similarities rather than our differences, then the sacrifice will prove worthwhile — painful, but worthwhile.

Denny Banister
Jefferson City

Comments

Lost_In_Ambivalence

I don't think any of use have talked to the national fraternaty to find out why this chapter was supsended but I would guess that it has more to do with public opinion than anything. They don't want a bad reputation nationally because of 40 dumb guys. However, the University suspending a chapter because of alcohol is stupid. Even in dry houses, people drink and quite excessively(my brother is in a nice Lutheran fraternity with a dry house that seems like it should have its own liquor license). My guess is that a couple of people went to the admins and complained. They saw this as a way to avoid the hassel that comes with offensive content. Oh well. Perhaps the fraternities will think twice before the next stupid party they throw.

CRD

A tad cynical, I know, but we are talking lawyer territory here. Attorneys make cynics of us all.

Engineer

CRD
So, if I understand you, the ousting of the frat on the alcohol use charge is just a CYA reaction on the part of the University, to protect itself against possible future suits. The rhetoric about sensitivity was just window dressing to make the action seem noble. Well, sounds like the usual MO of Universities.

CRD

There's also the argument that, in making waves by holding this "un-PC" party with alcohol, the frat showed up on the University's radar screen in a way that the alcohol violations simply couldn't be ignored.

Reminds me of when I was at college. The various dorms would organize these great off-campus "warehouse parties," where we'd rent a warehouse and stock it with booze. The organizing dorms would rent buses and drivers which would take the students to and from the party, so there was no driving. The college administration pretty much was content to look the other way, since it was a generally viewed as a compromise that allowed the students to engage in something they'd do anyhow, but without the element of driving drunk. However, the year after I graduated, a reporter did a story in the student paper on warehouse parties, and that was the end of it, since it was no longer plausible that the parties flew beneath the administration's radar.

However the story in the Star was written, once this became an issue and the alcohol policy violation was out there for all to see, the CMSU administration likely had no other legal recourse but to take action against the frat for the violation. With all the liability issues cropping up in recent years, schools are much more likely to take a zero-tolerance approach with a frat that so blatantly violates its charter.

I make no judgment on the boozing, but I can't really feel sorry for the frat, since it looks like they've made their bed and have to lie in it. (is that the appropriate saying? doesn't sound quite right.)

Chris40

From everything I've read it appears that the main point of contention is the type of party (e.g., insensitive), not that beer was served. There's a longer article at www.themuleskinner.com that tells the story the same way as The Star. That is, people have a right to not be offended.

There does seem to be a double standard that depends on whom you offend and who does the offending.

Engineer

tomw
As usual, you are at least partially right. My main reason for my comment, as echoed by Chriss, was to remind people of the many claims of violation of 1st Amendment rights on behalf of various Professors, etc. As CRD says, the 1st Amendment applies only to Government action. I have pointed this out in previous threads in which complaints about the violation of various Professor's supposed 1st Amendment rights were being discussed. I am of the opinion that the School's reaction to the event was severe and that the alcohol charge was just a convenient hook on which to hang it. How many other frats have been suspended on alcohol charges? Perhaps they are all simon pure, things do change.
CRD's example would be no less or no more unforgivable than Churchill's statements. The big difference is that Professors are in a position to indoctrinate others.

CRD

Nevertheless, I don't think you could bring a First Amendment case on the facts presented.

Chris40

It sounds as if the students were disciplined because of the content of their party. From the article itself:

"But the insensitive nature of the gathering brought it far more attention than a typical campus drinking party. Minority students make up nearly 10 percent of CMSU’s enrollment. Every student has the right to attend classes and enjoy campus life without fear of being stereotyped and denigrated. THE CMSU ADMINISTRATION ACKNOWLEDGED THAT WITH ITS DECISIVE ACTION. The fraternity’s attempt at humor wasn’t funny. It represented a destructive sort of group-think that every campus should guard against."

CRD

Tomw sums it up pretty well.

I just don't see the parallel between Churchill's use of an arguably offensive and certainly questionable metaphor in an essay and the situation in question, where a fraternity chapter violated the university alcohol policy and was judged by the national office of the fraternity to have engaged in conduct unbecoming of the fraternity's values.

I wonder if we'd hear this sqawking about "political correctness" if the national fraternity had suspended the chapter for throwing a party mocking Jews and Jewish culture on the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.

The chapter is free to throw the parties it does (freedom of expression/speech), but the national frat is just as free to disassociate itself from the event by suspending the chapter, as it did. There's simply no free speech concerns implicated there.

Chris40

Tom,

The alcohol part may be true, but the story and the letter both stress the "insensitive" nature of their party.

It's nothing new for universities to come down with the hammer on their own students, yet get behind their faculty 1000%, when the conduct is more or less similar.

I was curious why this is a defensible policy.

tomw

Engineer and Chris40-You are joking, right? These young men were members of a "club" and the "club" suspended them. In addition, they violated university alcohol policy. Maybe you're just looking for a chance to scream POLITICAL CORRECTNESS!

Chris40

CRD,

Do you see any asymmetry in the way these students have been disciplined and the way certain professors have been defended by "free speech advocates," when both have engaged in "offensive" conduct or speech?

I read the article linked above, and it seems that the students at CMSU were trying to have a funny theme party. It doesn't sound particularly funny, but there doesn't seem to be any malicious intent. What these students received for their "joke" was loss of charter and ostracism from the university itself.

Contrast this with some like Ward Churchill, who was until recently a department head at CU, and is still a tenured professor there. Churchill's beliefs, such as that those who were murdered on 9/11 were "little Eichmanns," seem driven almost completely by malice and hatred. Yet he retains his job, perks, title, etc. Churchill's speech, at least from my perspective, was far more offensive than the CMSU frat party.

Mirecki at KU is a less obnoxious version of Churchill, yet Mirecki had legions of defenders in the media and at KU. Why is nobody standing up for the CMSU students? Surely a university professor has a greater burden when it comes to making responsible comments than a bunch of frat guys.

When push comes to shove, I would place myself in the "free speech under all circumstances" camp when it comes to "offensive" speech. I've read many news stories about authors in Europe actually going on trial for writing books denying the Holocaust or "insulting" Muslims. This is crazy.

I just wish that powerful and tenured professors were subject to the same type of discipline meted out to some harmless 19-year old frat guys. There seems to be MAXIMUM value placed on the free speech rights for professors, but a MINIMUM value placed on the rights of the students.

Why? Do you see a difference that I'm missing here?

CRD

um, yeah, I agree. I'm pretty up on my First Amendment. Like I said, freedom of speech doesn't mean freedom from consequences.

Lost_In_Ambivalence

CRD

Freedom of speech only pertains to governments censorship or government reprisal in a public forum. It has nothing to do with how private parties react.

That being said, I think that what happened is that a bunch of frat guys did something really stupid and were called on it. The suspension is just bump in the road in the walk of life.

Chris40

I'm with Engineer on this one. We hear all the time about the faculty's right to free speech, as if it were the most sacred right in the world. Think Ward Churchill, Paul Mirekcki, Nicholas DeGenova, etc.

Why does this sacred right of free speech not also extend to the students at a university?

CRD

Hmm, let's see you walk up and call your boss an a**hole and see how long your "freedom of speech" protects you from getting fired.

Freedom of speech doesn't mean freedom from consequences.

Engineer

So much for the quaint idea of freedom of speach.

 
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