Ltte: Zeta Beta Tau needs to do better

To the editor,

To the Brothers of Zeta Beta Tau Fraternity at CWRU: I would be pissed if I were you. Royally furious. Because some of your brothers have just totally undermined the chapter you care so deeply for. Of course, I’m writing about your Greek Sing and Variety Show (V-Show) from this year. If you somehow aren’t aware of what those were, I encourage you to watch the video of Sing posted to YouTube. The V-Show was not uploaded. But I want to write out what I think you meant, and then I want to write out what a vast majority of people felt.

From some of your brothers’ perspectives, a self-aware chapter had the courage to rival the arbitrary judicial policies of the Interfraternity Congress (IFC) and Panhellenic Council (PHC) and speak up for the silent, scared majority of fraternity men on campus. They took a stand against pointless sanctioning, stood up for individual’s right to have fun, for self-determination, and in the end, it’s just a joke. This was a chapter willing to make a statement, regardless of the repercussions.

At least, I hope that last bit is true, because the repercussions are very real, and come as the anger and disappointment a lot of Greek students on campus are feeling as a result of your performances.

Because my side of the story? The perspective the majority of people saw? A chapter volleyed personal attacks at Amie Jackson, using song lyrics to make sexual innuendo about her and how she would “beg for us [the chapter].” When in your song, the lyrics had you list three people who hate your chapter most, Jackson’s infant child was on the list. She’s two years old. What possibly made it seem ok for you to reference her, at all? Then in V-Show, the brief reference to the issues around last year’s show was clearly an attempt to be nothing but provocative. Clearly, that much succeeded. Continuing with your V-Show, Mark Starr and Jackson were depicted as the true oppressive force for Greek Life, and once again you targeted Jackson specifically. I get it—she’s the one that signs the emails on your sanctions. And I mean, let’s be real, she has thick skin. She can take it. And after all, the committee allowed it, right? So even if the committee does explicitly ask you to represent your chapter in a different way? Well, screw ‘em. Puppets, all the way down.

Come on.

Your V-Show ended with a sentiment of, more or less, if the behavior of the Greek Life Office that leads to membership reviews, the removal of chapters, etc. continues, that the fraternities on this campus would leave. If you applaud that notion, laughed at that moment, nodded to yourself about the power of that message, I’ll echo a sentiment from a sorority member heard behind me in the crowd:

“Okay, bye then?”

I have been fortunate enough to work with several of your chapter presidents, all of whom have been personal role models for what it means to be interfraternal leaders. I have called many of your brothers my friend, and some my colleagues. I will not speak for others, but I am happy to continue a conversation about what should happen next at any point in the future. I’m writing to you today for two reasons. One, if we aren’t willing to hold each other accountable, no one else will. Two, because I don’t believe for an instant your whole chapter is on board with this messaging. Over the past three years, I have argued time and again that your chapter has worked harder than any other to improve and push forward. I don’t feel that way anymore.

I encourage you to ask what Greek community you are a part of, and what Greek community you represent with your actions. It’s the same community I am a part of. Which also means I am genuinely invested in your succeeding in all regards as a chapter, because we are a part of the same community. I am aware, and appreciate, that your President apologized at the Joint General Body meeting of IFC and PHC this past week. But apologies are not enough. I look forward to seeing the concrete change your chapter takes to improve your understanding of what Greek Life at CWRU values, and what we as student Greek members expect of our fellow student Greek members. I encourage your leadership and brothers to take accountability for yourselves and your actions, and applaud those of you that do.

For other community members who were angry or disappointed, I encourage you to not stay silent. Not just in this moment, but always. Speak up. Our community does not improve if voices are not heard.

Will Oldham

2016 Interfraternity Congress President

Sigma Nu Fraternity