On a recent episode of Dare We Say, we asked if Fraternities Should Be Abolished. As if in answer to the question co-host Shawna Vercher and I posed, yet another frat house, Kappa Delta Rho at Penn State University has been shut down for three years amidst allegations “that members posted pictures of nude and partially nude women – some who appeared to be sleeping or passed out – on private Facebook pages.” This scandal has been in the news for several months, but as reported by Susan Snyder in Philly.com, “The university has now completed its investigation and “found evidence of hazing, the use and sale of drugs, underage drinking, sexual misconduct, harassment and exploitation in terms of photographs, persistent harassment of two females, photographing women in extremely compromising positions and posting these photos online.”
Though the student-led Interfraternity Council pushed for more lenient sanctions, University President Eric Barron chose otherwise. It is difficult even to repeat the behavior reported at Kappa Delta Rho, much less to contemplate the manner in which these young men behaved. The excuse of liquor impairing judgment or fraternities fostering a gang mentality do little to explain a complete lack of respect for women. As reported:
“Pledges were required to create stories with pornographic images and a “sex position of the day…”
“Members regularly posted embarrassing photos of women,” the university said, “used demeaning language to describe females; and cultivated a persistent climate of humiliation for several females.”
President Barron stated:
“This is not a fraternity that’s operating in an appropriate way. We’re making a very strong statement about sexual harassment and sexual assault. So I’m not going to go back on that stance that we’re taking.”
The fraternities’ national chapter also promised to insist on future sensitivity training for its members.
But all of this points to a larger issue. In what kind of an environment did these guys grow up where this would be remotely acceptable? And why would you need “sensitivity training” to teach you that you don’t treat women like garbage? Or as inanimate objects to be used for your pleasure? Since the behavior at Kappa Delta Rho is hardly an exception, perhaps we need to ask ourselves about the messaging kids are getting at younger ages that encourages humiliation and abuse rather than outreach, friendship or respect. What is it about the fraternity environment that seems to grow these actions like spores in a petri dish?
In case you missed it, here again is our Dare We Say episode discussing the liabilities posed by many fraternities today. While not all fraternities behave this way, too many like Kappa Delta Rho are giving others a bad name. Please watch and weigh in with your comments. We’d love to get your take on what fosters this behavior.