September 28, 2017

GUEST ROOM | The Attacks on Greek Life Have Gone Too Far

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By way of disclaimer, if you think Greek life no longer has a place on this campus, you and I are not going to agree on much. What happened two weeks ago is nothing short of tragic and abhorrent, so we can start with that, at least.

I am a proud member of the Greek community, and I have many friends who would say the same, both in my chapter and in others. I am not a white supremacist. I do not know a single white supremacist. I do not know anyone who engages in or would associate with anyone who engages in white supremacist behavior. What does this tell me? That while most of us are normal, productive members of the Cornell community, we are left answering for a very small number of people who choose to engage in unacceptable behavior. And that is okay. I recognize that Greek life and fraternities in particular have a long way to go before we are devoid of serious problems. Most people in the community would likely agree.

But let’s make sure we are clear about what happened here: a member of the Greek community was viciously attacked by a person who was unaffiliated. Psi Upsilon is not a recognized fraternity, and they are not a recognized fraternity for a reason. The Interfraternity Council is a self-governing body, and the decision to revoke that chapter’s recognition was not made without input from the leaders of our community. Effectively, their previous conduct caused them to be deemed unworthy of inclusion in our community.

To say that Greek life should not exist is not only incredibly unhelpful as far as meaningful conversations about reform are concerned, but it is a direct insult to the way of life of one-third of this student body. I have found something special in my fraternity; my participation in it has done wonders to make me a better person. You will hear quite literally hundreds, maybe thousands, of statements like that from other people. Either all these people are lying in a malicious attempt to preserve the existence of their exclusive societies, or these are organizations that make a positive impact on a lot of students.

We are a group of individuals largely well-involved on campus. We contribute to classes, clubs and pre-professional organizations alike. Some of the dialogues that members of the Greek community generate truly do make this campus a much better place. The same is true of countless other communities at Cornell — athletic teams, service organizations, faith groups and mentorship programs are just a few examples of other types of organizations that add so much to this campus. Members of the Greek community belong to these organizations, and their contributions are plenty.

To repeat myself, this is not to say that Greek life doesn’t cause any problems. Of course, sexual violence and coercive hazing are issues that are prevalent and rooted in systematic disrepair, and for many of us they are issues that we take personally. But we are working to fix those things; we have been for years. To expect that such profound structural changes could take place overnight would be to doom these well-planned efforts to failure.

The leaders of our community have been clear. We are open about making changes, and input from the entire campus is welcome. But this is not an invitation to attack our way of life. How we choose to participate in our college experience should not be open to unmitigated attack. We would never dream of doing the same to you.

We are not so different than the rest of you. We have prelims and campus commitments that keep us busy; we have issues at home that affect our well-being; we worry about our careers and about our futures. We are not some secluded group of people that plot oppression and lewd behavior behind the closed doors of our off-campus mansions. And it might surprise you, but yes, we are just as appalled as you are that something so terrible and hateful could happen here. We love Cornell and the people who make it special, and we desperately want Cornell to love us back.

 

Dylan McDevitt is a junior in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations. He is a columnist for The Sun’s sports department and can be reached at dmcdevitt@cornellsun.com. Guest Room appears periodically this semester.