‘Sickened and disgusted’ by IFC inaction on serious issues

By Dan Mollison

On Monday, the Opinions page published a Letter to the Editor written by Jason Mueller, President of the Interfraternity Council (IFC), that expressed his “utmost disgust” toward a Daily Illini editorial cartoon referring to fraternity men as “racist, misogynist, and homophobic.” “Sickened” by the Daily Illini’s hypocrisy, Mueller argues that this cartoon “epitomizes the very stereotyping that students across campus have worked to erase,” and rhetorically asks us, “Do Greeks not deserve the same respect and protection from such antagonism as any race, nationality, or creed?”

I understand why Mueller is “disgusted” by this cartoon, and I agree that the Daily Illini should not have published such a biased and negative portrayal of fraternity men. While Greek men do not share a similar history of oppression to the commonly stereotyped “races, nationalities, and creeds” that Mueller compares fraternity men to, it still damages all of us when we make generalizations about fraternity men. If we believe that it is unacceptable to stereotype one particular group, we should apply that standard to all other groups.

Though I agree with Mueller’s complaint, I find it hard to have sympathy for him. When I was a fraternity member, I was involved in the Fraternity Peer Rape Education Program that Mueller claims in his letter will become a “priority” of IFC next year (interestingly, the office responsible for this program has not been informed of IFC’s sudden and newfound commitment), and while being a part of this program I learned that being in an all-male group like a fraternity can increase a man’s likelihood of committing physical or sexual violence. Simply put, when men spend a great deal of time around other men they can become more aggressive and more harmful to others. And it is the role of the leadership of these groups, namely Jason Mueller, to take responsibility for this violence and work toward eliminating it.

You want to end the stereotype of the “racist, misogynist, and homophobic” fraternity brother, Jason? Then it’s time to create a new stereotype, and you are the only one with the power to do this.

If you want the Greek community to be seen as leaders, then act with leadership.

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This means taking a deep and honest look at the unique problems that Greek men are predisposed to cause, and making a commitment to go beyond hollow posturing and do whatever it takes to minimize these issues, for the sake of your men and for those who suffer from the violence they commit.

This means replacing your corrupted Kolusis system in which fraternity brothers are responsible for monitoring each others’ parties (who have, in my past experience, been willing to overlook code violations in exchange for beer) with a system that will significantly increase the safety of those who attend these events.

This means pushing your philanthropy efforts beyond staging social events that benefit faceless national organizations rather than members of our community.

This means helping your men understand the difference between sex and rape, and teaching them how to respond to the rapes that do happen within their fraternities, in a way that both respects and honors the rape survivors, and holds brothers accountable for their actions.

Jason, if you want the Greek community to have the respect of non-Greeks, you’re going to have to lead your men to act in ways that go above and beyond the norm for IFC. You’re going to have to act not in response to the threat of University or legal sanctions, but because you care deeply about your brothers and those who are becoming victims of violence at their hands.

I don’t mean to exacerbate the negative stereotypes that fraternity men already face, or to condemn fraternity men themselves. It’s important to remember that to be physically or sexually violent is a choice, and there are countless fraternity men who will never make this choice. Unfortunately, they are the ones who suffer most when we stereotype Greek men.

But Jason, the ability to motivate thousands of men to enact real change is in your hands.

If you don’t step up, who will?