Spaeth: Phi Kappa Psi’s incident is not representative of the Greek life community

Originally Posted on Emerald Media via UWIRE

In early May, the University of Oregon Phi Kappa Psi fraternity was temporarily suspended after a document surfaced containing the name of the fraternity, its members and questions containing anti-gay slurs, rape jokes, references to illegal drug use and derogatory language directed at women. While their actions are condemnable, Phi Kappa Psi does not represent Greek life as a whole.

The chapter fraternity president, Michael Wagemann, has since come forward with a statement stating that the fraternity does not “condone or promote” the things said in the document and doubts that the document was made by a member of Phi Kappa Psi.

Despite this statement, the fraternity is under fire from both nationals and members of the Greek and UO community. Students and community members alike are outraged at the offensive language and rhetoric used in this document. Many see this as an example of a Greek organization living up to the old negative stereotypes about fraternities and Greek life and yet another reason that Greek life as a whole should be abolished.

The assumption that this incident is representative of the Greek community is not necessarily a fair one to make. Greek houses have been targeted as being racist, sexist and irresponsible since the beginning of their time. But in recent years, especially at the University of Oregon, chapters are held to a higher standard and inappropriate behavior is not tolerated.

For example, in 2016, University of Oregon’s Beta Theta Pi chapter was disbanded and disaffiliated due to reports of hazing members. In recent months, several other houses have been suspended or put on probation due to drug, alcohol and hazing issues, thus setting an example for the rest of the Greek community.

These houses and their wrongdoings make the Greek system look bad, but they also serve as an example of how administration cracks down on houses who do not meet the standards expected of them. There are chapters who break the rules and do represent some of the negative stereotypes we have all become familiar with, but those houses are punished and do not serve as an accurate representation of the entire Greek community.

Greek houses are expected to abide by certain rules and standards that align with both federal law and UO regulations. The enforcement of these standards comes from both the University of Oregon and the national headquarters for these chapters. The possession of drugs and alcohol on the property of their houses is forbidden and enforced in many houses through room checks. If a member is caught, they may face consequences ranging from a disciplinary hearing and fines to expulsion from the chapter.

Another way they attempt to keep members safe and accountable is by requiring chapter-sanctioned events to be registered with nationals and attended by “sober monitors,” or members of the chapter who are designated sober support. At these chapter-sanctioned events, persons under the age of 21 are not allowed to hold alcohol containers.

Phi Kappa Psi is not a representation of Greek life as a whole. Greek culture and expectations need to change in order to crush this reputation. Alcohol and drugs are present in the Greek community, but their abuse can lead to a toxic environment. We need to hold both fraternities and sororities to the same standards and ensure that all of Greek life is regulated so that incidents like these do not happen again. A discussion needs to be had about what is appropriate in the Greek community. There should be no discrimination or prejudice and everyone should feel safe and accepted.

There are many ways that the UO Greek community is held accountable for abiding by their own “house rules” and also the UO regulations, but above all, students hold themselves and each other accountable. Being a member of the Greek community can be a source of pride for many students. Therefore, fraternity men and women work hard to uphold the standards of their national and local affiliations and be a positive presence in the community. If we maintain these values, then we can change the misconceptions of Greek life.

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