Addendum: My Brothers
Sunday May 12th 2013, 1:14 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Shortly after I sent my letter to higher-ups about the rape apology abounding in Eta Phi, I received this response from Justin Mertz, CC’d to other Setnor faculty:

Sammy,

First, I wish I was hearing from you under different circumstances.  Thank you very much for bringing this unfortunate and terrible situation to my attention.
The tweets you saw are disgraceful and abhorrent to say the least.  The ideas expressed by the @skullguy1992 account have no place in the SUMB, Kappa Kappa Psi, or SU.  In fact, several years ago I added comprehensive language to the SUMB’s handbook and syllabus outlining our unequivocal and vehement opposition to this kind of conduct in any form.

I received your email shortly it was sent tonight at about 8:00pm.  I immediately logged onto twitter and looked up the @skullguy1992 account (I didn’t know it existed until your message), read the tweets, and found myself as shocked as you were.  At 8:15pm I contacted the president of the chapter to find out more about this twitter account.  I learned that this twitter account is not an official twitter account of the chapter, but rather, a few brothers took it upon themselves to create and use it for purposes unknown.  Nothing about this twitter account is sanctioned by the band program, the chapter, or the University, and the president (who has only been in office for a week) was just as shocked and angry as I was when he learned of what was said.  I immediately requested that at the account be deleted.  At 8:33pm I was notified that it no longer exists, and searches for it reflect this.  While it cannot unsay what was said, the original source of the tweets is gone.

None of this is to excuse or condone the behavior at the Senior Celebration event, but to let you know that you can be assured that I will be addressing this juvenile and unacceptable behavior with the chapter and discipline the individuals involved as is necessary and appropriate.  This will not be whitewashed or dismissed as “boys being boys”.

I am so, so sorry about this, and I apologize on behalf of the SUMB, Kappa Kappa Psi, and SU for what you rightly describe as disgusting.  While I cannot undo this, you have my word that I have been and will always remain vigilant to ensure that such sentiments are not seen as acceptable by anyone associated with the SUMB.  These are drunken antics of a few immature individuals and do not reflect my values, the values of the SUMB, Kappa Kappa Psi, and SU, and they have no place in any program for which I am responsible or with which I am associated.

Please, feel free to call me if you would like to discuss this further.  Aside from this I hope you are well and, again, I wish we were speaking under different circumstances.

Justin
At this point, I did not feel elated. It’s a great email and I’m glad that Mertz recognizes the severity of this (I especially appreciated the “boys will be boys” part), but it didn’t make me feel like this was over or that I won. I felt pretty awful, actually. I responded to Mertz:
Mertz,

 

Thanks for your response; it means a lot to me. I have a lot of feelings about all this and more to say. I hope some real change comes from all this so I can stop fulfilling my role as Most Hated Sister of TBS.
I wish I felt better about your response, but I can’t help feeling like these boys don’t get it and won’t get it. Their twitter account was shut down, maybe there will be some repercussions, but I’m sure they see it as a road block on the route to more misogyny. An annoyance. They never seemed to listen or understand that what they say and do HURTS people and is real. They always laughed it off and continued.
I know full well that those tweets are the product of a specific few idiots, and I always knew it wasn’t an official account – they made sure to be careful about that. But the problem doesn’t end with a few select brothers. The atmosphere (is it Kappa? Is it college? Masculinity?) breeds and glorifies this vile behavior – that’s why nothing I ever said or did in college stopped this from taking place two years after I left. All it did was make them hate me (and people like me) more.

 

I feel exhausted. It is actually my life’s work to address this kind of behavior, and I want to live in a world where I don’t have to. I don’t want it to sound like there’s no hope for these guys – but I’m not convinced that they will ever see that their behavior is reprehensible and damaging. They’re too invested in it; they live and breathe it. I hate that it’s my job to call it out – I wish I could let it go, but I can’t. I wish I could trust that someone else would do this for me (another brother, perhaps? I can dream), but I can’t. So I’ve become the person who causes a stink, and I accept that I will never be cool with these people. They don’t respect me, not as a person and certainly not as a Sister.

 

I’m sorry that I have to be the one to bring all this up – believe me, I truly am. I hope that this is addressed in a way that understands that these are systemic problems and part of a larger culture – not just one pissed off former-sister who keeps ruining the fun. Because that’s what I feel like. I know that’s how they are thinking about it. What can we do to interrupt this behavior in a big way?

 

Again, thank you for your response. I hope this doesn’t ruin your weekend too much – I’m looking forward to taking a break from all this and taking care of myself. And I hope you take what I’m saying to heart – I think you have the power to begin to do something about this, in whatever way you can. Best of luck; I’m sure it won’t be easy.

 

And you’re right – I wish I was contacting you under better circumstances. Fingers crossed: one day.
Sammy

 

The Chancellor also responded and said that the Dean of Student Affairs was working on it, and that it was very distressing.

I also got a facebook message from a current brother, asking for more info and what to do. It said that no brother “wants to contribute in any way, shape or form, to rape. Rape is bad, that’s a sentiment on which we can all agree.” I responded and challenged him to see that many brothers are, in fact, rape apologists:

…And I know that nobody wants to see themselves as “rape apologists” but I want to challenge you to see yourself that way. Fraternity brothers in privileged bodies contributing to a culture that is not willing to take rape seriously. That’s exactly what you are. If you want to make real change within your chapter, you should start with not defending yourself – you are a part of this culture, because you are not standing up to fight it. Yet. Ask yourselves if you actually don’t want to contribute to this culture – and then learn how to do that. Start by listening to and working with people who have been doing this forever.
I tried to explain that it is not my job to educate every misogynist about their problematic tweets. I encouraged him to look online for resources and do the homework himself. Other than that, I’ve gotten very little support. I even got another anonymous comment on that old blog post, asking if I was “still mad?” – proving my point that these people are hateful and horrible and have no interest in being good people or looking critically at their behavior. Then, an email from the current president of TBS:

Hi Sammy,

I wholeheartedly understand that you have the right to your own opinion, but I would like to ask you to not speak on behalf of the Eta Alpha chapter of Tau Beta Sigma. In your letter, you stated that you are a sister of Eta Phi’s sister chapter, and as of right now, legally, you are an alumni, not an active sister.

With all due respect, you have not been a member of the joint chapter in two years and do not know most of the people that are currently active in both Eta Alpha and Eta Phi. The people in the two chapters are very different from the way they were when you were an active sister two years ago.

As stated before, I am not saying that you cannot have your own opinion on the matter, because you have every right to, but I am politely asking that you do not associate your opinions with connections to our chapter. If you feel it is necessary, please label yourself as an alumni of the Eta Alpha chapter.

Thank you,

Ashley Orifice

Tau Beta Sigma- Eta Alpha
President

So just in case anyone wanted this to be made clear – I’m not a sister of TBS, and TBS is in no way affiliated with me: the girl speaking out against rape culture and the degradation of women on the Syracuse campus. The president wanted to make that really clear.

 

Overall, I’m feeling totally overwhelmed by rape culture and how pervasive it is. Disappointed by internalized sexism. I’m afraid that these problems are bigger than we thought. I know I did the right thing – I stand by everything I said. I hope that someone, somewhere, at some time, learns one lesson from all of this. I hope these boys (and girls!) grow up and understand that our culture is sick, and they that once contributed to that sickness.

 

Time to go watch Friday Night Lights and politely excuse myself from all this.