iOS app Android app More

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors
Jeff A. Katz

Jeff A. Katz

 

We're All DKEs Sometimes...

Posted: 10/19/10 01:40 PM ET

I'm going to be crucified for this.

Everything I've ever written is going to be put underneath a microscope, injected into a flesh-eating bacteria (that, of course, also has a human brain, a la Christine O'Donnell's scientific acumen) and set upon me like a pack of Michael Vick dogs. Hopefully those vaguely offensive allusions will spare me from what's going to come next.

Full disclosure: I am a brother of Delta Kappa Epsilon at Cornell University, where I went for my undergraduate education. I wrote a sex column for my campus newspaper. The Women's Resource Center at Cornell wasn't always fond of me. As my writing tenure proceeded, I received a crash course in tact, sensitivity, and compassion, which I in turn tried to incorporate in my writing and my actions. I may still be outlandish or, dare I say, an asshole at times (I insist that I am a product of my environment). But if you put your foot in your mouth enough times, you're bound to taste the crap you stepped in. The expression for this is, "You live and you learn." The question for what is going on with DKE at Yale and the Yale community is how this learning, following an act of stupidity involving controversial chanting from DKE pledges on campus, is going to proceed.

Before I get pegged as the frat boy coming to the rescue of fallen comrades, I'd like to note that I have no motive in defending my fellow DKE "brothers" at Yale. If I was really writing in the "best interests" of DKE, I'd probably confer with others in DKE or DKE International on this piece. That's not happening. As anyone who has been in a fraternity knows, fraternal piety typically stops at the door of your own chapter. Experiences with other chapters typically involve something getting stolen, someone peeing on something, or a reaffirmation that your house's pledging was harder, your house is more bro, or your beer pong rules are better. It's sad, it goes against a lot of the overarching principles of fraternalism, but I am speaking from an undergraduate/young alumni perspective. We are stupid, self-absorbed, and ignorant like many in the transition to adulthood. And that is the root of this problem. When I read about this "prank," I was not laughing. I take the stance I take because I have been stupid too, I have made mistakes, but I have been given the chance to make good. Going to an elite school does not make you an elitist, but being an asshole (and not trying to change) does make you an asshole. Instead of razing the land, boiling the seas, and expelling these degenerates, should they be given the chance to correct the error of their ways?

What the DKE brothers at Yale did is wrong. That is obvious. Illegal? The line there is blurrier. Were these the chants of rapists and necrophiliacs? No. They were extremely crude jokes, out of the playbook of Andrew Dice Clay or George Carlin. Someone should have stopped this before it even started, but now the ball is rolling and there is national attention on the matter, so now it's time to turn a negative into a positive. And while mathematically it would work, multiplying by another negative is not what needs to happen.

Reading through the comments on HuffPost's breaking of the story and subsequent posts, it is clear there is bloodlust for firm, measured action against the fraternity. Some are calling for a punishment that I disagree with: charter revocation and chapter closure. While this may send a zero-tolerance policy to other fraternities (or does it? See: Yale's Zeta Psi chapter, January 2008), what will removing this particular fraternity from campus do? If we eliminated everything that was ever plagued in scandal, the race for New York governor would be between the guy running on the "The Rent is 2 Damn High" ticket (whose website looks like a cracked-out guide to every annoying thing you can do in HTML) and... and... no one.

Right now, I see an organization with its tail between its legs that wants to make right. Yale could do more to fight sexual assault and prejudice by keeping the fraternity on campus than getting rid of it as an example. The stereotype of fraternities is that its members are "born better" and they have abused this (undeserved) status, but expelling these students and kicking them off campus is almost responding in kind, saying that they're born worse, incapable of seeing the error of their ways or becoming an actively positive force in the community.

What the Women's Center at Yale and the administration at Yale don't realize is that they could have a very powerful ally in DKE. A forum is a good start, but now DKE needs to take a positive and active role in education about sexism and other prejudices at Yale, which will not only inform others and prevent something like this from happening again, but will help change the culture and attitude of the men involved in this debacle. While this process should involve sanctions and punishment, why not write a new chapter instead of erasing the book by getting rid of this chapter of DKE? Many view the DKEs at Yale as the future leaders of our country. Why not have these "leaders" be champions of the cause, shed their stigma, and lead by the right example, showing that Yale houses the smart and dignified, not the smutty and disgraced. Sometimes silver spoons need polishing as well. A revisit to the ideals and objects of their Fraternity is in order. Instead of dissociation, rehabilitation should be the avenue for change.

Man's behavior is often irrational (hello, Freud). You give a man a fish, and he'll probably think that is a pretty awkward gift. You teach a man that women deserve respect and what crosses the line from jovial prank to inappropriate action and you not only act as the bigger person, then you start having an impact on changing rape culture and misogynistic attitude, and have something to talk about when you go fishing. Let the only thing rotten at Yale be that awkward fish, not the situation that has manifested. DKE, like me, can do better and deserves the chance to do so. Humans have always been good at picking up the pieces and rebuilding. I sincerely hope that what comes of this makes everyone, regardless of the school colors they wear, the fraternity flag they hoist, or the station they hold, better, and more cognizant of their actions and of others, than before.

 

Follow Jeff A. Katz on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Jeff_A_Katz