Old photo of fraternity ignites mixed debate

Published by adviser, Author: Rocket Staff, Date: September 3, 2015

The photo is ‘Old News’

The digital age has an unfortunate way of making past mistakes current problems.  As early as high school, young adults are told to be wary of what they post online, as it could come back to haunt them in the future.  This principle is true for the brothers of Slippery Rock’s Sigma Tau Gamma, too.  A dated photo showing a sign the fraternity created thanking fathers for their freshman daughters has gone viral once again, sparking critiques of “fraternity culture,” and putting the reputation of Greek life in jeapordy despite its antiquity.

There’s no question that the sign and resulting photo should have never existed.  It harmed the otherwise respectable reputation of SRU’s fraternities and certainly created an opportunity for the discussion of Greek life’s role in “rape culture.”  Note the past-tense nature of “harmed” and “created,” though.  This photo is old news and should be treated as such.

Sigma Tau Gamma has already faced penalty for its actions.  Following the sign’s debut, the fraternity’s national headquarters was contacted and the sign was removed.  It’s a legitimate discussion whether or not the penalties imposed were harsh enough, but the fact of the matter is that most of the chapter’s members at that time have already graduated and the remaining members deserve a chance to salvage their reputation and move on with their lives.

Rape culture is an important topic that fraternities should have a voice in.  Considering university officials agree that Sigma Tau Gamma’s incident is an anomaly for fraternities at SRU, though, it’s hard to justify using a  two to three year-old photo as a springboard for this discussion.  Especially because there haven’t been subsequent incidents. The fraternity made a mistake just as we all have from time to time.  Why put them on trial twice?

The photo harms women

An old photo of SRU fraternity Sigma Tau Gamma sporting a sign in front of their house that welcomed fathers to drop off their freshmen daughters recently went viral. The photo was picked up by both Total Frat Move as an example of classic fraternity comedy, and by Jezebel, a feminist website, as an example of how fraternity signs like the one featured propagates rape culture.

While many members of frats are quick to chant “Not All Fraternities,” (gee, doesn’t that sound familiar?) it is important to recognize that while not all fraternities participate in putting up signs like this, putting up signs like that is a part of fraternity culture, and is a practice that is even celebrated by the website Total Frat Move.

Whether or not these signs poorly represent “Greek Life,” and fraternities as a whole, it is still important to recognize and address that these signs are demeaning, if not threatening, to women. It may make freshmen women feel as though they are being objectified as soon as they enter college, and the practice encroaches upon their right to feel safe in the campus community.

Aside from this practice, fraternities also participate in others, such as giving women short-shorts that say, “Rush” and the name of the fraternity. It is another objective practice that degrades women, but will probably be paid no attention until it has gone viral.

While this photo does not represent Greek Life as a whole, it does bring to light important issues that otherwise would go unnoticed. According to MSNBC, A 2007 study by Foubert, Newberry and Tatum found that not only are men in fraternities 300 percent more likely to rape women, but also that women in sororities are 74 percent more likely to be raped.

With statistics like these, and a viral photo that evidences the mentality behind those statistics, can we really afford to shrug our shoulders and accept that “boys will be boys?” Or should we take offenses like this seriously and demand repercussion so that photos like this can’t resurface as a representative of SRU fraternities as a whole?


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