Is 1% The Threshold?

Is 1% The Threshold?

Matt HealeyFriday,27 March 2015

On Wednesday Levi Pettit, a former brother in the now disbanded SAE chapter at the University of Oklahoma, apologized for his recent actions regarding the highly racist and offensive chant. As apologies go, I think this one was a bit more heartfelt and sincere than some. Granted that does not excuse his behavior or the behavior of the other members of the fraternity.

The chant or song was reprehensible. No one is going to, or should, argue with that. The bigger question for me is what should be done about it. As a member of a fraternity (AXP from RPI), I fully support SAE revoking the charter and closing the house. This is clearly a house that has some structural issues and should be closed. I also full support OU expelling Levi. Regardless of how sorry he is, his words and actions have consequences and they cannot be overlooked.

However, in the wake of this event there have been renewed calls abolish the greek system. This is where I get off the bus. As I mentioned I was a member of a fraternity. Most of my current closest friends all came from that fraternity. I get together with many of them on a regular basis. What I learned living in the house was as important as what I learned in the classroom at RPI. The benefits of living in a well-run fraternity are significant and cannot be replicated in dorms, or other university-sponsored housing.

To shut down an entire system because a very small number of house members act in a reprehensible way is a gross overreaction. It is punishing the over 5,000 fraternities and sororities because of the actions of a few chapters. In the article reference linked to above, the author says “It’s becoming difficult to keep track of all the disturbing fraternity stories in the news” and then goes on to list 5 incidents. One could ask about the author’s cognitive abilities if keeping track of 5 things is “hard,” but I digress. Let’s assume that the real number of incidents is 10 times as large as he reports. That would make it less than 1% of the fraternities and sororities. If that is the threshold for shutting down an organization for reprehensible behavior, then there are going to be a lot of organizations that will need to be shut down, including most police forces. After all, I am sure I can read any one of Eric Holder’s reports and find that more than 1% of the police officers are engaged in racist behavior. The difference is they are not singing racist songs, they are shooting unarmed black Americas.

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