Tag Archives: fraternities

“U.S. Race Relations Have Finally Reached The Point Where They Make No Sense Whatsoever” Sunday #2: The Ol’ Miss Banana Peel Saga

Honestly, I thought this was a hoax story. I still hope it might be, and if it isn’t, it should be. If it is true, the episode all by itself is signature significance proving that the U.S. race problem has turned into cultural insanity.

Last weekend, leaders from the University of Mississippi’s Greek Life group held  a three-day at Camp Hopewell in Lafayette County, designed to “build leaders and bring the campus closer together.” It went spectacular wrong as a result of a banana peel. It really did.

The group included student members of the Panhellenic Council, the National Pan-Hellenic Council and the Interfraternity Council. The retreat was organized by Fraternity and Sorority Life and the national group IMPACT,  a campus-based leadership institute designed to foster improved relationships among campus leaders through such events. Saturday morning, the participants ate breakfast together, and the breakfast options included various fruit, including bananas. Breakfast was followed by a discussion session on race relations at Ole Miss.

Shortly thereafter, three students noticed a banana peel in a tree. This was taken as intentional racist symbolism. and the rest of the day was occupied by heated debate regarded racist symbols. Senior accounting major Ryan Swanson eventually stood up and admitted that he put the banana peel in the tree when he could not find a trash receptacle nearby.

[Aside: I once did exactly the same thing on a Boy Scout hike.]

Never mind. It didn’t matter that this was not a racist act. The banana peel continued to be the focus of intense debate.  Like a good social justice patsy, Swanson fell on his sword. “I want to sincerely apologize for the events that took place this past weekend,” Swanson told the college paper afterwards. “Although unintentional, there is no excuse for the pain that was caused to members of our community.” Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Race, U.S. Society

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 7/16/2017

 Isn’t it a lovely morning?

1. This isn’t the first post of the day: I woke up around 4 AM and couldn’t get back to sleep (“As My Guitar Gently Weeps” was playing over and over in my head, don’t ask me why, and images from the Red Sox 16 inning loss to the Yankees was giving me the night terrors), so I went to the office and wrote this post. Charlie Green, critic and friend, properly pointed out that my comment in passing that incorrectly alluded to rumors about Joseph P. Kennedy being a bootlegger was exactly what my  post was criticizing David Brooks for doing in his attack on the entire Trump family, going back generations, a truly ugly op-ed.

What I was sorely tempted to say was that I’m just an ethics blogger, trying to focus attention on ethics standards in a daily blog from which I receive no income and intangible professional benefits if any. I mange to get 2000-4000 words published every 24 hours, working in short bursts while I try to earn a living, run a business, do research and be as good a father and husband as I can be. I have no editors, no researchers (except generous volunteers) and my blog is not a “paper of record” for journalists, seen by millions and paid for by subscribers. Is it really fair to hold Ethics Alarms to the same standards as David Brooks and the New York Times?

Make no mistake: my own standards are that no typo, no misstated fact, no misleading argument, are acceptable on an ethics blog, or any blog, or anything published on the web. Charles was right: using an unproven accusation of long-standing (Until Charles flagged it, I thought the bootlegging charge was a matter of public record) undermines my case against Brooks. Nonetheless, Brooks has absolutely no excuse. This is all he does, he has all week to produce a column or two, and he has a staff.

I’ve also corrected my error within hours of making it. What are the chances that Brooks and the Times will ever admit that they intentionally impugned the character of Fred Trump using rumors and innuendo as part of their ongoing effort to demonize the President of the United States?

My guess: Zero.

2. The big story this morning appears to be O.J. Simpson’s parole hearing. Will he be paroled and released after serving just nine years of the three-decade sentence he received for his participation in a burglary? Assuming that it is true that O.J., now 70 and unlikely to stab any more ex-wives and innocent bystanders to death, has been a model prisoner, yes, that would be the ethical result. O.J. got away with a double murder—he will not be asked at the hearing, “Once you’re out, can we assume that you’ll renew your relentless hunt for the real killer?”—but he wasn’t put in prison for that crime. Officially, he’s innocent. His fellow burglars were all put on probation, while the judge threw the book at the former football star, presumably to exact a measure of societal revenge for Nicole and Ron. The sentence was unethical. I don’t feel sorry for O.J. at all; I’m glad he had to serve hard time, just as I would have been happy if he had been squashed by a meteor. Justice, however, demands that he go free.

The bastard. Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Around the World, Arts & Entertainment, Education, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, History, Journalism & Media, Popular Culture

Dear Harvard: Fire President Drew Faust And Dean Rakesh Khurana

If these idiots are off-campus, 1) GOOD and 2) it's none of the college's business.

If these idiots do this off-campus, 1) GOOD and 2) it’s none of the college’s business.

In an e-mail to undergraduate students and the Harvard community, University President Drew Faust announced that beginning with next year’s entering class, undergraduate members of unrecognized single-gender social organizations will be banned from holding athletic team captaincies and leadership positions in all recognized student groups. They will also be ineligible for College endorsement for top fellowships like the Rhodes and Marshall scholarships.

The unrecognized single-gender social organizations are what is left of the old fraternities and sororities. When the Greek system was banned many decades ago (and Harvard was an all-male college), the frats reorganized as exclusive college clubs located in houses around Harvard Square in Cambridge. After Harvard merged with all-female neighbor Radcliffe College in the Seventies, sorority-like clubs emulated their male counterparts. In 1984, Harvard issued an ultimatum to the clubs to go co-ed, and the clubs responded by disaffiliating with the University.

Wrote Faust in part:

“Although the fraternities, sororities, and final clubs are not formally recognized by the College, they play an unmistakable and growing role in student life, in many cases enacting forms of privilege and exclusion at odds with our deepest values. The College cannot ignore these organizations if it is to advance our shared commitment to broadening opportunity and making Harvard a campus for all of its students….Captains of intercollegiate sports teams and leaders of organizations funded, sponsored, or recognized by Harvard College in a very real sense represent the College.They benefit from its resources. They operate under its name. Especially as it seeks to break down structural barriers to an effectively inclusive campus, the College is right to ensure that the areas in which it provides resources and endorsement advance and reinforce its values of non-discrimination.”

Faust was following the recommendation of Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana’s recommendations, who wrote in his report on the results of a “study”,

“[T]he discriminatory membership policies of these organizations have led to the perpetuation of spaces that are rife with power imbalances. The most entrenched of these spaces send an unambiguous message that they are the exclusive preserves of men. In their recruitment practices and through their extensive resources and access to networks of power, these organizations propagate exclusionary values that undermine those of the larger Harvard College community…Ultimately, all of these unrecognized single-gender social organizations are at odds with Harvard College’s educational philosophy and its commitment to a diverse living and learning experience.”

Let us be clear what Harvard is trying to do here. It is seeking to punish students for their associations and activities unrelated to the school itself, and using its power within the limits of the campus to indoctrinate ideological values and require conduct that is unrelated to education. This is a rejection of the principle of freedom of association, one of those enumerated rights protected by the Ninth Amendment of the Bill of Rights, and a cornerstone of American principles. If the college can, in effect, create a blacklist withholding institutional honors from those who choose to belong to an all male or all female club completely distinct from the university, what clearly delineated line prevents the same institution from declaring that membership in the Republican Party, Occupy Wall Street, Americans For Trump or the NAACP are similarly undermining its values?

There is no such line. Continue reading

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Filed under Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Gender and Sex, Rights, U.S. Society

Observations On The ‘Ole Miss’ Sigma Chi Derby Days Controversy

Derby DaysNews Item:

The University of Mississippi’s Title IX office has launched an investigation after allegations surfaced on social media that men of the Sigma Chi fraternity asked sorority members questions tainted with sexual innuendo on a loud speaker system in front of hundreds of students at the closing festivities of Derby Days, the fraternity’s annual philanthropic initiative.

Those “allegations” came in the form of an emotional Facebook post by student Abby Bruce, who began,

“Tonight, my eyes watered up as I watched women be humiliated in the name of “philanthropy.” After a week long process of all the sororities on campus competing to raise money for Sigma Chi’s philanthropy, the guys proceeded to ask the contestants for their Derby Days queen over the mic at the dance competition where hundreds of women were gathered “which sigma chi they would go down on,” “what type of sausage would they prefer: linked or sigma chi,” and other questions of the like.”

Observations:

1. I’m sure Ole Miss administrators are shocked, shocked (I know this “Casablanca” reference is an over-used cliché, but it perfectly fits this episode) that fraternity members would use sexual innuendo at an event like this. In truth, this is undoubtedly been going on for decades, but the combination of the sexual assault posse culture that the Education Department’s “Dear Colleague” letter inflicted on campuses combined with social media shaming prompted the college to act as if it had no idea such vulgarity was going on.

The University of Mississippi has allowed and by its passivity endorsed such piggish conduct in its fraternities, and it is now grandstanding.

2. A Title IX investigation, in this case to see if frat boys making sexual innuendos about sorority girls during an extra-curricular event, is an abuse of the law and free speech intimidation, and is unwarranted, except, I suppose, to make Old Miss  immune from government harassment. The test in Title IX is whether conduct with sexual content and intent rises to the level of non-consensual and unwelcome sexual harassment in which students are “deprived of equal and free access to an education.”  Being subjected to rude comments on Derby Day when in all likelihood the women participating knew what was coming isn’t going to deprive anyone of anything. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Education, Facebook, Gender and Sex, Law & Law Enforcement

Ethics Dunces: Boston Red Sox Players

owens pole

Yesterday, while watching the Boston Red Sox game on NESN as I always do EVEN WHEN THE TEAM STINKS, like this year, because no summer soldier I, team broadcasters Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy pointed out that Sox rookie Henry Owens was watching the game while being taped to a pole, with his mouth taped shut as well.

This is old-fashioned baseball rookie hazing, as Remy explained (also opining that he thought it was stupid when he played and is stupid now). The theory is that this makes rookies part of the team, builds cohesion and spirit, and yada yada yada, all the same phony rationalizations that jerks have used to excuse hazing cruelty and sadism in fraternities, the military, cults and sports teams for eons. The Owens stunt was relatively mild (and mercifully short), but the practice of hazing is still institutionalized bullying, uncivilized, and, as Remy said, stupid.

Sports team players are home town heroes, and role models too. How many kids will be humiliated, tortured, injured or even killed because the Boston Red Sox thought it was funny to immobilize a 6’6″ rookie pitcher by taping him to a pole on live TV, thus teaching him that no matter how  good he may be at pitching (and Owens is going to be really good), he’s at the bottom of the pecking order until he “earns” decent treatment and respect. “In my experience, the guys who really liked hazing the rookies were the players who couldn’t play,” noted Jerry, a Sox regular in the Eighties.  They were sadistic bullies, in other words, making up for their own inadequacies by abusing others.

You can say that Owens consented, and that’s like arguing that Monica consented when the President of the United States wanted her to emulate a Bourbon Street hooker. Owens could refuse, and be regarded as a bad team mate, leading to a year or more of cut shoelaces, shredded uniforms, insulting messages on his locker and worse “jokes.” Or he could quit baseball and sell Slurpees rather than make a gazillion dollars. He had to submit, and had to smile about it.

So he did.

Even baseball players need to be better at ethics chess than this, and calculate the likely consequences of their conduct. Hazing is unethical, and glamorizing, modeling and trivializing it on TV is irresponsible.

And stupid.

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Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Sports

Comment of the Day #2: Advice From A Father To His Hypothetical College Freshman Son, In Reaction To “Ethics Observations On The Old Dominion University Signa Nu Fraternity Freakout”

Judge Hardy would have approved.

Judge Hardy would have approved.

As with the first Comment of the Day posted today, Steve-O-in-NJ  takes an Ethics Alarms essay in a new direction, as he uses my post about Old Dominion University’s treating an ill-considered episode of frat boy sexual innuendo as the equivalent of threatened rape and sexual violence. His Comment of the Day is his advice to a college-entering hypothetical son, in light of the dangers inherent in the modern campus culture.

It also begins with an assertion that is vital but that none of the Presidential candidates—or the President— discussing the issues of student loans and the cost of college ever seem to make, which is that the purpose of college is to learn to think, become educated, broaden intellectual horizons and be socialized as a blossoming adult and productive citizen. Instead, we, and they, are told that a degree is essential to get a job and make as much money as possible, regardless of whether or not that piece of paper stands for any increased knowledge and skill. Often it doesn’t. Usually it doesn’t. It was over this issue—promoting education as a work credential rather than as a life enhancement and necessity—that I resigned as president of an education promoting non-profit many years ago. The situation has only gotten worse since. This warping of purpose also warps student ethics: if the piece of paper is without substance, why not cheat to obtain it?

Here is the Comment of the Day by Steve-O-in-NJ on the post Ethics Observations On The Old Dominion University Signa Nu Fraternity Freakout: Continue reading

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Filed under Childhood and children, Comment of the Day, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Family, Gender and Sex

Ethics Observations On The Old Dominion University Signa Nu Fraternity Freakout

It is times like this when I wonder if my theory that ethics evolves toward wisdom may be excessively optimistic.

In Norfolk, Virginia, Old Dominion University officials went bananas when a fraternity engaged in randy verbal hijinks of questionable taste at its off-campus home across the street from the institution. ( “Hijinks of questionable taste” is synonymous with “acted like a fraternity.”) Some frat boys hung painted bedsheets as banners to welcome incoming freshmen co-eds, thusly:

Fraternity

Well, THE HORROR!

ODU’s leadership responded to the tomfoolery by issuing the following statement:

“Messages like the ones displayed yesterday by a few students on the balcony of their private residence are not and will not [be] tolerated. The moment University staff became aware of these banners, they worked to have them removed. At ODU, we foster a community of respect and dignity, and these messages sickened us. They are not representative of our 3,000 faculty and staff, 25,000 students, and 130,000 alumni.

Ours is a community that works actively to promote bystander intervention and takes a stand denouncing violence against women. The ‘It’s on Us’ video is just one example of ODU students’ leadership on this topic. In addition, the University ensures all students receive education on the prevention of sexual harassment and relationship violence.”

Old Dominion’s Student Government Association also issued their own verbal condemnation of the incident. They filmed a video directly addressing the banners and stated: Continue reading

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Filed under Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Etiquette and manners, Gender and Sex, Humor and Satire, Journalism & Media