ZBT-Gate: A Rebuttal
I’m the absolute last person to oppose the expression of opinion. However I’m the first person to admit that the article, “ZBT-Gate: Guilty Until Proven Otherwise,” did an excellent job of rubbing me the wrong way.
The article provides only two sources when defending UF’s chapter of Zeta Beta Tau in regards to the Panama City scandal of mid-April and has a clear pro-Greek standpoint. We all have our biases and Vedhanayagam does not attempt to hide hers. I respect that, but such tunnel vision is damaging when it all comes out in the wash, which we’ve learned on both sides of the spectrum.
Sensationalized news is an excellent example of tunnel vision, primarily ignoring facts and just going down a one-way street. Funny thing is Vedhanayagam suggests that sensational media is part of the problem when it comes to ZBT being shut down, but unless your primary source of media is FOX News, the reports on the scandal are far from sensational. Actual credible sources such as CNN, WUFT, and U.S. News do a good job citing what information we do have about that weekend in Panama City – in case you missed out on the alleged debauchery (from the CNN article):
“(On the weekend of April 18th) Zeta Beta Tau students from UF and Emory University were in Panama City Beach for their spring formal.
They were staying at the Laketown Wharf Resort where veterans were also staying for the Warrior Beach Retreat, according to Linda Cope, founder of the retreat.
For the past six years, the Warrior Beach Retreat has been hosted by Panama City Beach twice a year to bring in wounded veterans and their families. …
Members of the University of Florida chapter of the Zeta Beta Tau fraternity are under investigation after spitting on and taking flags from wounded veterans. The students and veterans were in Panama City Beach when the incident occurred. Cope said Zeta Beta Tau students picked on the veterans, spit on them and their service dogs, and urinated on American flags.”
As most UF students know, the ZBT chapter has been closed – which may potentially have come too soon. In reality, UF faced quite a bit of public pressure because veteran slandering is absolutely no joke – how could you possibly degrade veterans who already face the utmost bullshit upon returning home? (Approximately 50,000 veterans are homeless on any given night; 11 to 20 percent of veterans in recent wars face post-traumatic stress disorder; and vets are actually dying due to wait times of almost a year or more with the VA.) So I wouldn’t exactly say they are put on a pedestal. Oh and if that wasn’t enough, the veteran victims? They were combat-wounded veterans.
Come on, guys.
Moreover, UF is in fact investigating the events ZBT was apparently involved in – fortunately they actually do attempt to protect individuals until everything is clear as to not further incriminate those involved and protect them. No one said anyone was proven guilty.
UF was also not jumping to conclusions in their decision – there have been far too many accusations against fraternities as of late. Naturally the author chose allegations which were false to secure her argument – but most sexual assaults actually go unreported.
In fact, you have the FratPAC trying to make it harder for accusations of rape to be investigated. Seems pretty fishy to me.
UF’s decision is not unfounded. People are not just vilifying frats for the hell of it, and many of the crimes fraternities are committing are heinous. Even attempting to summarize the number of times fraternities have been in the news lately is actually not possible – and it isn’t even bandwagoning. It’s simply that you can’t just let “young men” run around singing racial slurs or disobeying rules provided to them by their university.
Apparently “everyone hates fraternities and the ostensibly toxic culture they perpetuate.” Well, I definitely wouldn’t say “everyone” or even a majority because most public institutions have a sizeable proportion of Greek students — 15 percent at UF and nine million Greek members nationally, with no sign of a decrease in membership. But how is the outside world not supposed to scrutinize when fraternities have to have their own set of insurance simply to be able to cover the miscellaneous hijinks and an acute amount of legal wording is utilized to cover frats’ asses?
Moreover, fraternities are originally a construct of the early 1800s and “offered an escape from the monotony…[and] escape from the long winters and ingrown college world.…the Greek letter fraternity and its counterpart, the social club, were intended to fill an emotional and social rather than a curricular vacuum.”
They were exclusive and secretive societies.
It’s important to consider everyone as an individual and not persecute an entire group, which we, as a society, fail to do on multiple levels. But this can be somewhat difficult when an entire organization as it is, is founded as a “brotherhood” and is simply collectivist. Groupthink is damaging, but the power and intimidation established is even more so. Greek life, as a whole, is essentially at “odds with what we think American higher education should be about. They are generally largely exclusive by race, by class, by sexuality, by gender, by nationality, by disability – by pretty much every dimension of social identity that we think should be included.”
The tentative reasons for joining a fraternity or sorority include a sense of belonging, an opportunity to participate in philanthropic events, networking and development of leadership skills. I have to question whether the cost of such development is worth its benefits when a variety of other campus activities boast the same if not similar benefits for no cost. And those with markedly average income would not be able to afford the costs of a fraternity or sorority.
I think the community service and fundraising that Greek life accomplishes is great and all, but it’s 100 percent free to go volunteer anywhere and you don’t have to be selected through a lengthy rush process to, in turn, fit the stereotypical mold of your new letters.
Greek life should not be removed by any means — though there are more proponents for that than there were five years ago — but Greeks and non-Greeks alike need to question the associated culture of alcohol abuse, hazing, sexual assault, racism and elitism.
Hazing was supposed to have ended, but the U.S. as a whole still sees hazing-related deaths – and frankly I don’t know how swapping raw eggs, baby-bird style, swimming in pools of body fluid or undergoing sexual acts designed only for shaming constitute a bonding experience. Moreover, frat culture supports underage drinking — which will happen in college nonetheless — but we can’t have the laws and the respective universities hands tied when students are being injured and behaving irresponsibly
I would love if it comes out that Zeta Beta Tau and Emory were not responsible for the Panama City events so that UF could potentially backtrack. All that we can truly be certain of is that Greek life requires a drastic reform if it is to meet its creeds, as well as survive for years to come.
But for now, simply making a statement doesn’t make it true. Opinion or not.
Feature photo courtesy of The Atlantic – Phil Toledano