"Right" and Wrong

by Tyler Brace | 11/18/10 11:00pm

Correction Appended

In his recent article "Right and Right' (Nov. 18)," Jordan Osserman quips: "I guess that means I'd better start apologizing to the Interfraternity Council." While doubtless intended as a snide remark to further belittle our fine institution, it is actually the best idea he has had yet. Osserman's complaints against the fraternity system are as incorrect and ignorant as they are self-serving and self-righteous. While I hate to grant Osserman the attention it seems he so desperately seeks, I feel obligated to provide campus with another perspective lest they be misled by his egregious claims.

In his article, Osserman expressed shock and outrage that he was asked to leave a fraternity party on Saturday night, stating that "I'm certain they would have beaten me up." He then goes on to lament the "fanatical right wing" aversion towards free speech and the "utter poverty of humanity and maturity of Dartmouth students towards anyone they consider an outsider." Hyperbolic and unsubstantiated claims aside, Osserman fails to try to understand why the brothers acted the way they did.

Criticism against fraternities and the Greek system in general is nothing new. I'll be the first to admit that we have flaws we're working to address. This campus is full of people, many of them affiliated, who'd like to see certain aspects of Greek life changed. However, Osserman does not construct his criticism to hopefully modify the system. Rather, he maliciously attacked it to do as much damage as possible, even proposing that Hanover police could prosecute them for "hazing." He then had the arrogance to come to a house whose integrity, intentions and brotherhood he has maligned and continues to profess outrage when they aren't happy to see him.

Adding insult to injury is the ignorance with which Osserman continues to advance his claims. On many occasions, Osserman has lambasted the Greek system for perceived sexism, racism, homophobia, classism, and "hazing." Of course, not having been part of an all-male Greek house he has never experienced the camaraderie, loyalty, and respect for one another that they have fostered for 169 years. He cannot understand that wearing a uniform or carrying a lunchbox--surely a traumatizing and dehumanizing experience for all--is actually a mark of honor for pledges who choose to demonstrate their pride in becoming a part of something greater than themselves. Yet, he still feels confident decrying the supposed "homophobia," within the system despite the presence of openly gay members in multiple houses, or labeling certain houses as "classist" regardless of the incredible socio-economic diversity throughout the Greek system. This reality is not a secret. However, Osserman is not interested in understanding, only blindly criticizing. Even when one of his friends blitzed him trying to explain how fraternities work, he used the email as fodder for his next article. Not only that, he now refers to him as a "former" friend! For Osserman, the issue is ideological. He imposes his narrow (post Marxist?) worldview on a system about which he knows nothing and then criticizes it for not conforming to it. Apparently, it's not only the "fanatical right-wing" frat boys who could use a lesson in tolerance.

Dartmouth fraternities shoulder the burden of creating and sustaining social life on this campus. We buy the beer, provide the entertainment, monitor the parties, and, as recent events have shown, assume the liability for the actions of others. In spite of all that, we have one of the most open and welcoming systems in the country. At the same time, we have the right to refuse entry to anyone whose attendance we deem inappropriate. Normally this involves removing people who are so intoxicated, belligerent, or disruptive that they pose a risk to themselves, the house, and other guests. However, when brothers see someone entering their private home who ignorantly and falsely assaults their character, they have every right to ask that person to leave. Free speech is not the issue here and neither is the open Greek system. If our guests fail to respect us, how can we be expected to respect them?

We welcome constructive criticism and suggestions for how to improve ourselves. Dartmouth fraternities have evolved to better represent the wants and needs of the Dartmouth community. Osserman has demonstrated his inability to contribute constructively to campus discourse, and that's a shame. If his friends from Washington University return, I'd be happy to show them the overwhelming positives of our social scene- as long as they're willing to listen.

Tyler Brace '11 is a guest columnist and the president of the Inter-fraternity Council.

**The original version of this article incorrectly stated that Osserman is not a member of a Greek organization, when in fact it should have stated that he is not a member of an all-male Greek organization.*

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