Letters to the Editor

Letter: Brown should ban fraternities

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

I have been reading with disgust and profound embarrassment the reports about the date-rape drug case at Phi Kappa Psi.

While the controversy addresses many of the hot-button topics of the day involving privilege and the treatment of women, the discourse refuses to confront the most important issues of all: the question of why, in 2015, the University (and universities around the nation) tolerates the archaic and misogynistic fraternity system to persist.

Supporters of these organizations claim that they promote some type of camaraderie among young male college students. These supporters are generally alums who themselves were members of these organizations who formed close friendships — in many cases lifelong friendships — as a result of their membership. But their support for these organizations ignores the fact that they are breeding grounds for excessive drinking and the mistreatment of women.  It may be offensive to them — and to powerful interests on the Corporation and in the administration — to say this aloud, but it was obvious when I attended Brown in the late 1970s and is just as obvious today. Denial will not change the reality that by allowing the fraternity culture to persist, the University is not only placing its female students at risk but is also contradicting the values of sexual equality and female empowerment that it seeks to promote. It is the height of hypocrisy to purport to teach these values in the classroom while hosting on campus the types of behavior that fraternities host on a weekly basis.

It is time for Chancellor Thomas Tisch ’76 P’18 and Vice Chancellor Jerome Vascellaro ’74 P’07, who lead the Corporation, as well as the rest of the Corporation and President Christina Paxson P’19, to stand up and lead the nation’s universities by banning fraternities from the Brown campus. Brown has been a leader on so many issues — it is now time for Brown to stand up and serve as a leader to protect the idea that it is unacceptable to behave in ways that no parent of a Brown student would tolerate in his or her home.

It is 2015.  It is time for the University to evolve socially as it has evolved in so many things.

Michael Lewitt ’79


  1. Greek Alum says:

    Mr. Lewitt, I don’t seem to recall a letter from you asking for the QA to be kicked off campus after they admitted that they had facilitated multiple campus rapes over multiple years. Did you miss that story or do you not feel the same is warranted? http://bluestockingsmag.com/2014/09/22/sex-power-god-is-canceled-a-statement-from-the-queer-alliance-coordinating-committee/

    • Student '15 says:

      Apples and oranges comparing the QA to a residential Greek house.

      It’s my understanding that no one has filed a complaint based upon SPG experiences (for whatever reason). An organization can say that they have heard anecdotal stories of sexually violent behavior in spaces they’ve organized–and TO THEIR CREDIT they are eradicating those spaces.

      But the school can’t really do much unless there are specific people filing specific complaints about what specifically happened to them. Furthermore, the QA is a fundamentally different kind of organization than Greek houses, which are both residential and social in nature. If sexual violence occurs in a residential space where many people both live and socialize, it’s a different kind of situation than a party that an organization holds in an unaffiliated University building. So it’s not really a valid comparison.

      • Greek alum says:

        You’re right. It’s not a fair comparison. Brown took it upon itself to punish phi psi for an assault* perpetrated by a non member that happened outside the confines of it’s party and residential space whereas it does nothing when the assault happens year after year inside the sponsoring group’s event. If the university didn’t need physical evidence to convict phi psi why does it need an official report to convict the QA? Is the QA’s own admission of its role in facilitating campus rape not enough to warrant punishing it for facilitating campus rape?

        Why does it matter where on campus the assault takes place

        *not according to brown

      • Another '15 says:

        Except in the Phi Psi case, sexual violence did not occur in the fraternity house.

      • Greek Alum says:

        Not sure I understand how the moderation works. I wrote a post last night and it still hasn’t’ shown up. If it was actually deemed too inappropriate to post I’m pretty shocked but I’ll try again.

        You’re right. They are very different. On the one hand, we have an open admission from an organization that has had multiple students raped AT its flagship event for multiple years. On the other hand, we have an organization where someone was raped* somewhere else on campus after the event. The university said it didn’t need physical evidence to punish phi psi. The university has also deemed that there is not enough evidence to charge someone with drugging the girl and not enough evidence to say the guy completely unaffiliated with the organization who had sex with her somewhere else on campus raped her. Which organization sounds more responsible for facilitating campus rape and why is an admission of guilt not enough to punish the QA?

        I’m not so sure that the university has never received a complaint for rape at SPG. Just because one has never graced the BDH doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened. The media response to “Brown Kicks Queer Alliance Off Campus” would certainly be different than “Brown Kicks Phi Psi Off Campus” and don’t think that isn’t a factor in all of this. This whole thing was meant to be Brown’s coming out party for its new “tough on sexual assault” image in light of the title IX lawsuit following the Sclove incident. Kicking off the QA would be met with accusations of homophobia and make the university look bad. Kicking off a greek house plays well into the media. Ironically the whole thing has done nothing but make Brown look worse. The BDH usually only reports on rapes every few years – I highly doubt Brown goes years at a time without a campus rape being reported (it certainly doesn’t go a few years without a rape happening)

        Keep in mind that Mr. Lewitt did not just ask that Phi Psi be banned. He asked that ALL fraternities banned. Each one of the greek houses at Brown are distinct organizations yet no call to ban the actual organization that admits to facilitating multiple rapes over multiple years?

        All greek houses require their members to receive bystander prevention training and the greeks were the first students to take Brown’s new course when it was brought over in 2008. Does the QA do the same (they very well may, I honestly have no idea)?

        I honestly do not understand your final point. Campus rape is an issue regardless of where it occurs. It is not more or less of an issue if it occurs in a dorm vs. cafeteria vs. classroom vs. library. It’s especially ironic to use that as part of your QA vs. Greek argument given that the rape* was committed by a non greek in a space that is not a greek house while the SPG rapes happened in QA controlled spaces.

  2. Greek Alum says:

    Also, Brown wouldn’t be leading anything if this happened. There are already multiple campuses that ban fraternities and sororities.

  3. Greek Alum says:

    From the QA’s other article:

    “There have been many stories shared amongst Brown students in recent years relaying how they have experienced violations of autonomy and boundaries via unwanted touching and assault at SPG.”


  4. I’d like to take issue with the author’s claim that the existence of fraternities contradict “the values of sexual equality and female empowerment that [the university] seeks to promote.” If one wants to join a Greek organization at Brown, one has three options: to join an all male fraternity, to join an all female sorority, or to join a co-ed Greek house. Because we have these options, I fail to see how fraternities, in the context of Brown’s Greek system, contradict sexual equality.

    That is not to say that the concept of single gender organizations is not problematic. As we continue to move forward, it is increasingly important for the Brown Greek community to recognize the great responsibility we have. All Greek organizations, and really all organizations at Brown, no matter their past actions, must take it upon themselves to advocate for student safety, for the promotion of bystander intervention, and for the continual reevaluation of how we confront the privilege we have as Greek organizations.

    For full disclosure, I am a current Brown undergraduate and am a member of a Greek organization on campus. I do not speak on behalf of that organization nor on behalf of the Greek community. Being a member of my organization has truly changed my life in so many marvelous ways and at Brown, with our lack of intentional communal living, having a community that supports and cares for me has been an integral part of my education. Greek life has a purpose and the Greek community at Brown must remember that: we are values based institutions and we must uphold those values.

  5. Current Fraternity Student says:

    Not all fraternities are breeding grounds for what you call “excessive drinking and mistreatment of women.” Such a biased perspective reflects nothing about Greek life, but everything about your distance from reality. Perhaps you should spend a few days back on campus before coming to such rash, unjustified opinions; 1979 was quite some time ago, and you have no grounds to make claims about a system that still operates 35 years following your graduation.

    It is utterly ridiculous for one to assume that fraternities are responsible for the majority of unruly behavior on Brown’s campus. Many of my fraternity brothers do not drink. We maintain 4.0 GPA averages and have aspirations that seemingly exceed yours.

  6. mike peters says:

    According to the Department of Justice { yes, Eric Holder’s DOJ } , the actual rate of female college students as victims of sexual assaults is 6.1 / 1000 or 0.61 % . The non- student rate is 7.6 /1000 or 0.76 % . These figures contradict the main stream media who would have us believe that 20 % or one out of five students are being raped or assaulted.
    Also , the figures show students are safer on campus than off ! Looking forward to a Rolling stones article on the subject.

  7. What about this? What about that? How about banning them all? And I have news for you. You will live. You might even get an education, and get smart in the process.

  8. ShadrachSmith says:

    Fraternities are a social good. They are justified by the Natural Right of free association.

    Fraternities are also the natural prey of Feminist Star Chambers, The facts don’t really matter, when unloved women are empowered to harm those who don’t love them…Fraternities are an obvious target.

    So, are Fraternities to blame for the woes of unloved women? Does giving feminists a veto over the existence any existing social groups improve university life? Do you really want a university experience without a Toga Party?

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