I am a Dartmouth Frat Bro
By Tom Mandel, Staff Columnist
Published on Wednesday, October 6, 2010
I am a Dartmouth frat bro. I am not a rapist, nor do I work to create a “safe haven for sexual violence,” as the recent column by Jordan Osserman ’11 (“Dismissing Dissent,” Oct. 5) would suggest. Quite the opposite, in fact. As a non-anonymous commentator, I just want to be very clear about who I am, and why the song “Out of Control” was truly offensive and counterproductive.
I am the social chair of Alpha Delta fraternity. Last spring, I hosted a forum on sexual assault. It was not an apology for anything that we had done, as some panels can be. It was in AD. College President Jim Yong Kim spoke. A senior brother in my fraternity also described how sexual assault has touched his life, when a family member of his was sexually assaulted during his sophomore year. It was moving. I’d say that hardly counts as one of the panels that Osserman has “heard of” but finds “futile.”
The one group on campus that has the most power to solve the sexual assault problem is fraternity brothers. Not Op-Ed columnists lashing out at groups they feel deserve it (that means both you and I, Mr. Osserman), not the administration, not freshman girls and not anonymous Gmail accounts who can’t even spell Harry Potter references correctly. Fraternity brothers are the ones who control the social spaces on campus, and therefore to some degree control the social norms on campus. We are the people who need to work to fix this. And yes, there is still work that needs to be done.
And what is the best way to get us to work on this issue? Certainly not by antagonizing Dartmouth’s collective fraternity members. As somebody who has worked proactively to deal with the problem of sexual assault on campus, I was shocked to be told in this song that I will “steal your soul” and that the house in which I live and sleep is the place “where humanity dies.” Did this song strike up a serious discussion within the fraternity about the issue of sexual assault? Absolutely not. Did the forum that we held at our fraternity achieve that goal? Yes.
Two members of AD, our ’12’s summer president and one of our rush chairs, approached me after the forum, detailing how much the senior brother’s talk meant to them and how they wanted to work to make sure that no sexual assault occurs at AD ever again. We’re currently in the midst of planning additional sexual assault education for our new members this term on top of the required MAV facilitation. Not so futile, if you ask me.
I think my point is clear. Fraternity brothers are a necessary part of the formula for fighting sexual assault. With our cooperation, a lot of progress can be made. Maybe we can even eradicate sexual assault on this campus. Without our cooperation, it will be much more difficult. And the easiest way to lose my cooperation — and that of every other brother — is to call me a rapist.
Mr. Osserman contends, as others have in the past, that the only thing that would solve the sexual assault problem on campus would be co-ed Greek houses. As if there is something built into the male DNA that prohibits him from holding his peers responsible. Gender has nothing to do with loyalty to one’s fellow Greek members. And we are not cavemen, incapable of solving this problem without somebody to oversee us. You don’t need to change the entire system to fix it. Just work through the channels available. There are many responsible brothers who will stand side by side with you.
I feel truly awful for anyone who heard the song when it was blitzed out and didn’t have context for it. What would a ’14 think upon receiving this message about despair and sexual assault and the assertion that there are no resources or defenses for poor freshman girls? As a senior, I know this to be blatantly false, and know that a girl is able to step into a fraternity without having her soul stolen. Does a ’14 know this? Not necessarily. I would hate for some poor girl to become terrified, clutching at her skirt whenever she enters a fraternity. An atmosphere of fear is not what we should be promoting.
So please, in the future, do not be so quick to dismiss the entire fraternity system as one massive political organization rooted in apathy and conservatism. That’s not OK. And if you want to work — productively — to solve this issue, feel free to contact me. I’d love to do something to help.