Letters to the Editors

Letter to the Editors: Fraternities

Sara O’Bryon, a fourth-year CSP student, shares her insights on the Kappa Alpha controversy.

King’s has been a beautifully welcoming and open campus throughout my four years here, but most of you have no idea who I am. My name is Sara O’Bryon, and I come from New Orleans, Louisiana.
Perhaps I was naïve, but it wasn’t until last year that I saw the prejudices of my hometown arrive at King’s. I have seen my friends attacked because of who they choose to associate with. I have seen the resentment and sadness build in their countenances. I have seen how their voices are drowned out by those calling them rapists.
To be clear, I hate fraternities. I grew up in a city that is founded on fraternities and is still run by them. I mean, geez, I just wrote my CSP thesis on how ridiculous these exclusive men’s clubs are! And, when these exclusive, male groups hold power in institutions there is a real problem.
I would never prohibit fraternities, though. Maybe my American is showing, but people can do what they like. They can associate with whoever and whatever organization they want to. Unless, of course, they are hurting someone.
The institution itself is flawed in many ways, as pointed out by other King’s students. The one aspect I would like to touch upon is the fraternity’s attachment to rape culture. Absolutely. Fraternities can create an atmosphere that allows sexual assault to happen.
What I’m not sure about is where this is happening on King’s campus.
Kappa Alpha is a fraternity. Kind of. I make fun of them a lot because they are almost too pathetic to be considered a fraternity. I define them as a Literary Society for men. They write, they read, and they discuss. They like what they do. They like their little community.
So, it came as a surprise to me that anyone would be upset with KA. From my frame of reference they are so harmless I almost consider them irrelevant. Why would or should this small group affect me at all?
And, then, I read Bethany Hindmarsh’s letter: “When they say, ‘Oh, we’re just a literary society, we’re not a fratty group,’ then it’s actually even more sensitive to suggest that women can’t read literature with you.”
I was amazed. As if, the mere fact that these men get together and read somehow translates into a personal attack on women. I was offended by the statement. I do not gage my self-worth or my intelligence from men. Nor should anyone on this campus.
If you are unhappy about the society being exclusively male, petition the fraternity to allow women. Do your research, KA has historically had female members. If you are upset that there is an all-male literary society, form an all-female one or start a chapter of a sorority.
I do think that there is a place for all-male and all-female education systems. Many people disagree with me, and that’s fantastic.
There seems to be no place to speak out against the popular opinion. All I have seen is people attempting to force others to realize how wrong they are. There has been no attempt to try to understand why these boys felt like they had to make a smaller, all-male environment.
Though, I do not and would never wish to silence those who feel unsafe around KA members or at parties that are hosted by KA members. Everyone is entitled to their feelings. Particularly those who received threats – I hope that those responsible were disciplined appropriately because each and every one of us should feel safe on our campus.
However, I would ask those that feel unsafe, where does that come from? Does it stem from what those members of the fraternity have done to you? Does it stem from stories and gossip you have heard about the organization? Or, does it stem from a prejudice you hold against fraternity members? Is it similar to how unsafe my friend felt around me when she found out I was dating a girl?
There is a prejudice against fraternity members on this campus. Like most prejudices it stems from fear.
I’m as much a fan of transparency as anyone else who has spoken up in this debate. But, I’m guessing most people imagine these secrets involve virgin sacrifices to a snake-like demon (No? No one has seen that episode of Buffy? Sigh).
Their secrecy is not so they can sacrifice the young, but so their community is special for them. Fraternities provide a community, like any other organization, society, or club. It is a place for these men to turn – a way to make relationships that will span the rest of their life. And the secret aspect builds that foundational bond.
Would I join? Ha, no. I hate fraternities. But it is their choice to make. If they are happy, then should I not be happy for them?
Is rape culture and sexual assault and misogyny boiled down to these 15 men getting together once a week, saying a chant, reading poetry, and drinking? I hope not! Or else, what have I been yelling about for 22 years?

By David J. Shuman

David is the current editor-in-chief of The Watch and writes on student issues and events. Find him on Twitter: @DavidJShuman

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