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- 2015 Fraternal Law Conference
- Stop It Now!
Newsletter > June 2015 > "Stop It Now!"
Stop It Now!
Tim Burke, Manley Burke, firstname.lastname@example.org
There will be no n_ _ _ _ _ _s in our fraternity.”
A sign welcoming women to a party. “No means yes and yes means ….”
Headline: Frat members harass wounded veterans.
It is so easy for a small number of unthinking wrongdoers to do incredible damage to the Greek movement. Tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of philanthropic efforts, thousands of hours of community service, well thought out programming and excellent leadership training and opportunities can be wiped out in the blink of an eye. With a 24-hour news cycle, ubiquitous video cameras in everyone’s smartphones make the documenting of such misdeeds a fixture on the Internet, and too often on the national news as well.
Expressions of bigotry or hate are not funny. Disrespect of any group of people, based on their color, sex, race, religion or status, has no place in our society, let alone in fraternal groups dedicated to brother and sisterhood. We can argue and fight all we want for First Amendment freedoms. It is undoubtedly true that state institutions of higher education cannot punish for disrespectful speech, unless the speech is directed against a specific individual(s) and constitutes fighting words. But fraternities and sororities can — and should. Strong and effective chapter leaders will ensure that happens. If they don’t, national must. Better still, members who care about what is right and the reputation of their fraternity will step in and stop the misconduct as soon as they hear of a plan being hatched or when they see it beginning.
Failure to do so will damage more than the fraternal movement’s reputation. Failure will encourage colleges interested in protecting their own reputation to act. And that may be in a way that is unconstitutional, punishing far more than just the wrongdoers, but perhaps shutting down an entire chapter or even a complete Greek system. Then the tough decision will have to be made to go to court with a great legal theory but a set of ugly facts not likely to engender any sympathy from the court.
Far better to stop the outrageous unjustifiable boorish messages immediately, even if it is speech.