Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Bonfires (or incindiaries) on Campus

AKA The World is on Fire Lets Piss on the Candle We Can Put Out.

Although I am disappointed that Cal Alpha failed in minor ways to live up to the ideals of the True Gentleman and the fraternity traditions, I am not at all surprised that they and other SAE chapters reflect the privileged male culture in the US that continue to openly assert that women are kitchen slaves at best and the property of men whether they are related to the man at all.  The military, the police, the right wing(?) media, some important churches and many prominent politicians create that culture.  Unfortunately none of the above are likely to appoint a Title IX administrator to clean up their culture.   

Universities and colleges have the same problems but properly take the stance that as community leaders they should deal with them.  My concern is that draconian sanctions for minor offenses sends the wrong message about free association and free speech to the Stanford Community.  To wit: Fraternities are the only fall guys we have that we can pick on so they have to go.  See Etchemendy's one strike and you are out pronouncement.  

I am not concerned with bailing out Cal Alpha or SAE, appropriate responses by Stanford and National have been taken and are in place.  But they cannot have any effect on the house if the house does not exist even for an academic year.  Stanford should be a leader in creating a responsible social environment on campus and the fraternities and sororities should be the safe houses and leaders rather than the fall guys for failures all over the campus.

Other comments roughly reverse time sequence.

If you are going to throw guilt by association in the pot the administrator came from Ohio, politically and socially one of the most sexist and violent states outside of the deep south and Wisconsin.  Boehner is their US Representative. 

Lets not throw the house under the bus just yet.  Minor lapses in judgement, I wouldn't call it hazing in any sense of the word.  We had brothers hurt being tossed in the fountain for lesser crimes.  Underage drinking? I remember a punch called the Red Death that more than a few underage people had trouble with.  We had to be a bit more circumspect in the house, but times have changed. 

From my conversation with Laird it seemed like the house handled everything well, and the University had to do something, anything, to make a Title IX statement.  Lets see what he has to say.

Yawn. Sexual Assault Exaggerations are news.  Where is the most likely place to be sexual assaulted today? At the festivities around professional sports events.  Why isn't that news? D'oh.  Where is another likely place to be sexually assaulted, a church social.  Why isn't that news? D'oh. Lets look at the Military.  Why isn't that news? D'oh. What's left? Colleges.  When are you most likely to be sexually asaulted on campus? Game Day! Why isn't that news? D'oh.

Hey, college fraternities throw parties that women attend.  Everybody hates fraternities because they weren't tapped.  Now we got news.

True Gentlemen,

I am not threatening anytthing at this point.  Just trying to get a reasonable conversation going with the appropriate people at Stanford.  I think the appropriate people will begin with President Hennessy as the issue is not the dehousing of SAE but an assault on free speech, free association, and traditional Stanford social life, the last having no legal standing but is why legal issues will be the primary assault weapons. 

The damage to a pledge's name, to the fraternity's continued existence on campus, and indeed the existence of fraternities on campus has already been established with the announcement of the dehousing as a fait accompli based in part on the remarks of a pledge.  All of that makes makes Corry a huge reason why Stanford and at least the Old Lions should sit down and talk about undoing the damage.  I am not a wealthy person and $1000 is not something I can easily afford to invest in protectiing all that is important to me about my Stanford experience but I have spent more than that for a SAE reunion party. 

I would much prefer to speak softly, but I need a big stick to deal with the Provost's threat to basic freedoms at Stanford.  It doesn't even have to be a real big stick at this point but it needs to be really big. 

Phi Alpha,  needed more than ever at this point.  Stretch your memories it is relevant.

A bit of background: I was a legacy ΣAE and grew up singing ΣAE songs in the car led by Charlie Black, Kansas Alpha '23, on our many long road trips including a respectful love song to the Sweetheart of ΣAE which was a serenade song from the 20's.  I rushed ΣAE only as a courtesy to dad as my older sisters had convinced me that fraternities were sexist hellholes that I should avoid at all costs.  They were wrong about Cal Alpha.

I attended  ΣAE Leadership School in Evanston and was impressed with the national values of respect in the fraternity not only for brothers but for all people, particularly including women.  The True Gentleman credo was evident in all we did at Leadership School.  It was at Leadership School I found out about the Little Sisters of Minerva for houses to demonstrate their respect and concern for campus women.

I was instrumental in the founding of the Little Sisters of Minerva at Cal Alpha when there were few women and no sororities at Stanford. The Saturday dances on the huge porch facing what is now White Plaza led by Little Sisters who invited friends to the party were a fixture of Fraternity Row.  Hat tip to The Lancers, the house band, for the music.

I was social chairman two years, and threw many parties some of questionable taste (including an annual Toga Party) but part of my job was to insure that the True Gentleman values of the house and ΣAE were maintained.  By and large they were. 

It is no accident that many of the cc’s here are from the early 60’s.  As I remember the class of ’61 threw a 25th reunion party including neighboring classes and the Little Sisters, a tradition that has been maintained since with the 5X reunion class hosting the others.  The reunions are always well attended including Little Sisters some of whom married brothers and are still happily married after all these years.  These reunions are a testimony of the strong bonds built in living, socializing, playing, and working together in a tight social environment including the Little Sisters of Minerva. 

In my visits to the ΣAE House, both before and after I moved near campus I have made it a point to notice how the women visitors were treated and it seemed to me that the Little Sister tradition of respect and concern has been maintained, including the 2013 pregame party invite for Alums.
My initial reaction to the SD article was that even the social suspension was a political overreaction by Stanford to real abuses on other campuses and nothing I have seen or heard since changes that opinion at all.  No one was physically hurt, bad taste including sexist atrocities passes for entertainment on Fox News, and a private, by invitation party implies an acceptance of the invitation.  Telling tales out of Vegas is rude in any society, and overreacting to tales told out of Vegas is just wrong.
From the information provided it appears that the house measures taken in response to the suspension are more than adequate to address the nonissue that caused it.  


Dear Vice Provost:

I understand that Stanford is under considerable pressure due to Title IX, current events, and campus protests to do something – anything – to show that the University cares about women’s rights.  But a death penalty for one of the few vibrant, women friendly, social organizations in the Stanford social desert sends the wrong message, for the wrong reasons, at the wrong time. 
The wrong message:   Any voluntary gathering of men and women will be subject to “special scrutiny” under Title IX.  Have a mixed social gathering only at risk to the existence of your organization.  Essentially you are saying that social gender segregation is the policy of Stanford. 
The wrong reason: A hostile environment refers to an environment like a workplace or classroom where people are not able to avoid the offending material without severe consequences.  Being pelted with grapes for walking out is not a severe consequence in the case of the annual Roman Bath party apparently eagerly anticipated by both the men of SAE and the women of Pi Phi who knew that improv. stand-up, dark humor was going to be a feature of the party.
The wrong time:  Announcing a death penalty for a popular organization after most students have left campus to celebrate a busy, merry holiday with friends and family hoping that nobody would notice sends the message to the media, the student body, and the parties involved that the only reason for the death penalty was to have something to show Title IX snoops if they showed up at Stanford.  The burning match appeal the first week of classes is further evidence that Stanford is making a political statement, not a transparent, reasoned action for the benefit of the University community. 
As a 52 year alum who greatly benefited from my time in the SAE House on Lasuen Row and have viewed my SAE Reunions with my brothers and “Little Sisters of Minerva” as one of the main reasons to attend Stanford Class Reunions.  I strongly protest this unnecessary and disgraceful action.
Please note that the above is a personal opinion of a Stanford Alum, not associated in any way with the current Cal Alpha SAE Chapter.  It was, however, stimulated by the request for support in their appeal of the dehousing action taken by the University.  


Vice Provost;

You should be aware that the announcement by the Title IX administrator in re. SAE and related announcements by Provost Etchemendy have effects far beyond the fate of the current house and will have major ramifications as to free speech on campus and indeed traditional social life at Stanford. 

A group of Cal Alpha alums as well as other interested parties have taken interest in some legal issues in the matter some of which might be germane to your decision.

At the very least the following case should be relevant.
Full text of opinion in Corry et al. v. Leland Stanford Junior University et al.  

Pertinent excerpt from Calif. Education Code sec. 94367
              "No private postsecondary educational institution shall make or enforce a rule subjecting a student to disciplinary sanctions solely on the basis of conduct that is speech or other communication that, when engaged in outside the campus or facility of a private postsecondary institution, is protected from governmental restriction by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution or . . . the California Constitution."

Speech by President Gerhard Casper on Corry decision:

There also appear to be Title IX issues with applying group sanctions for behavior of individuals that may be relevant to this type of case. 

I am not an attorney so cannot comment on any of the above but I think you should be aware of our discussions.  

I am not representing anyone but myself as a Stanford Alum please pass the buck to President Hennessy.  It belongs on his desk.  



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