A Letter to the Amherst College Student Body
Issue   |   Wed, 05/07/2014 - 15:17

We ask our fellow members of the Amherst community to stand with us in opposition to yesterday’s resolution regarding fraternities. We are not against the fundamental spirit of the Board of Trustees’ decision. We respect their attempt to improve social life on campus, but this arbitrary and undemocratic manner of change carries with it troubling implications.

Despite broad repercussions, the Board made its decision without substantive student input. As with the appointment of Suzanne Coffey several months ago, we once again find ourselves cut out of critical discussions regarding our life on our campus. Our voices are critical when considering sweeping reform. Unilateral resolutions like the one announced yesterday afternoon should not and cannot be allowed to move forward without taking into account the sentiment of this community as a whole. The recent pattern of highhanded action represents a troubling trend. All student voices, regardless of opinion on the issue, have been silenced.

In their initial act in 1984, the Trustees’ conduct created the same gray area that has confounded our social scene for the last three decades. Their inability to grasp the nuances of the situation at Amherst placed fraternities in an awkward state of equilibrium beyond the reach of regulation yet within the boundaries of the Amherst community. Despite its unsatisfactory outcome, that decision was reached the right way: The Trustees solicited and sincerely considered student input and presented compelling and substantial evidence to support the decision. Yesterday’s order does no such thing. Rather, in their attempt to avoid “turning back the clock” on the fraternity regime, the Trustees do just that, basing their case on “sound” reasoning submitted thirty years ago.

Students are the best sources of knowledge on college life at Amherst. We inhabit dorms across campus, attend classes during the day and partake in the available social scene at night. The students here have been educated by some of the most accomplished professors in the country and approach intellectual dilemmas with careful consideration and thoughtful reasoning. We may not be experts on much, but we understand our surroundings to a degree inaccessible to a governing body of removed alumni reliant on historical documents to inform their opinion on student life today.

But the Board of Trustees has made apparent that it does not care for such input. The strategic decision to announce the resolution in the final weeks leading up to exam period and summer recess is a weakly veiled attempt to stifle organized student criticism. Such a cynical, undemocratic effort should offend those who embrace the values of the Amherst community.

This is not a fraternity issue; it is a crisis of student rights.

With this in mind, we ask for you to join with us in condemning the unacceptable actions on the part of the Trustees and the Administration. In the following days, we will be submitting a Referendum for Special Vote contingent on approval from the Judiciary Council. This statement will categorically disavow the Trustees’ attempt to change the Student Honor Code without our input and overturn the decision pending another student-wide referendum to be held 150 days from the arbitrary July 1st deadline. We ask for your support in this endeavor not as a final verdict on the fraternity question at hand, but rather as a statement against the unjust marginalization of student opinion on the matter of our own daily life.

As members of Delta Kappa Epsilon, we are willing to revisit the significance of our existence on campus with an open mind, and we will accept the opinion of the student body no matter the outcome. But if we are to stand trial, let it be before a jury of our peers, not the moot rhetoric of a decision determined in a different era.

Anchor
Comments
Anonymous (not verified) says:
Wed, 05/07/2014 - 16:56

Haven't we spent the last month shitting on the AAS for being ineffective as an institution and mired in ridiculous referendums and JC decisions? Why are you going to the AAS, a campus group that is literally voting over whether or not to dissolve itself and undo its most recent election, to be the outlet for your anger? gurlplz.jpg

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Wed, 05/07/2014 - 17:02

Honestly, just stop whining. The trustees made a decision and now we have to live with it. It's that simple. DKE's reign is over. Just because you can make yourselves drink unsafe amounts of alcohol and do stupid hazing stunts doesn't mean you wield any real power. When it comes down to it, your just a group of guys that drink together. And can the school really do all that much to change that?

Joseph Moffitt (not verified) says:
Thu, 05/08/2014 - 14:48

Anonymous, this isn't about DKE's "reign" or the wielding of power. This is about a decision to prohibit the association of students off campus on their own time. The college is threatening innocent students with suspensions and expulsions for simply being in a group. The fact that you admit that "we have to live with it" seems to show that you too have issues with how this was handled. But for you, and I assume you are not a member of these organizations, that means your life is generally not affected. But for the guys that have been in these organizations since their freshman year, it means just a bit more. You must truly not know anything about Fraternities or DKE in particular for that matter to think that "stupid hazing stunts" and drinking copious amounts liquor lies at the heart of these groups. Take a step back from the Animal House-like comparisons you seem to want to draw, and know that DKE has always been about creating life-long bonds of mutual respect and admiration for a like-minded and yet exceptionally diverse group of students. Reducing it to your "It's that simple" take shows not only your inability to see the entirety of the topic at hand but your unwillingness to stand up for the rights of others.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Wed, 05/07/2014 - 17:03

This was beautifully written. It's disheartening to see undemocratic actions occurring at such a prestigious university when we as a nation are a democracy. Seems a bit hypocritical. Especially at an institution that could be supplying our future leaders.

Best of luck Amherst,
Another College Student in Massachusetts

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Wed, 05/07/2014 - 17:07

"This is not a fraternity issue; it is a crisis of student rights." Of course it's highly disappointing, outrageous even for the board to make these decisions with zero student input. But this is still an issue which, at its center, deals with greek life at Amherst. If it weren't, the members of DKE wouldn't be the contributing authors. The question next is, how do we as a student body, a highly divided voice on the topic of frats, make a powerful, unanimous decision? How do we not let this debate go on for years without something solidly being decided upon?

Not Buying It (not verified) says:
Wed, 05/07/2014 - 17:20

I have to hand it to the political strategists at DKE: shifting the focus from the merits of the ban to how the decision was made is a brilliant political maneuver. If the issue at hand is the potential role of underground fraternities in promoting rape culture on campus, then students are less likely to be sympathetic. However, if you are able to shift the debate to the issue of student inclusion in the decision-making process, then you've got yourself a platform everyone can rally around.

Great job! Brilliant! Whoever came up with this strategy has a bright future in public relations work.

Matt Ribe '06 (not verified) says:
Fri, 05/09/2014 - 01:41

By what grounds does anyone assert that there is a "potential role of underground fraternities in promoting rape culture on campus"? The Board's decision was clearly an attempt to scapegoat fraternities for the larger problem of sexual assault that has been summarily ignored by the administration for years. Until there is any sort of empirical evidence offered in support of the notion that the fraternities as a whole (as opposed, perhaps, to a single fraternity which issued a distasteful t-shirt) is somehow involved in "promoting a rape culture on campus," then such a potential role should even not be a topic of conversation.

Anthony J. Hom 71 (not verified) says:
Wed, 05/07/2014 - 18:05

I dont understand why at this time the Board of Trustees decided to make this decision to ban off campus fraternities membership without due process. This decision should be challenged on constitutional grounds of violation of freedom of association and due process.

Annoyed at whin... (not verified) says:
Wed, 05/07/2014 - 19:06

Just like how everyone was all up in arms when Suzanne Coffey was selected to be Chief Student Affairs Officer because the administration didn't get student input, you all are so upset now because the administration didn't get your input on this. And just like how everyone was going to protest and do sit-ins and make sure that Suzanne Coffey would not stay in that position, you all are going to protest and make sure your voices are heard! Well guess what: just like how Suzanne Coffey is STILL the Chief Student Affairs Officer, the fraternities will STILL remain banned.

Don't call this an assault on your student rights because in all honesty students don't come to Amherst to join a fraternity. Students at Amherst are already given considerable more rights and opportunities for input than students at other colleges. For crying out loud, they even got our input for the designs and floor plans of the new dorms. This isn't a "crisis of student rights," but rather a change that should have occurred back in 1984, and a change that affects only about 90 kids today.

You are all complaining because now you can't be "cooler" than everyone else on campus since you can no longer wear your DKE patagonias without risk of suspension or expulsion. You're complaining because you can no longer have a sense of elitism over every other person on campus because you were in a fraternity. I don't feel sorry at all that you have to get off of your pedestal and experience Amherst College like every other student must.

I applaud the administration for taking this bold step. Us students at Amherst tell the administration how to do their jobs as it is, so it's nice to see them take charge every once in a while. If you're that desperate to stay in a fraternity, go to UMass. I'm sure your parents will be happy to save a couple thousand dollars a year on your education. Otherwise, deal with the fact that the administration has control over student life (that's why we pay them $60,000+ each year and attend a private school) and accept this change that will turn out for the better.

Annoyed at whin... (not verified) says:
Wed, 05/07/2014 - 19:07

Just like how everyone was all up in arms when Suzanne Coffey was selected to be Chief Student Affairs Officer because the administration didn't get student input, you all are so upset now because the administration didn't get your input on this. And just like how everyone was going to protest and do sit-ins and make sure that Suzanne Coffey would not stay in that position, you all are going to protest and make sure your voices are heard! Well guess what: just like how Suzanne Coffey is STILL the Chief Student Affairs Officer, the fraternities will STILL remain banned.

Don't call this an assault on your student rights because in all honesty students don't come to Amherst to join a fraternity. Students at Amherst are already given considerable more rights and opportunities for input than students at other colleges. For crying out loud, they even got our input for the designs and floor plans of the new dorms. This isn't a "crisis of student rights," but rather a change that should have occurred back in 1984, and a change that affects only about 90 kids today.

You are all complaining because now you can't be "cooler" than everyone else on campus since you can no longer wear your DKE patagonias without risk of suspension or expulsion. You're complaining because you can no longer have a sense of elitism over every other person on campus because you were in a fraternity. I don't feel sorry at all that you have to get off of your pedestal and experience Amherst College like every other student must.

I applaud the administration for taking this bold step. Us students at Amherst tell the administration how to do their jobs as it is, so it's nice to see them take charge every once in a while. If you're that desperate to stay in a fraternity, go to UMass. I'm sure your parents will be happy to save a couple thousand dollars a year on your education. Otherwise, deal with the fact that the administration has control over student life (that's why we pay them $60,000+ each year and attend a private school) and accept this change that will turn out for the better.

Patrick Barry (not verified) says:
Thu, 05/08/2014 - 16:50

I'd love to sit down and have a talk with whoever wrote this comment. Reveal yourself I beg you.

A. D. Morse (not verified) says:
Wed, 05/07/2014 - 21:54

Most fundamentally concerning about this piece is DKE's promulgation of the misuse of "moot". As a wise uncle (or maybe Voltaire) once said: with great power comes great responsibility. Use your powers of influence with care, young frat members. Do not allow such grammatical injustice to continue on this campus. This is more than a fraternity issue; it is a crisis of student rights.

an alum (not verified) says:
Wed, 05/07/2014 - 23:32

Unfortunately, this piece fails to make a case for the positive virtues of off-campus fraternities, whatever they may be. Nor do its authors offer suggestions for improving residential life at the college. Instead they offer inflated rhetoric about a 'crisis of student rights' and students' non-disputable expertise on student life. If they are such experts, where are the suggestions, the organization, the energy among the authors to improve student life outside of their off-campus clubs? Where is the serious discussion of alcohol, inclusiveness, and a wider variety of social options? Whether students should have input on all major decisions their elders make is debatable, but their argument is not bolstered by their dismissal of alums as 'reliant on historical documents' as if we were never young.

an alum II (not verified) says:
Thu, 05/08/2014 - 09:30

Why do the authors have the burden of convincing you of "the positive virtues of off campus fraternities"? What other organization should share that burden? Why does the College fear freedom of choice? This decision reflects the moral cowardice of the Board and the totalitarian impulses that have been embraced by Biddy Martin's Amherst.

an alum (responding) (not verified) says:
Thu, 05/08/2014 - 19:28

They do not; you are right. If the want the new policy rescinded, the people they need to convince are the Trustees. However, since they published an essay on a public website, and that that essay is meant to be persuasive, I certainly have the right to respond that I was not persuaded by their argument.

As for "freedom of choice," it is not an absolute value, and I do not think the College "fears" it. Your own rhetoric is as inflated as the students' who wrote the essay. This decision is neither cowardly or totalitarian. Rather, it was likely felt to be a prudent one to limit the liability of the College in the case that a student might be harmed in a college-related, yet nevertheless college non-regulated venue.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Thu, 05/08/2014 - 10:32

I cannot believe how some people on campus hate fraternities so much. Their parties are more inclusive than those of athletics teams. Their membership is move diverse as well. To ban what students do off campus is un-American.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Thu, 05/08/2014 - 13:51

"This is not a fraternity issue; it is a crisis of student rights."

Oh, come on. If you all care so much about students' rights and students' voices, then where the fuck have you all been with your signs and your petitions for the last several years of students' rights crises?

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Thu, 05/08/2014 - 15:05

Amherst's homepage touts President Martin's "reflection" on free speech and institutional responsibility. https://www.amherst.edu/aboutamherst/president/reflections Read it in the context of President Martin's defense of the fraternity ban, which she played a leadership role in bringing about with no student input or community debate. "Do as I say and not as I do" seems to sum things up pretty well.

Alum '13 (not verified) says:
Thu, 05/08/2014 - 15:49

At Amherst College, you pretty much have two options for a traditional "college party experience." One is through Greek life. The other, much more prevalent option these days (RIP Pond 111), is through sports teams. As a former athlete at Amherst, I can personally attest to the fact that, for all intents and purposes, sports teams serve much the same role in Amherst's social life as the fraternities. They throw the same kinds of formals and mixers, they have long standing traditions and wealthy alumni bases, they "haze" their members, and their parties are just as likely to bring about sexual misconduct.

Yet somehow I don't see Amherst abolishing sports anytime soon. Setting Amherst's unhealthy and counter-intuitive obsession with varsity athletics aside, that would not serve the Board of Trustee's true motive in this endeavor, which is clearly not preventing sexual misconduct or enhancing student social life, but rebuilding Amherst's tarnished reputation through a good ol' fashioned PR stunt.

I truly saddens me that the good people at DKE and Chi Psi have been made into scapegoats on this issue. Not only does the Board of Trustee's decision keep them from addressing the issue of sexual misconduct in a meaningful way, it will simply push the Amherst College social scene further along the path towards total sports team domination... with a side of freshmen chugging hard alcohol in their dorm rooms and lackluster 21+ Keefe Campus Trivia Nights for good measure.

an alum (not verified) says:
Thu, 05/08/2014 - 20:17

This decision is part of a long-term process. To the extent that dangerous parties hosted by members of athletic teams receive scrutiny, it will be in the context that the College has clear legal oversight and liability regarding on-campus activities. In the case of off-campus fraternities, the liability issues are more perilous because the College cannot enforce policies in those venues.

What I wonder is why do so many students complain that the athletic parties to which you refer are the only option? Can't other like-minded students organize other parties or activities? Do you depend on someone else to throw your parties for you? Why? Is it because someone else pays for the alcohol, or some other aspect of the party?

Why, too would you assume that the only other options would be more irresponsible private drinking or boring College sponsored events? These kind of arguments create an impression that some students are ruled by a desired to get drunk and resigned to whatever is most convenient in that pursuit.

A diferent alum (not verified) says:
Thu, 05/08/2014 - 17:28

I'm surprised that today's students will tolerate the administration treating them like children. Maybe it's a generational difference, but my peers never would have stood for the administration telling them what they were permitted to do in their free time nor who they could associate with on campus, let alone off grounds.

While the issue of sexual assault on campus is a real one, I thought the problem was that the administration wasn't taking accusations seriously and wasn't referring them to the police early enough. This seems like an attempt at scapegoating, at demonstrating that Amherst is "doing something" after being put on the Education Department's naughty list. It is broadly hypocritical coming from an administration that still countenances underage drinking. Underage drinking is the third rail of Amherst life and the administration is desperate to avoid the subject, even though it is likely the largest factor in campus sexual assault. Back in my day the administration went so far as to turn a blind eye to money laundering, allowing college funds to be used to purchase alcohol.

I predict that unless this is a precursor to banning drinking on campus, outlawing fraternities will have exactly zero effect on Amherst's sexual assault statistics. If anything it's a missed opportunity. As organizations with more at stake than a group of buddies living in Crosset, the fraternities would no doubt be open to cooperating with the school in providing risk management training to their members and officers. In my era, my fraternity was very proactive in preventing drunk driving, going so far as to buy a breathalyzer. Why couldn't the fraternities be a vehicle for sexual assault prevention? In addition to providing education and training for members, the fraternities could designate a non-drinking host and empower him to intervene when others judgements are impaired.

I'm appalled that the administration would use the honor code as a cudgel in its longstanding war against fraternities. By weaponizing the honor code you demean it, weakening its moral force and making it more likely that it will be used as a tool in future vendettas. In fact, this seems to fly in the face of the principles of "freedom of speech and dissent" by punishing "peaceful conduct" and seems a very obvious act of "interference, intimidation and disparagement in... the social, recreational and residential environment."

Apparently some animals are more equal than others.

skeptical (not verified) says:
Thu, 05/08/2014 - 22:06

DKE, sudden champion of student rights. What a laugh.

Who could forget the memorable Letter to the Amherst Student Body they wrote in solidarity with the rights of women students after this episode:

http://acvoice.com/2012/10/08/amherst-college-roasting-fat-ones-since-1847/

Oh wait, sorry, that's right: there was no such letter.

The frat boys doth protest too much, methinks.

Alum ('10) (not verified) says:
Sat, 05/10/2014 - 00:41

Did a single student (or faculty) organization release a similar statement. Not to my knowledge.

skeptical of sk... (not verified) says:
Sat, 05/10/2014 - 02:01

Did any other student (or faculty) organization release such a letter. I didn't think so.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Sat, 05/10/2014 - 17:04

The point is that for DKE to suddenly assume the mantle of student activists fighting for the cause of student voices on campus is an insult to those who have actually worked tirelessly to advance students rights in the past.

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