I am a DKE
Issue   |   Sat, 05/10/2014 - 11:57
Carlos Bello '14
The card in the picture reads: Dr. Bello, Jessica, and Carlos: With Deepest Sympathy and Respect, The Brothers of the Sigma Chapter of Delta Kappa Epsilon

This piece was written from my own perspective as a member of the Sigma (Amherst College) Chapter of Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity. It is not intended to be a broad defense of Greek life in America or even other chapters of my fraternity. It speaks only to my experience with my DKE brothers and to their role in my life.

I haven’t told most of my extended family or anyone in my hometown the status of my sexuality. I hope they don’t discover this article, as most of those people are wildly uninformed. But if they do, so be it.

“Frat Life ≠ Student Voice
This protest is not about ‘student rights’
This kind of crowd does not gather when survivor’s voices are institutionally swept under the rug.”

Posters with these accusations were placed outside of Val on Wednesday. The phrase “this kind of crowd” troubled me throughout the day. This was the first visible rebuttal that I had seen to my efforts to encourage Amherst’s student body to reconsider the Trustees’ prohibition of fraternities the day before. It wasn’t the nature of the posters’ generalization that bothered me so greatly, but rather that the claim was simply false. In contrast to that miserable stereotype, my fellow fraternity members have been the most accepting, supportive and empathetic people I have known, even — especially — with regard to sexuality and survival. I am telling my story because I know this to be true.

I am a DKE. The person who introduced me to my fraternity is a survivor of sexual assault. With the full permission of this individual, hereon referred to by the pseudonym “Julian,” I am sharing how our organization provided us the network of personal and emotional support that we both needed.

During my second semester at Amherst, my parents separated. A common occurrence in America, of course, but it was the first of many obstacles I encountered in my four years at Amherst. This coincided with my pledge process in the spring of 2010. I had known Julian since the third day of school, and I first sought out his advice because he was a good friend, a senior and a former president of DKE. I comfortably told him my feelings of confusion, anger, self-doubt and hatred — textbook reactions to such an experience — and he in kind offered his story of survival, which I had never heard before. We sat with wet eyes in his room, experiencing one of those “heart to heart” moments that show the immense human capacity for compassion. In telling me his story, Julian demonstrated how the fraternity became his principal support network. I learned then that men like these could someday fill that same role in my life.

Yesterday, knowing both his survivor story and how active he had been on campus as a Peer Advocate, I sent Julian a picture of the poster at our protest. He in turn forwarded me an email he had recently sent to President Martin in response to the Trustees’ decision.

The email, entitled “I’m not a Rapist,” reads:

“President Martin,

The Trustees decision to institute a ban on membership in fraternities is an attempt by your administration to distract from the recently announced federal investigation into the handling of sexual assault cases, and to discount the college's ownership in dealing with the serious problem of sexual assault on campus by shifting blame to a small group of students.

Framing the decision within the context of the sexual misconduct oversight committee findings is unfounded and offensive. I'm a survivor of a rape and sexual assault from my freshman year on campus. My case, one of the first to make it to the Committee on Discipline, was mishandled and deeply flawed. DKE, the organization you've decided to associate with sexual assault, was the only group that supported my recovery. As a result, I was able to help others on campus heal from the wounds of sexual assault. I counseled many students (fraternity members and others) on sexual respect and tolerance. The fraternity was our forum to address issues men felt uncomfortable discussing elsewhere.

I'm not a rapist, so don't associate me and the organization who helped me recover with one.”

Julian was a victim of Amherst College’s failure to act, and his story adds to the rapidly growing list of sexual assault cases that the administration has botched. While I am loathe to potentially drag a dear friend’s painful memory into the public eye, I feel (and Julian agrees) that it furthers the ongoing dialogue surrounding sexual misconduct at Amherst in a way too valuable to ignore. It’s been almost two cycles of students since Julian’s assault, which, like countless others, was swept under the rug and largely forgotten. When Julian left, DKE lost our strongest voice ON campus. In his absence, common generalizations of fraternity life in American colleges have seeped in to fill the void. But his legacy isn’t gone — I think about what Julian taught me about being a good human with every incoming class of freshmen.

That is the critical issue at the center of this debate. Because much of what we do is secret, it is understandable that a large portion of the Amherst population, student and faculty alike, are in one way or another misinformed.

The second time my fraternity propped me up was in the summer of 2011, when my father was diagnosed with stage-4 colon cancer. He was a damn fine man, a lover of life and my best friend. We lost him the following year, and it was a point of my life that I still have problems reliving, even at this very moment as I write. Yet, the brothers of my fraternity were there for me every step of the way. They consistently requested every single surgery update, test result and progress report throughout my father’s fight. I spent countless evenings crying, divulging personal experiences and rambling in circles with my brothers — more so than with my own family or even my therapist. Regardless of the time or workload, I could rely on any of them to come over for a drink and just listen. In an organization such as this, it is truly indescribable the ways in which I have been given support I was unable to receive elsewhere. My brothers were there for me in a way my other friend groups — a cappella, club sports teams and other campus organizations — were not. I tell you this in an attempt to explain what I see as the immense value of brotherhood.

I lost my father while I was abroad in 2012. The notes, messages and even one hand-written letter (from a class of ’72 DKE alumnus) warmed my heart. Their demonstration of support from a distance carried me through that time. The greatest show of love came during the funeral, when a large, beautiful vase of white roses arrived with the note “With Deepest Sympathy and Respect, The Brothers of the Sigma Chapter of Delta Kappa Epsilon.” This gesture of love moved my own mother to tears, as she fully understood that DKE gave me another home away from the one she and my father created.

Recently, I embraced the fact that I am either gay or bisexual. (Sexuality is profoundly confusing). I would not have been able to come “out of the closet” without these people who have become my brothers. Growing up in a very conservative area, I smothered my desires in an effort to avoid humiliation and shame. My actions, sayings, gestures and general appearance were carefully manicured throughout my whole life to avoid the possibility of being labeled or identified as a homosexual. I was legitimately planning on spending the rest of my life with a well-disguised secret. This reality did not change when I arrived at Amherst. Although the Queer Resource Center provides terrific support, it was unable to fulfill my emotional needs. Yet, DKE was once again able to make up for this void. My fraternity provided a well-timed solution in addressing my fears. Two semesters ago, we pledged our first openly gay man and a close fraternity brother came out to me. For the first time, with their support, I felt comfortable enough to confront my feelings. Given time I was able to accept my true identity and share it with the fraternity, the campus and eventually my immediate family. My experiences in a fraternity have wholeheartedly defined who I am as an individual, even instilling in me the confidence to write and publish this article regardless of its personal content.

The Amherst experience is unique, but it can be powerfully alienating. When that occurs, fraternities and the bonds they build can serve as a crucial support system for many young men who would otherwise lack a shoulder to lean on. In an effort to realize a more open, accepting, egalitarian and diverse campus, the college has banned a group that truly embodies that vision — the very thing that they are trying to promote. By removing these support systems, the college will inevitably make a negative impact on the lives of incoming students who could greatly benefit, as I have, from a fraternity-like institution. These fraternities are not the bastions of white, heterosexual male privilege that some have mischaracterized them as being. I’m a gay minority male who was recruited by a survivor, and I am a DKE.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Sat, 05/10/2014 - 12:19

No story of friendship can negate the hazing and sexual assault.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Sat, 05/10/2014 - 14:23

Did you even read this article?

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Sat, 05/10/2014 - 14:23

Second hand conceptions from an anonymous poster. Can't engage in meaningful discourse under those premises.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Sat, 05/10/2014 - 14:44

I'm sorry, but you have no idea what you're talking about. As a female who attended Amherst College, I can honestly say that the DKE guys were some of the nicest, warmest, and most respectful people I knew on campus. It's people like you who make broad sweeping generalizations with no evidence or proof to back your claims up that actually hinder the progress of the fight against sexual assault. Put down your pitchfork and little stick with fire on it, get up from behind your computer screen (which I'm sure you haven't left in days), and stop being so fucking brutal.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Sat, 05/10/2014 - 12:25
Anonymous (not verified) says:
Sat, 05/10/2014 - 12:39

A very powerful account. I am not a member of Greek life on campus but I could not agree with your sentiments more. There is no reason for the administration to take away such a valuable support network. Students should be allowed to seek support in whichever way is most comfortable for them. Eliminating these groups is beneficial to no one.

Andreas Shepard '11 (not verified) says:
Sat, 05/10/2014 - 13:03

Thank you for sharing.

A friend (not verified) says:
Sat, 05/10/2014 - 14:22

Incredible amount of respect for you. It takes a great deal of bravery to share this.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Sat, 05/10/2014 - 14:29

Few would deny that fraternities do really good things. I think the argument is that they also do bad things, or at least things people would prefer not be associated with Amherst College. Whether the good outweighs the bad, and whether the support described would have been possible without fraternities, is a separate issue not addressed here.

Aaron Wallman-S... (not verified) says:
Sat, 05/10/2014 - 14:30

Thank you for providing such an eloquent, poignant example of the support and love that can be found in a "fraternity-like" institution. Amherst students, particularly those struggling in the aftermath of trauma (whether yours, or Julian's, or that experienced by any of the far too-numerous survivors of sexual assault on our campuses) deserve more places to find this type of institution, not fewer.

Emma Werner (not verified) says:
Sat, 05/10/2014 - 14:53

This. Is. Amazing. So on point, Carlos! You rock (and so does DKE).

Greek from anot... (not verified) says:
Sat, 05/10/2014 - 15:08

It's not a question of whether the good outweighs the bad. It's that broad, sweeping generalizations are made about fraternities that aren't true, and your comment implies that by their nature, they do bad things. There is nothing inherent about a brotherhood that means hazing or date rape. These are things that occur on college campuses with or without greek life, and must be dealt with at the source: a culture that supports them. They are both found in football teams across the country but I don't see Amherst canceling its football program. The point is to deal with the culture, not just make symbolic gestures that help noone. From what it sounds like, this fraternity is an incredibly welcoming and supportive environment, not one where brothers have to prove their masculinity to one another with sexual exploits, so removing it will, if anything, get rid of another space that could be part of the solution to ending rape culture

Peer at Amherst (not verified) says:
Sat, 05/10/2014 - 15:09

Thank you for sharing and being. open about your experience with DKE. You're incredibly brave. I'm happy to hear that you were able to find a home at Amherst--good luck with everything!

Supporter (not verified) says:
Sat, 05/10/2014 - 15:22

It's not a question of whether the good outweighs the bad. It's that broad, sweeping generalizations are made about fraternities that aren't true, and your comment implies that by their nature, they do bad things. There is nothing inherent about a brotherhood that means hazing or date rape. These are things that occur on college campuses with or without greek life, and must be dealt with at the source: a culture that supports them. They are both found in football teams across the country but I don't see Amherst canceling its football program. The point is to deal with the culture, not just make symbolic gestures that help noone. From what it sounds like, this fraternity is an incredibly welcoming and supportive environment, not one where brothers have to prove their masculinity to one another with sexual exploits, so removing it will, if anything, get rid of another space that could be part of the solution to ending rape culture

Sigma DKE Almnus (not verified) says:
Sat, 05/10/2014 - 15:27

You make me very proud. ITB.

Hopeful (not verified) says:
Sat, 05/10/2014 - 15:50

Thank you so much for putting yourself in a vulnerable position and sharing such an intimate and painful story. These sorts of honest exchanges will contribute to productive conversations about recent Greek life debates at Amherst.

Full disclosure -- I support the decision to ban fraternities. I am also very open to having constructive dialogues (not angry debates) about how to create spaces on campus that are safe, supportive, and inclusive. Experiences like the one Carlos described here are important in broadening minds (mine included) about the types of experiences that can be had in a fraternity. These stories are important in breaking down stereotypes.

My concern is that this recent decision caused an immediately defensive reaction from members of fraternities. I understand this reaction and I think it is a natural one. However, I encourage members of fraternities to try and continue a very long and difficult learning process: one that critically examines systems of privilege and power; one that attempts to view this ban not as an attack against their individual groups, but as an attempt to remove exclusive spaces that are only available to 10% of men on campus with inclusive spaces that are available to all students; one that is open to change, progress, and a healthier campus-wide climate.

I have many friends who were members of fraternities at Amherst. I believe many of these men to be feminists and allies to survivors. I was also told many times by them that I would fit right in with the fraternity -- but could never join. I was sexually assaulted by a member of one fraternity after a party hosted by another fraternity. I certainly have personal reasons for supporting the ban -- we all have personal experiences that contribute to our opinions -- but these aren't driving my opinions on the subject.

Rather, my lifelong commitment to social justice and equality drive my opinions. Data on effects of Greek life and campus culture drive my opinions (statistically proven data that illustrate links between fraternity membership, binge drinking, sexual aggression, perpetuation of rape myths, and rape-supportive attitudes; links between sorority membership and binge drinking, becoming victims of sexual assault, and developing a negative body image -- see Kingree et al, 2013; Calzada et al., 2011; Murnen at al., 2007; Franklin, 2010; Rolnik et al., 2010).

I do not doubt that fraternities provided important spaces for many, many, men at Amherst. I know many of these men, and continue to read more and more stories that support this fact. I do not doubt that these men have had struggles, or that fraternities provided a necessary supportive space during those struggles. I do, however, encourage fraternity members to step outside of their individual stories, acknowledge the greater structural and societal oppressions associated with greek life, and interrupt those oppressions.

Let me finally say, I share the skepticism that the trustees' decision may simply be scapegoating one troublesome institution for the sake of appeasing an increasingly critical public eye. I am giving them the benefit of the doubt, however, and waiting to see if more change will come. I hope that we as a community can come together with empathy, selflessness, and critical awareness to move forward and create a better Amherst for everyone.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Sat, 05/10/2014 - 18:02

"Statistically proven data" - as a scientist you should know that theories are never proven, merely supported, regularly revised, and often disproved.

Amherst Alumnus (not verified) says:
Sat, 05/10/2014 - 15:59

Not the one of sexual misconduct framed in the trustees' terribly worded resolution. Thank you so much for your bravery in sharing your story.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Sat, 05/10/2014 - 16:09

"I do, however, encourage fraternity members to step outside of their individual stories, acknowledge the greater structural and societal oppressions associated with greek life, and interrupt those oppressions."

Seriously, what societal oppressions are these? The only thing I can think of is the lame argument about "white male privilege" which has already been debunked by the fact that most of the men in fraternities at Amherst identify as a minority. OK, so is it because only men are allowed to join? In that case, Amherst should allow sororities. Amherst also disbanded the only co-ed fraternity in 2009. Fraternities do not "oppress" anyone. They are inclusive and welcome to all men on campus.

BTW, there are a lot of clubs and teams on the Amherst campus that are exclusive (cultural and ethnic groups, a cappella groups, etc.). Do these groups also make you feel oppressed? Right, didn't think so. I can already hear you whining back, "but these groups don't promote sexual assault!" Just because fraternities are known for having parties (which, BTW, EVERYONE is invited to), doesn't mean they promote sexual assault. That is a huge leap of faulty assumptions that can only be supported by literature that, frankly, doesn't represent Amherst's greek environment one bit. And if anyone, personally, feels oppressed by Amherst fraternities, then I think it's time for them to re-evaluate their priorities and/or how they define their sense of self, because a group that does not directly affect you in any way should not make you feel like you are less than.

Your method of making a "better Amherst for everyone" is creating an idealistic and completely UNREALISTIC social environment that will ultimately make a lot of people feel lonely, isolated, and unsupported.

(A little less)... (not verified) says:
Sat, 05/10/2014 - 16:56

Thanks for your response. It seems to me like your anger and defensiveness caused you to miss some important points in what I initially wrote.

First, there are lots of societal oppressions. Surely you don't deny the persistence of discrimination in our society? If you are one of the individuals who buys into "post-race" (or maybe in this case, "post-gender") myths, then maybe this is a waste of my time.

I am hopeful, though, that because you took time to respond to me you are also willing to reflect. "White male privilege" is not a "lame argument," nor has it been debunked in larger society. Male privilege certainly still exists at Amherst, and the existence of fraternities is only one example of this. A conversation about developing sororities at Amherst may be productive! In the past, however, attempts to start sororities at Amherst have been shut down swiftly. There are compelling reasons not to continue or strengthen greek life at Amherst, though, described in detail in the research that you claim "doesn't represent Amherst's greek environment one bit."

This leads to my next point -- I shared that I had been sexually assaulted by a member of one fraternity after attending a party of another fraternity. By claiming that the literature "doesn't represent Amherst's greek environment one bit," you are dismissing the very real experiences of many women -- not just me. I am acknowledging that the Amherst fraternity experience was beneficial to its members, and I am hoping that you and others can acknowledge (or begin to consider the idea) that Amherst greek life fostered environments that are, in fact, in line with what the literature posits.

This is a contentious issue, and assuming my responses, predicting me "whining back," and dismissing my experiences are all symptoms of the types of problems that should be discussed now. I'm not sure if you are or were a member of a fraternity, I'm not sure if you are a man. I do know, though, that our opinions differ significantly, and rather than insulting and dismissing, I am trying to contribute to a constructive conversation.

You call it unrealistic and idealistic, but why shouldn't Amherst strive for the ideal? "It always seems impossible until it's done." -Mandela

? (not verified) says:
Sat, 05/10/2014 - 17:58

Fraternities are not "inclusive and welcome to all men on campus." I know guys who wanted to join frats and but never got invitations or weren't asked to join after the rushing process. If all men at Amherst wanted to be in a frat, they couldn't. Not "inclusive and welcome to all men on campus."

That's not really a relevant point to this guy's story, but it should be part of a bigger talk about frats on campus, and shouldn't go unchecked when people try to say they're open to everyone.

Tom (not verified) says:
Sat, 05/10/2014 - 20:11

Nothing is inclusive to all men on campus, to be on a sports team you have to play and be good at the sport, to join some societies you have to be in a certain major and/or have a certain GPA. You have to fit in and fraternities are the easiest since if you really want on you can make your own or almost certainly find one that you like. Sometimes you won't like the guys in a chapter and sometimes they won't like you so you have to find your own place.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Sat, 05/10/2014 - 16:18

"It's not a question of whether the good outweighs the bad. It's that broad, sweeping generalizations are made about fraternities that aren't true"
^yes, but this is exactly what the supporters on this comment thread are doing as well - assuming that due to this heartwarming story (and I do mean that sincerely), fraternities are now wonderful support networks exempt from any accusation of sexism, exclusivity and elitism. We could all afford to be a bit more careful when making generalizations

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Sat, 05/10/2014 - 16:54

I would encourage you to re-read to words in italics at the top of this article. The author is clearly not trying to speak for the actions of all fraternities or their members.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Sat, 05/10/2014 - 17:13

The comment was directed not at the article, but at blanket responses such as "DKE rocks" or "this is DKEs legacy."

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Sat, 05/10/2014 - 16:32

I think it's fair to say that because of the large array of different types of people that belong to fraternities at Amherst, they actually serve as almost a microcosm to Amherst's student body as a whole. People that don't belong to fraternities can be and sometimes are sexist, exclusive, and elitist. This is not news to anyone. Just as someone can be raped or sexually assaulted by someone in a fraternity at Amherst, so can they be raped or sexually assaulted by someone who is not in a fraternity.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Sat, 05/10/2014 - 17:27

In general, the criticism directed towards fraternities is not meant to be an attack on the perceived moral deficiency of frat members. This is something that I think most people are still mischaracterizing. The criticism is directed towards the general structure of fraternities - ie no one is doubting that fraternities create a sense of mutual support and brotherhood, but the question is whether or not such loyalty to brotherhood might compel frats to, say, house a fellow "brother" guilty of sexual assault

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Sat, 05/10/2014 - 16:34

I've been hearing a lot of stories of these support groups for the young men of Amherst and this story has really helped dispel some of the sweeping generalizations that I have had in the past concerning Amherst frats. At the end of the day though I still have reservations of jumping on board completely with the non-support of the trustees' decision because the fraternities were banned in 1984 as a result of the fact that females were not included as well as their safety was a concern. Now I understand that things are not the same as they were in 1984 regarding that, but as a female myself who never had this support system that you speak of or I guess a sort of sisterhood offered to me I envision the trustees decision as hopefully steps towards an Amherst culture in which support systems like the one DKE provided for you can be provided to everybody on this campus. As well, I understand that you all are pretty visible, but there still are young men who are left out of this as well for lack of connections or being sought out for recruitment. I am sincerely happy that throughout your four years at Amherst and the harder times in your life DKE was there for you, but I just know too many people on this campus who at some point in their time here needed a support system like that but did not have it because of the fact that they identify as female or the fact that this support system is only offered to an extremely small portion of the campus or the fact that like myself they came here looking for a culture that didn't necessitate frats and sororities or would love support but would rather not be associated with a group of this nature. As well, when I came here as a freshmen and heard that despite the ban there actually were underground fraternities I was disheartened. In my opinion and you can disagree I feel as if these frats and sororities can be seen as a bandaid for the larger Amherst cultural problems that we see on this campus and complain about so often and in your case I understand that this bandaid was what you needed. There are no sororities or at least established as much(I wouldn't even know who to turn to to find the female sorority or society) as dke, chi psi, or whoever to provide females with this support system, and I think that this small sacrifice of a support system for a small portion of the campus could be the necessary stepping stone for support systems for larger portions of the campus inclusive of a larger diversity of gender, sexuality, class, and color which was the intentions of the ban in 1984. We can direct our anger on this decision at the board of trustees for their blatant disrespect in regard to your opinions though idk why we expected much more from a group primarily concerned with the state of Amherst' finances, but I think we can take your story and recognize the key themes of support and familial relations that DKE provided for you and envision them on a much grander scale for broader far more inclusive parts of the campus.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Sat, 05/10/2014 - 17:19

Amherst fraternities were actually co-ed when they were banned in 1984.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Sat, 05/10/2014 - 17:15

The issue I have with the trustee resolution isn't the decision to ban fraternities, it's that they framed the decision within the context of the sexual misconduct oversight committee findings. I'm an alumni and I fully support the current students and administration in jointly shaping the Amherst experience to best serve the institution and community. Had the text of the resolution framed the decision in that context, I would have supported it. Instead, the resolution unfairly impugned the reputations of both current students and many distinguished alumni - those who know that I was in a fraternity at Amherst would read it and have reason to believe that I contributed to an environment that enabled a harmful culture of disrespect and sexual misconduct. Even the most stringent dissenters of fraternities aren't naive enough to assume that their existence is the root of the misconduct and support issues plaguing the student body, but that's not how the resolution was presented. Simply put, if you were Carlos or Julian, how would you feel upon reading those accusations?

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Sat, 05/10/2014 - 18:10

I have had qualms about fraternities at Amherst, but after reading this article I'm certainly reforming many of my opinions. Thank you for your bravery.

Peter Lagomarsino (not verified) says:
Sat, 05/10/2014 - 18:13

As another Amherst Deke, open minded, inclusive and feminist, I am happy to read this brave personal account, but NOT surprised -- as Deke is exactly the group to accept and support this type of personal journey. In the bonds.

Matt Ribe '06 (not verified) says:
Sat, 05/10/2014 - 18:27

This is a fantastic story and I'm glad it has fostered some lively and important dialogue on this topic. That being said, I think a few of you may have misinterpreted some of the above responses to each other. For example, I don't think that anyone was trying to make the point that "white male privilege" does not exist in society; but rather that fraternities at Amherst, due to their multi-ethnic makeup, are not an example of such privilege.

Regarding the role of greek life at Amherst and to what extent it mirrors the culture found on other campuses, it's important to recognize the differences between Amherst's social scene and those scenes at other, larger universities. In many of those universities, much the social scene revolves around fraternities and sororities, and this fact leads to a culture of peer pressure and machismo that can result in sexual violence.

At Amherst, by contrast, fraternities are just one peer group among many. For new young male students at Amherst who are trying to figure out where they might fit-in in a new and strange environment- one that is often dominated by sports teams and other groups- fraternities are an option that are open to all. True, only a relative few young men each year decide that a fraternity is right for them; but this fact alone does not make fraternities "exclusive" or "elite." Rather, the small size of fraternities simply serves to strengthen the bond amongst those who do choose to join.

Granted, these same options are not open to young women at Amherst due to Amherst's history, but it seems to me that a more constructive solution might be to expand the social options that are open to women to include sororities rather than simply banning fraternities. Given Carlos' powerful story and some others related in the responses offered in response, I think we can agree that we need more social support groups at Amherst, not less.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Sat, 05/10/2014 - 18:49

As a female who has dealt with some of the worst Amherst has to offer, I'm truly shocked that the fraternities are the ones being targeted. I don't believe the problem is with the fraternities, I think they're an easy scapegoat, but in actuality are some of the more respectful men on this campus. The problem is with the sports teams. Lacrosse, baseball, soccer... The way THEY treat women is what needs to change. Please.

Amherst '15 (not verified) says:
Sat, 05/10/2014 - 20:52

This is a fantastic article, and points to the need for smaller communities within the larger Amherst College community to serve both as places for social life and as support systems. I like most of the guys in frats who I know at Amherst. A lot of the guys I know in frats are not the "coolest" guys at Amherst. In fact, many of the more socially awkward (I'm not saying this in a negative way - I like these guys a lot) guys that I know are in frats, and many seem much happier and more comfortable with themselves after having joined them. Most of the guys who I've encountered at Amherst who have big egos and think that they can do whatever they want to women are not in fraternities.

Having said this, there is a huge problem with unregulated frats: dangerous pledging processes. A number of guys in my freshman year dorm pledged DKE, some of them were socially awkward and having trouble making friends. They wanted a home, and they found it in DKE. However, they had to do some horrible things to become brothers. Specifically, I was told by multiple pledges that there was one event where the pledges had to finish 2 kegs between them without putting the kegs down. After a while, one pledge would drink while another pledge ran to the trash cans set up at the back of the room to throw up. The only way to complete the task was to continuously vomit. When these pledges got back to the dorm, other residents had to take care of them all night because they were so drunk and dehydrated. TD has a pledging rite where one member each year is named the "unicorn" and has to wear a dildo on his head while a hired stripper "has sex" with the dildo.

Socially awkward freshmen should not have to endure these "rites of passage" in order to find community and support. Amherst does need sub-communities, and perhaps regulated Greek life is the answer, but Greek life has such a deep association with degrading and destructive pledging rituals that perhaps a new solution is in order.

Carlos, I'm so happy that you found support within DKE and this article is incredibly brave. I really like the DKEs who I know. But you shouldn't have to do disgusting things to find community and a support system.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Sat, 05/10/2014 - 22:59

When I was a freshman on the soccer team, I was forced to chug bottles of MD 20/20 while hopping up a social dorm fire escape with my ankles duct taped together. The point is that the school needs to investigate and solicit student input on all aspects of campus social life and student support systems. Scapegoating fraternities is a narrow and unsatisfactory response to the recent federal investigation and the troubling sexual assault complaints.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Sun, 05/11/2014 - 01:50

I agree, students should not be forced to do the things you described, whether true or hearsay. That being said, let's not distract from the main point: fraternities provide a network of support for young men, and many times this is the ONLY way for these men to receive that support. Maybe Greek life and pledging isn't the end-all answer, but why take it away now? Why not establish social alternatives that have a real impact on campus first, and address Greek life second? Keep in mind that the college has had 30 years since the initial fraternal ban to come up with ways to create an inclusive, welcoming campus, and things have only gotten worse. I think you'd find that if the campus implemented initiatives to foster a greater sense of community, fraternities would be the first ones behind them: their desire for a more diverse, inclusive community is what brought them together in the first place.

What would have happened to Carlos had DKE not been there for him? What would have happened to Julian? Large numbers of future Amherst men will not have the support networks they did, and this truly scares me.

UMass Ally (not verified) says:
Sun, 05/11/2014 - 02:18

Thank you for sharing your story. I cannot begin to understand the hurt that you have experienced in various forms over the past few years, and I am glad to hear that you have found a group of people you trust and view as a family.

Chris (not verified) says:
Sun, 05/11/2014 - 09:00

Powerful and well written. Feel lucky to be your brother. ITB, Ace '02

Zeta Chapter (not verified) says:
Sun, 05/11/2014 - 09:08

As a brother of Zeta Chapter (Princeton), I greatly understand how your brothers have helped you through so many challenges. My freshman spring I lost my mother, and I likely would not have finished off the semester if it were not for the help of my pledge class and older brothers. The bond of a fraternity is strange, and I am unsure if it can be matched on such a large scale elsewhere in life. Yes, I share a similar relationship with my closest friends from high school, but I would be very hard pressed to find 20+ other individuals that I hold so closely. If you ever visit Princeton I encourage you to reach out to our chapter, we would be pleased to host you and your brothers.

alumnus (not verified) says:
Sun, 05/11/2014 - 11:47

If the administration is not upholding the possibility of disbanding sports teams or any other organization that exhibits the same characteristics that they are attributing to fraternities, then the administration is obviously scapegoating, using stereotypes and playing to the national media audience to distract from the utterly dismal conduct of their own staff in handling sexual assault. When reading about what women survivors have been subjected to by the Amherst administration, it seems right out of Titicut Follies www.ucpress.edu/content/chapters/10394.excerpt.pdf . Rather than deflecting national attention to Amherst fraternities, the administration should look in the mirror. Then, perhaps, they could implement a policy that was even-handed and applied to all organizations at Amherst College including Amherst fraternities and the administration itself. Abruptly disbanding anything without due process stinks of self-serving knee-jerk gestures. We would like to think that Amherst College is better than that.

DKE Zeta '15 (not verified) says:
Sun, 05/11/2014 - 14:33

Your story is truly inspiring and beautiful. My university also frequently attempts to deal with its cancerous cultural issues by foisting the responsibility onto "greek life." My brothers are my lifelong friends, and reading your account of the brotherhood you've found at Sigma chapter has made my day. I wish you and your chapter nothing but the very best. Do not hesitate to call on a brother of DKE Zeta if you ever are in need. ITB.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Sun, 05/11/2014 - 18:45

The DKE and Chi Psi guys were some of the most active males in discussing sexual assault. Before I graduated, I heard stories of how one of the men's sports teams threw condoms at women for fun. #justsaying

PiKappaPhi (not verified) says:
Sun, 05/11/2014 - 22:18

I am from the University of Nevada, and my fraternity has provided much of the same support that yours has. I find it a shame when others make sweeping generalizations and stereotypes for us in the greek community.
Your story was both inspiring and familiar.

John (not verified) says:
Mon, 05/12/2014 - 01:02

For the past two years, I feel as though everyone on this campus has chimed in on how "rapey" amherst's party scene is and how the status quo of the social scene is untenable. But has anyone actually brought up any ideas about how to improve this rape culture scene? Do people really think the power plant is going to change all the things that are wrong with Amherst's night life? I'd really love if someone could formulate one good idea about how Amherst's social scene should be, rather than complain about how rapey it is.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Mon, 05/12/2014 - 12:24

I commend the author on sharing such a powerful story with the broader community. Unfortunately the story will have no effect. The board of trustees and the administration have an agenda and no new information would alter their thinking. They are intent

I am an alum who reads with

Brodie Johnson '80 (not verified) says:
Tue, 05/13/2014 - 16:17

I believe the Title IX problem is that the College is discriminating based on gender by banning fraternities. To say they are banning both fraternities and sororities doesn't cut it, since there is already a Department of Women's and Gender Studies, and there are no sororites to "ban". Amherst has created an environment that is hostile to men by depriving them of the right to peaceful assembly, a right which is granted to every other conceivable subset of the College, even Republicans! The canard of the desire to remove vestiges of patriarchy is betrayed by the fact that the President is female.

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