For several months, LSA senior Paul Tassi was one of campus’s most notorious figures, even though most students didn’t know him by that name.
On his blog, hosted at collegeotr.com, Tassi wrote under the pen name Johnny Quest – a slightly different spelling of the name of the cartoon action hero. He ranked the top 10 fraternities and sororities on campus and judged this year’s sorority pledge classes by attractiveness. He insinuated that members of one fraternity drug and rape women attending their parties. Before classes began this fall, Tassi scoured Facebook.com for the “hottest” incoming freshman female. Then he posted her picture and some of her interests, predicting that she would join Kappa Kappa Gamma in her first semester. His reasons: “Her hotness, brunetteness and Jewishness.” She did.
Tassi and two other student authors also wrote posts about campus news and events, but it was Johnny Quest’s discussions of the Greek system that garnered thousands of page views and hundreds of comments. The most popular post on the blog, which ranked the top 10 fraternities and sororities, had 8,000 page views and 170 comments as of last night.
Many commenters criticized Johnny Quest for posting anonymously. In one instance, he replied saying it was essential to his goal of critiquing the Greek system.
“It’s the only way to do it,” he wrote. “I don’t need a bunch of assholes storming my apartment because I said they pop their collars or wear their hats crooked.”
But now, Tassi has unmasked himself. The blogger wrote a final entry last night revealing his identity and displaying his photo. In the background was a poster of the cartoon character who was Tassi’s online namesake.
Tassi, the film editor of The Michigan Daily, chose to stop writing for the blog and reveal his identity to his readers after Karl Stampfl, the editor in chief of the Daily, discovered that Tassi was the blogger and told him to choose between the two publications.
In his post last night, Tassi said he plans to keep writing for the Daily.
“Their position is that when people find out I’m employed by the Daily they may interpret things I’ve said that some might think are racist, sexist or anti-Greek as being the viewpoint of the Michigan Daily,” he wrote. “I won’t even address the racist and sexist concerns as anyone who reads my site clearly knows I speak almost entirely in sarcasm and I’d like to maintain that I’ve never been anti-Greek, only anti-douche.”
Stampfl said he decided Tassi shouldn’t be allowed to work for both publications because some of Tassi’s entries, though satirical, could be considered sexist or offensive toward the Greek system.
“I’m not saying that Paul Tassi is any of these things – I really think he’s a great guy,” Stampfl said. “I want to be very clear that those aren’t necessarily the views of the Daily.”
Tassi said he wishes he could keep writing for the blog but is somewhat relieved to be done writing about the Greek system. Many members of the Greek system were trying to figure out his identity, he said.
“I started hearing people in my class talking about it. Literally, I’d be like four feet away from them, and they’d be talking about Johnny Quest,” Tassi said. “That’s when it hit home.”
Since he started posting on the blog in June, Tassi took a particularly keen interest in the University’s Greek system, writing a series of entries called “Michigan Greek Mythology” in which he rated fraternities and sororities on various criteria. Sororities were ranked on a 1-10 scale for their “Campus Rep” and “Bitch Factor,” and fraternities were graded on their “Campus Rep” and “Douche Factor.”
Tassi has been particularly critical of some houses, including Sigma Alpha Epsilon, an Interfraternity Council fraternity housed on Washtenaw Avenue.
In an entry posted earlier this month, the blogger said he suspected the fraternity’s members of drugging women at their parties based on firsthand accounts from several female friends. He gave the fraternity a 46 out of 10 in the “Douche Factor” category.
“The real reason I hate SAE are the stories, all of which are told by females and begin with ‘So I started drinking jungle juice . ‘ and end with ‘ . and then I woke up naked.’ The middle? There is no middle. Because they don’t remember it,” Tassi wrote.
Andy Barr, the president of Sigma Alpha Epsilon, said he wasn’t concerned about the post hurting the fraternity’s reputation because it was untrue.
“I don’t think that what he said represented our house,” he said. “You can either take it as a joke or take it personally, and I thought it was kind of funny.”
Tassi also compiled a list of the top 10 fraternities and sororities, ranking them on how fun they are to party with and how attractive their members are.
Jared Averbuch, the president of the Interfraternity Council, said he disagreed with the criteria used to compile the list – even though he said many members of the Greek system tend to judge houses and members based on appearance.
“It’s unhealthy, it’s something I’m not proud of, but it does happen,” Averbuch said.
Many commenters claiming to be members of the Greek system replied to Tassi’s posts by insulting other houses and, in some cases, calling specific members of those houses ugly.
Tassi said the comments on his posts demonstrated that fraternities and sororities take themselves too seriously
“They’re constantly comparing themselves to other sororities – who’s hotter, who has the hottest pledge class now,” Tassi said. “I’m sure the IFC frowns upon all that, but it’s a huge part.”
Averbuch said Tassi’s posts didn’t bother him because they were “one person’s opinion” but said he was dismayed by the response from Greek students. He said their comments reinforced negative and often false impressions about the Greek system.
“We basically played into the stereotypes with the comments,” Averbuch said. “The responses from the community were aggressive and offensive.”
Tassi said he started writing about the Greek system just for entertainment, but then realized how seriously members of the Greek system took his posts. He said he aimed to make the Greek system take itself less seriously.
“It’s amazing to see how much people really cared,” Tassi said. “They were arguing like, ‘Oh, we should definitely be number seven, not number eight.’ I’m just a guy who made a list. You’re really trying to fight over your spot on it?”
In the first comment on the farewell post, an anonymous commenter expressed sadness about Tassi’s departure.
“this post made me cry :(” the commenter wrote. “Where am I gonna get all my important gossip now?”
– Although he usually edits stories on this page, Editor in Chief Karl Stampfl did not edit this article because he was quoted in it.