Did it happen? I don”t know. I really don”t. I”m not a policeman, a lawyer or a witness, so I just don”t know. And you probably don”t either. I”m speaking, of course, about last week”s allegations of sexual assault at a fraternity party. I”ve heard the gossip that it definitely happened, and I”ve heard the gossip that it definitely didn”t, and all I can say for sure is that I don”t know. Don”t get me wrong I”m not accusing anyone of being either a liar or a rapist. I”m simply echoing our justice system”s creed of “innocent until proven guilty.”
To listen to the campus buzz, however, the general consensus would have to be that a conviction is just around the corner. Considering the dearth of evidence for either side presented in the news, it leads me to one conclusion: Once again, local news outlets are feigning objectivity while continuing to bash fraternities.
The most disturbing part of it is that they”ve gotten sneakier about it. No longer are reporters making baseless accusations about fraternities. Instead, they make constant reference to wholly unrelated hazing cases from the past, framing the story as yet another fraternity gone bad.
The problem isn”t just that this sort of coverage is unfair to fraternities. An accusation of rape is not simply a Greek issue. It”s a much broader issue, a societal problem of sexual violence that is unfortunately prevalent on college campuses. The local news, however, creates the impression that the alleged rapes were isolated incidents within the much more serious problem of fraternity transgressions.
If you don”t believe me, collect all the articles you can find about this story and highlight everything that is actually about sexual assault and the alleged attacks. Now, in a different color highlight all the information about the involved fraternity and sorority that adds absolutely nothing to the original sexual assault story. Staggeringly slanted towards worthless frat-talk, isn”t it?
The worst part about this is that it actually serves to trivialize the horrible alleged crime by focusing attention on the fraternity instead. Not only that, but local news outlets have squandered an opportunity to help make the community safer. Think about how the articles would have differed if the focus had been placed on sexual assault instead of fraternities. Instead of just providing fodder for tasteless jokes and “clever” nicknames for the fraternity, the news could have inspired actual dialogue about rape and sexual assault prevention.
For God”s sake, two girls were allegedly raped and all people seem to be concerned about is whether the sorority paid for alcohol or if the party was registered. Where the hell are everybody”s priorities? Is everybody so obsessed with screwing the Greek system that they”ve lost sight of what”s really important?
It may seem like I”m making a big deal out of nothing, but I assure you it is significant. To really see why, look at what the effects of these accusations would be if hypothetically, they prove to be false. By turning the story into a “frat thing,” all that people will have done is drag a fraternity through the mud and create a generally bad taste for the Greek system.
On the other hand, if this incident was placed in the larger context of sexual assault, the news could have helped to generate awareness about a very important (and still under-discussed) topic. In that way, there are benefits regardless of the outcome of the charges and nobody”s reputation is done undue harm. Fraternity bashing gets old quickly alerting people about the dangers of sexual assault doesn”t.
As I said earlier, I don”t know to what degree these allegations of sexual assault are true. What I do know is that the portrayal of the story in the local news outlets has been shameful. Instead of placing the focus on the problem of sexual assault, journalists have chosen to take cheap shots at fraternities. For a while, I was starting to think it was hopeless. Fortunately, things aren”t quite that dire. Yesterday”s Daily included a front-page article alerting students to the potential dangers that may exist at college parties.
In an ideal world, the campus would change its way of thinking to get more in line with this article. Everybody would remember that in America, people (and fraternities) are innocent until proven guilty. People would stop looking to the Greek system for scapegoats and would start looking for wider societal causes and solutions of the sexual assault problem. But then again, I guess not. After all, an ideal world woudn”t have a sexual assault problem.
Steven Kyritz can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.