Thursday, December 6, 2012

Chi Omega Penn State Controversy

I promised my next post would be more fun, but life intervened.  My next post was going to be about the Who.  I'm still writing that.  Really.
Several people have asked my opinion, as a Proud alum of Penn State and as an alum of the Greek system, what I think of the recent photo of the Chi Omega sisters wearing stereotypical Mexican gear at a party. 
The Picture in Question

I’ll admit that the first thing I thought was “after 25 years, they (Chi O’s) haven’t changed a bit.”

Of course, those were different times, and my assessment may not be a fair one.

Now the University is FAR more image conscious in the wake of the Sandusky scandal, and people are more tolerant of each other and therefore Intolerant of negative stereotypes.

If I had to guess, the occasion here is a themed social.  While I THINK I know in which fraternity house this was taken, I’m not going to say.  A social is when a sorority is invited to a fraternity for a private party, usually with some sort of theme, and usually early on a Friday night.

Did we have themed socials like this in my time?  Yes, my house had themed socials and many with Chi Omega, but I don’t remember ANY that intentionally used a cultural stereotype as a theme.  Perhaps my memory is selective.  It was long ago, and many drinks ago.

What?  yes, I was in a fraternity.  Many TG people were.  In my case, joining was a way to bury the female part of myself even deeper so it would never ever emerge.  As you can see, it worked.  (heehee)

The question I keep getting asked is “What were they thinking?”  The answer is simple.  They weren’t.  If they WERE thinking, they wouldn’t have posted the picture and tagged themselves on it.  That’s out there now- forever.  Think that may affect them getting jobs after graduation?  Absolutely: with anyone except a GOP politician.  (Zing!)  A hiring manager googles their name and finds this?  It’s over.  And you’d think that being members of the social media generation, they’d understand that. 

The fact is that these are young women in their late teens, early twenties tops.  If I wanted to let my bitter flag fly, I’d postulate that they probably aren’t used to being told “no” about anything, never mind experience the negative consequences of their actions, as they are attractive girls from probably affluent families and therefore get what they want, when they want it.  But then I’d be guilty of the same stereotyping that they are.  But being that age, in college and all, they’re not always going to make good decisions.  It’s part of the learning process at any university.

I would have only one question, which I saw in one of the articles I read on this.  This would be directed at the Asian American girl on the left side of the picture.  What if they dressed as Asian racial stereotypes, with comically slanted eyes and bucked teeth and speaking Pidgin English?  Perhaps holding up signs that were derogatory of HER heritage?  Her answer may be “Yes, it was a JOKE- all in good fun!  Chill out!” 

And that would be even more chilling.  That she WOULDN’T care.

I know many Chi Os from my time.  They were one of the top sororities on campus, and partied at my fraternity a LOT.  Many of our Little Sisters were Chi Os.  Most Chi Os ignored me, as I wasn’t one of the “popular guys” and I really didn’t go out of my way to pursue them. 

That said I know some DAMN intelligent, good women who are Chi Omega alumnae from PSU.  And I wonder what they think of this.  I know their National Office isn’t amused.

So, what would I think if it were MY fraternity actives in a picture like this?  What direction would I pursue as a concerned alumnus?  Well, my reaction wouldn’t be a popular one.  But I know our history on matters such as this.  I’d do exactly what we did before: Throw them out.  All of them that appear in the picture.  They’ve disgraced themselves and the letters, and have no place in the organization.

 But as I said before, my day was long ago, and these are different times.  And maybe we took our reputation more seriously back then these girls do with their letters.  I would start by asking my Brothers their thoughts.  You know, the ones who built outstanding professional careers and brought nothing but glory to the Fraternity- the men my age who are CEOs, managers, restaurateurs, educators, husbands and fathers.  What would THEY do? (Yes, looking at them, I’m once again not measuring up, but c’est la vie.  And how would they react to me being transgendered?  Not well, I'd guess.) 

What would I do if MY daughter were in that picture?  Wow.  I really hope and pray that I raise my daughter better than this- that she will respect people as people and not feel the need to degrade others for a laugh.  But if she were in that picture?  There would be a SERIOUS discussion of her future at the University, as she obviously wasn’t mature enough to be out on her own yet.

In the end, these girls will have to live with the consequences of this drunken night of fun, as will the Greek system as a whole, and even the University.  It’s not like Penn State needs more bad publicity, especially now that the media sharks are circling. 

The news today is that the Chi Omega national has put the chapter on probation (double secret?), whatever that means, and that they are working on “educational directives” for the chapter.  The University has said in an open letter:

 These disturbing behaviors involved expressive rights protected under various federal and state laws--rights which we strongly support, and which we honor by not vainly pursuing unlawful disciplinary action against the students involved. But we also cannot refrain from expressing our own feelings of deep disappointment and dismay.”

Maybe this will go away now.  Maybe not.  Probably not for the girls in the picture, or the Penn State Greek system in general.  I’m sure they’ll be catching hell for this for years to come.

So, those of you who asked, there’s my answer.

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