The thin Greek line
*Editor’s note: A correction has been made to the article for clarity. Wake Forest’s Office of Student Engagement released the statement informing the community that as of Sept. 2, the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity is on interim suspension due to an unregistered house party that occurred on Sept. 1. The sexual assaults were reported to the university on Sept. 16 and are alleged to have happened on Sept. 14 at the DKE house on Polo Road.
- Added information: High Point University’s official statement:
“We continue to be saddened by the loss of Robert Tipton, whose tragic death at an unaffiliated, off-campus housing apartment complex nearly seven years ago was ruled a drug overdose by the state medical examiner. Neither High Point University nor any of its administrators are involved in any current lawsuit. We strongly rejected accusations made by the plaintiff against High Point University, all of which were dismissed in 2014, again in 2015 and yet again in 2016.”
By: Jim Longworth
Fraternities (aka Greek Letter Organizations) have been around in America for more than two centuries. They were originally established as secret societies within a college or university. But secrets are hard to keep once a police report is filed. That’s what happened last month, according to a statement from Wake Forest’s Office of Student Engagement, when two alleged sexual assaults took place at the Delta Kappa Epsilon house on Polo Road in Winston-Salem. Wake Forest University acted quickly on Sept. 2 in suspending DKE from temporarily engaging in any fraternity activities due to a reported unregistered party on the Sept. 1. It was the frat’s second suspension in two years, the first having come after charges of hosting unregulated parties. About two weeks later, sexual assaults were reported to have happened at the house on Sept. 14.
It should also be noted that other DKE chapters around the country are no strangers to disciplinary action. In 2011, for example, Yale instituted a temporary ban on DKE after its members went around chanting, “No means yes. Yes means anal on grounds.” Those chants came as no surprise to Yale Daily News reporters Hailey Fuchs and Britton O’Daly, who wrote that DKE was, “an organization notorious for disrespecting women.”
Reporting on fraternities in general, The Guardian’s Jessica Valenti wrote that men who join fraternities are three times more likely to commit rape. In that same article, Valenti noted that in 2014, a Georgia Tech frat brother distributed an email guide entitled, “Luring your rapebait.”
Valenti also reported that while she was a student at Tulane, fraternities were “hotbeds for all sorts of risks beyond sexual assault…including alcoholism and dangerous hazing incidents.” That’s something Deborah Tipton knows all too well. In March of 2012, her son Robert, then a junior at High Point University and a member of Delta Sigma Phi fraternity, died from what police said was a drug overdose. But Tipton told the Greensboro News & Record that the autopsy report showed that Robert had, “purple bruises on his face, around his neck, and on his legs and buttocks, as well as a jagged gash on his head.” Tipton is convinced that her son’s death was frat-related, so she tried to sue the national fraternity and HPU, but a judge ruled that the University “did not have a duty to protect Robert.”
I suppose Penn State didn’t have a duty to protect Timothy Piazza either. He died after his Beta Theta Pi brothers made him drink 18 alcoholic beverages in less than 90 minutes. Or how about LSU student Maxwell Gruver. He died after his Phi Delta Theta buddies forced him to drink 12 “pulls” of 190 proof liquor. Andrew Coffey and Matthew Ellis met similar fates during frat parties at Florida State and Texas State University respectively. All four deaths occurred last year.
At one time, Greek fraternities might have sought to simply provide their members with a private haven for collegial fun, but increasingly, many fraternities are becoming better known for sexual assaults, binge drinking and dangerous hazing. With all due respect to the many fine institutions of higher learning who have dealt with fraternity problems by handing down temporary suspensions, they should grow a spine and follow the lead of Oberlin College, Brandeis University, Guilford College and others whose policy is “No fraternities allowed. Period.” A permanent ban on Greek Letter Organizations across the board will save lives and promote equality among all students, and that’s no secret.
Jim Longworth is the host of “Triad Today,” airing on Saturdays at 7:30 a.m. on ABC45 (cable channel 7) and Sundays at 11 a.m. on WMYV (cable channel 15).