A Rough Week for Free Speech – Fraternity Edition
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It’s been a rough few weeks for free speech on college campuses with regard to Greek Life. In two separate instances at Illinois colleges, fraternities came under fire for…hurting feelings.
Members of the Millikan University chapter of Tau Kappa Epsilon will no longer be allowed to wear face and body paint at recruitment events according to Nicki Rowlett, Assistant Director of Inclusion and Student Engagement.
Face paint is “cultural appropriation,” according to a student complaint last year.
In her email to the TKE president, Rowlett states:
“Members of [Tau Kappa Epsilon] are prohibited from wearing black and red paint, wigs/and or clothing items that mimic or depict an ethnicity or culture. Failure to comply with the expectation will result in immediate removal from the event, and additional student conduct sanctions.”
At Northwestern University, fraternities apologized for hanging anti-sexual assault banners on their houses after feminists on campus got offended.
Northwestern’s Interfraternity Council (IFC) soon “faced criticism over the banners,” with some students saying they were “in poor taste due to the pervasiveness of sexual assault in fraternities,” while others argued that simply putting up banners was not enough to stop sexual assault and doing so was offensive.
Banners featuring statements like, “This is everyone’s problem” and “(fraternity name) supports survivors,” had been hung on the houses for Sexual Assault Awareness Month, which was in April. Students were so upset with these banners that the IFC issued a public apology:
“We recognize now how this campaign may have been emotionally triggering for survivors, and we want to make a deep, genuine apology for anyone that may have been affected,” the board said in the statement. “This was not our intent, but it is our fault for not being cognizant enough and not considering how it might affect others in our community.”
Because of these criticisms, the IFC announced plans to create a four-year sexual assault education program.
Both universities involved are private and should do what they want, of course. But, where will the “harsh consequences for feelings sake,” end?
No one at Millikan owns the colors blue, red, or black. And the only “appropriation” they were doing was of themselves – it’s the fraternity’s tradition. Will administrators start banning face paint at school sporting events, pep rallies, and activity fairs?
And why are students at Northwestern so upset about fraternities showing their support for victims of sexual assault during Sexual Assault Awareness Month?
Outraged students claim that these banners were in poor taste, but according to the Northwestern Annual Security Report, there were only three rapes reported on the Evanston campus in 2014. (And the report doesn’t say if those crimes were committed by fraternity members or not.)
Regardless of a student’s’ affiliation in Greek Life or not, ALL students are done a disservice when administrators and others create these nonsensical consequences when they are faced with forms of speech they don’t like.