The stereotypical fraternity brother is a paragon of white privilege — a racist, homophobic bro who comes from a rich family. And, unfortunately, two recent cases of homophobic frat hazing are not doing anything to erase that stereotype.
Last Friday, at the University of Delaware, local resident and former university student Rancel Valdez was attacked and broke his leg. Valdez, who is openly gay, said he was invited to a party and spent several hours there before his attackers — believed to be students — approached him and made homophobic comments.
Valdez responded by flipping them off. The attackers pushed him to the ground and started throwing punches. Valdez fell and broke his ankle. He’s currently without health insurance and will be out of work for a month while he heals. Valdez says he’s worried about how he’ll cover his medical expenses, particularly while missing a month’s pay.
The off-campus party was a joint venture between two frats: Phi Gamma Delta (known as FIJI) and Kappa Sigma Xi-Lambda. Phi Gamma Delta is recognized by the University, as is Kappa Sigma Xi-Lambda, though the latter is currently suspended over prior disruptive conduct. Anonymous Phi Gamma Delta members told The University of Delaware Review that the national organization has told frat members not to publicly discuss the incident.
And this is far from the only homophobic incident at the University of Delaware. Tylor Matthews — president of Haven, the largest LGBTQ student organization on campus — says, “Honestly, at this point, I’ve become numb to this. Although our campus likes to claim that we’re a diverse, accepting campus I feel like … that’s just an empty title, because things are always happening. … So hearing about this, I just felt numb. It’s something else that happened on UD’s campus, what’s new?”
Almost 300 miles away, at Syracuse University in New York, the Theta Tau fraternity has been suspended for “extremely racist” behavior. Videos recorded in the Theta Tau frat house (like the one above) show fraternity brothers getting a student on his knees to repeat an oath in which he “solemnly swear[s] to have hatred in [his] heart for [Black people], [Latinx people] and most importantly the fuckin’ [Jewish people].” (We’ve removed the racial slurs from the oath.)
Another video shows a Theta Tau member calling two others by an anti-Semitic slur and telling them to “get in the fuckin’ showers.” Still another video shows a homophobic frat member telling others to “Get together and [talk] about their significant others while drinking different wines and talking in gay girly accents.”
While the homophobic frat incident at the University of Delaware is still being investigated to determine the identities of Valdez’s attackers, Chancellor Syverud of Syracuse University released a statement announcing Theta Tau had been immediately suspended. Syverud also said all evidence had been turned over to the school’s Department of Public Safety to identify those involved for “additional legal and disciplinary action.”
Hazing — not just frat hazing — often trafficks in homophobia, whether it’s in the world of sports or the military. It’s believed that homoerotic and homophobic hazing allows elder frat brothers to both inflict the abuses they’ve endured and test new members’ willingness to submit to tradition and group-think — without succumbing to emotion or “destructive” homosexual desires.
And hazing is dangerous. Since 2010, there have been over 90 recorded hazing-related deaths. Though many states have anti-hazing laws — including New York and Delaware — they’re obviously not doing the job. Some have argued for the entire Greek system to be disbanded, but that could lead frats to go underground, which would shield them from even the inadequate regulation that exists now.
What’s the solution? We don’t know, but we know we need one as soon as possible before anymore people are hurt or killed.