As a result of a story in the student newspaper The Tufts Observer that alleges sexual misconduct, Massachusetts’ Tufts University has shut down social activities at four of its fraternities pending investigation.
“Fraternities claim to be founded on values like ‘brotherhood’ and ‘loyalty’ and ‘trust,’ but in reality are institutions rooted in White supremacy, queerphobia, heterosexism, and transphobia,” gay student Ben Kesslen says in his piece, an op-ed titled “Abolish Fraternities,” published last month.
Kesslen claims that upon pledging a fraternity he was subjected to hazing, and, more specifically, was forced to watch sex acts in the frat house’s basement.
An excerpt from Kesslen’s piece:
The first night of pledging I was blindfolded and brought into a basement of an off-campus house where I took a shot of what I think was Fireball and then was welcomed to the brotherhood. That night was supposed to be a “fun night;” it wasn’t when the “real pledging” began. I had to serve brothers beer and get to know their names. Then, they brought two women—neither of whom were Tufts students—into the basement, who proceeded to disrobe and have sex with each other on a mattress on the basement floor while we were all told to watch. When I asked to leave, I was told I could step towards the back but couldn’t exit the basement. I was pressured to stay, and too afraid to defend myself. Forcing someone to watch sex acts can be categorized as assault under Tufts policies.
I stood there watching 18-year-old boys perform oral sex on these women. I watched as they were told to see who could bring one of the women to orgasm first. I watched on the outside, often turning my eyes away, horrified and disgusted, standing next to seniors in the fraternity enraptured by the scene, standing next to Tufts alumni who had returned to this off-campus basement to watch this “tradition.” I stood there knowing this would be the last night of my membership in the fraternity. If this was the night when nothing “bad” was happening to us, I couldn’t even begin to fathom what the rest of the process looked like. (It is important to note that a member of this fraternity has told me that this tradition no longer takes place.)
When it was all over and the women left, the brothers brought us into a room upstairs. They sat us in a circle and told us to memorize—in a moment that felt unbelievable—everyone’s names and allergies. We weren’t allowed to leave the room until we completed this task. They brought in a garbage can and told us if we had to pee or puke, do it in the garbage can. We were told to name the garbage can and the other pledges decided to name it “Mia Khalifa.” Mia Khalifa is a porn star; these boys named a bucket of urine and puke after a woman.
I dropped the fraternity the next morning and was warned that I could not tell anyone what I had witnessed the previous night. And the truth is, I didn’t tell anyone. I didn’t tell anyone because within just 12 hours of being inside I had already internalized the mentality they were trying to create. I was scared of the brothers, scared of the house, scared of everything it represented. Within 12 hours, I was already silenced—my values and morals and beliefs already placed behind the fear I held for these boys. After all, this was a good fraternity. I didn’t want to ruin their image.
Kesslen continues that he feels fraternities should be abolished from his school, replaced with investment “in true community building, communities not founded in violence but rather in love and shared values.”
Since the piece’s publication, the executive director of public safety and several Tufts deans released a statement that condemned the alleged events as “deeply disturbing.”
The school’s Panhellenic Council also expressed condemnation, saying all of its organized events with fraternities and sports teams would be suspended and releasing the following statement:
We, the members of the Panhellenic Council, want to acknowledge the current state of toxic hyper-masculinity in our country and in particular within Greek life at our university.
We are thankful that Ben Kesslen courageously brought this to light in his Nov. 7 Observer article…. We condemn both the sexual assault and the sexual harassment reported by Kesslen. We are disgusted and horrified that this is happening within the organizations with which we work.
Administrators at the school have decided all fraternities must participate in sexual misconduct prevention training, an alcohol education session and training with a national hazing prevention expert.
Not surprisingly, many students are outraged that Tufts’ Greek system has been shelved for the time being. One student tweeted, “One person single-handedly destroyed the entire Greek system at Tufts.”
(Photo via TheBlackSheepOnline.com)