A couple of weeks ago, during a large party at the Sigma Pi chapter house at Cornell, an incident of racial harassment took place between individuals at the party and some students walking past the house. From The Cornell Daily Sun “Allegedly taunting them with references to Trayvon Martin, a group of people on the roof of the Sigma Pi fraternity house reportedly threw bottles and other objects at black students who were walking by the house early Sunday morning, according to several accounts.”
Subsequently, the chapter was placed on interim suspension pending an investigation.
Beyond the disturbing nature of the incident, I am seriously bothered by the response from the chapter leadership. The Chapter President responded that they investigated, determined the one person who was responsible, and shared that name with authorities. He said that the one person was not a member of the Cornell chapter, and strongly implied that they were not in any way responsible for the incident. In other words, a guest of THEIR CHAPTER, at THEIR PARTY in THEIR HOUSE, is solely responsible for the incident. The continued response to this issue clearly shows that was the wrong approach.
Following a campus forum later in the week, a member of the Sigma Pi chapter wrote a guest column for the student newspaper that began to show signs of understanding the problem. While it does not indicate if he has a leadership role within the chapter, and appears that he is speaking only for himself, it is an important part of the conversation. However, at the end of his column he continues with the message that he wants to “clear the name of his chapter” and that outsiders were responsible.
Until the guys at Sigma Pi get the message that as a brotherhood they are all responsible for incidents, events and activities that happen at their chapter house and parties (or at any activity that is seen as a chapter function), they will not be able to demonstrate growth and ultimately bring closure to the incident. Please stop deferring blame to some unnamed, non-member, from another campus, person. Own the incident, and your responsibility, either through direct action or poor bystander behavior.
A protest on campus this week continues to show how this situation has escalated. This Sigma Pi chapter can help start to be part of the solution by not blaming others, and accept their share of responsibility.