What makes discovery of Kappa Delta Rho's top-secret Facebook page so distressing is that it constitutes hard evidence of long-suspected behaviors and attitudes.
Here is photographic proof (unless it's an elaborate hoax) that when women pass out at fraternity parties, the guys don't take care of them.
They take advantage of them.
Reaction, predictably, has ranged along a continuum from "a few bad apples" at one end, to "tip of the iceberg" at the other.
The "bad apples" defense rings hollow at the moment. There seem to be a few too many bad apples.
When we hear that photos have been taken of women who were undressed and unconscious and that those photos were then posted on social media, we don't want to hear the usual high-minded hooey about the brothers' dedication to service, leadership, academic achievement and brotherhood.
We don't want them to deflect blame onto a scandal-mongering media system that has it in for fraternities and Penn State.
We want them to condemn such behaviors and attitudes in the strongest possible terms. We want them to implement changes in the orientation of new members and the planning of social events to curtail such behaviors and attitudes. We want to see a sense of urgency.
Instead, we have Greek "leadership" counseling restraint until all the facts are known – fair enough – and attempting to muzzle the rank and file lest anyone stray from the party line in an interview with one of those odious reporters.
And we have an anonymous KDR member reminding readers of Philadelphia Magazine that Greeks are the prime fundraisers and organizers of Dance Marathon.
Overall message: This is first and foremost a public relations problem. Now where in the world could they have learned that?
As laudable as THON is – who can fault an activity that raises $13 million "for the kids?" – its cynical invocation as a damage control tool is hard to stomach.
THON is a new suit, a shave and a haircut on an accused felon. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, does this choirboy look like an ax murderer to you?
THON is regular Sunday church attendance by someone who lies, cheats and steals the other six days of the week.
THON is the fig leaf that is supposed to cover every shameful incident at the stately mansions with the Greek letters on the lintel.
Brothers of the 50 fraternities at this mighty university, I'm sure you engage in many fine and noble pursuits, but this is no time for sanctimony.
As in 2011, the work that needs to be done at Penn State goes way beyond image repair. A wholesale examination of the pathologies of undergraduate life, and the outsized role played by fraternities – and alcohol -- in those pathologies, is called for.
President Barron says he's forming a task force. Well and good. But don't look for immediate or dramatic changes, given the powerful interests involved.
Those who advocate "tearing down" KDR, for example, must reckon with the fact that the university doesn't own the building and needs the student housing. And the donations from fraternity alumni with happy memories of their own loutish undergraduate exploits.
Then too, if men have always behaved like swine toward women – especially, the anonymous expert who spoke to Philly Mag might have added, drunken men under the age of 22 living in unsupervised sex-segregated groups – it's not going to be easy to make them see the error of their ways.
But what if they gave a party and nobody came?
If fraternity houses are not safe places for women, perhaps the quickest way to change the culture is to reject it.
I know this sounds like victim blaming: It isn't the women who should have to alter their behavior; it's the men. But I'm thinking in practical terms: Women can change the social dynamic at Penn State starting this weekend just by not showing up – or showing up with picket signs.
I ran my boycott idea past the sorority members in one of my classes the other day. They didn't like it. They didn't think it was fair to single out the fraternities as the locus of Penn State's rape culture. So I asked them if they felt safe at fraternity parties.
Oh the cluelessness of the middle-aged man. If you're a woman, they explained, you don't feel safe anywhere around here. Going to a fraternity party is no different from going to an apartment party: You have to have to have your wits about you and you have to take care of each other.
I couldn't argue, though I thought this was a rather grim mindset to bring to one's leisure activities, and that the sorority sisters were a little too implicated in Greek culture to challenge it.
As one who lived two doors down from KDR for 17 years, I'll say this for my former neighbors: I doubt they're a whole lot worse than the house on the corner, or the one across the street, or the ones at the University of Oklahoma.
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