Penn State fraternity Kappa Delta Rho was placed on full-chapter suspension this week after police discovered a private Facebook page containing nude images of women. Several of the KDR brothers are accused of taking pictures of women and posting them on a private Facebook page.
Both the Interfraternity Council and the Panhellenic Council have requested that fraternity and sorority members not speak to reporters about this, though Panhellenic President Abby Renko sent an e-mail to sorority presidents on Wednesday night stating otherwise. Previously, all of the members of my sorority received an email from our chapter’s president telling us we should not speak publicly about this incident. Greek Life gets plenty of bad PR: sexual assaults, fights, binge drinking, and the likes are commonly connected to Greek Life. But as a sorority woman, a Facebook page where fraternity members post photos of nude women is particularly scary for me. It could have been my sisters in those photos. It could have been my best friends. It could have been me.
For any chapter to direct members not to comment on something like this that so profoundly affects our lives is inappropriate, and in poor taste. Although I was instructed to not condemn KDR as a Greek woman, as a Penn State woman I feel compelled to share how these abhorrent acts fit into and impact our university community. This is an experience many Penn State women are going through, and we deserve to talk about it.
As a Penn State woman, I’m angry. This is an embarrassment to Penn State and Greek Life.
For all the grandstanding on the part of Greek Life for their philanthropic contributions to the community, their “chapter values,” and a commitment to scholarship and friendship, incidents like this reveal the alarming disconnect between the walk and the talk. I’m ashamed that these men are students of my university. I’m ashamed they sing “may no act of ours bring shame” and then turn around to do just that.
An anonymous brother’s interview defending the abhorrent actions is equally as bad as the page itself. This brother doesn’t think that posting non-consensual nude photographs of women on the Internet without their knowledge or consent is a legal issue. “This is not a criminal thing,” he said. “It’s not anyone else’s business, pretty much.” Well, first of all, you’re wrong. It’s all of our business to make sure those fraternity members are held accountable. But more importantly, this is not a victimless action. There are tens and possibly hundreds of Penn State women whose weeks have been consumed by this. It’s our business to be there for those women.
Think about all the women who have been to a KDR party at some point in their four years who now have to wonder how many members of the fraternity have seen photos of them naked and unconscious. What’s sickening is that these non-consensual photos could haunt the women for years to come. When they go on a job interview or meet with their boss at work, they’re going to have to wonder where those photos ended up and who has seen them.
Defending the Facebook page, the anonymous KDR brother said that “every Greek organization in the nation does the same old stuff, just as they have been for the entirety of human history.” Sadly, I wouldn’t be shocked if that were true. Other Penn State women I’ve talked to about this have said the same: They’re worried KDR isn’t the only house posting these types of photos. Penn State women shouldn’t have to operate in a culture of fear where pictures of their nude bodies are part of a disgusting display of fraternity antics.
Do the actions of a few define the many? They shouldn’t, but they quickly become the dominant story. It’s truly chilling for women to imagine that it could be them who were posted to the Facebook page. That it could have been a “friend” of theirs who violated their humanity. How can we tell these women they’re wrong to be skeptical, that it’s wrong for them to hesitate to trust? For the community to be a more trustworthy one, we need members to stand up. Be the anonymous informant that draws attention to a highly offensive Facebook page. Be better, do better, and help your friends do the same.
And despite the defense of the KDR brother and the fact that anything like this even happened in the first place, I’m pleased to see a Penn State community that was outraged. The university and the country alike have collectively condemned the incident as unacceptable, and support of that sort matters. President Eric Barron issued a statement on Wednesday night that mentioned the possibility for a “re-evaluation of the fraternity system.” Barron asked that everyone “give the best of yourselves to our community and show greater respect for one another.” For the university to join together in support of these women sends a message that crimes like this are not part of the Penn State we know and love.
Something as serious as KDR’s Facebook page not only warrants attention and public condemnation, but also a collective community response to events like this to ensure they don’t happen again. As Penn State women, we deserve much better than this. I encourage us to collectively demand to be treated better. We cannot, and we should not, continue to tolerate a campus culture where fraternity members see the posting of nude women’s bodies on the internet without their consent as “fooling around” that doesn’t deserve media attention. If we are looking for the opportunity to talk about better treatment, speaking up about something as horrifying as this is the perfect opportunity.