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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Student Events makes mockery of Greek symbols

Published: April 7, 2006
Section: Opinions

As over 1000 accepted students and their families arrived on the Brandeis campus this Wednesday, they were greeted with the usual Brandeis welcomings blue and white balloons, banners, smiling faces. What seemed puzzling, at least to me, was that many of these banners, advertising Student Events upcoming Bronstein Weekend, contained Greek letters. Student Events, apparently masquerading as Sigma Epsilon, have proudly displayed these two Greek letters on nearly a dozen banners throughout our campus.

As a member of a Greek organization at Brandeis or should I say, an unrecognized, disenfranchised, shunned, off-campus fraternity I was appalled to see that the University allowed Student Events to take the liberty to flagrantly flaunt Greek letters around our campus, especially on a day designed to welcome visitors to our community.

Primarily, my frustration stems from the unfortunate fact that Greek organizations at Brandeis are, perhaps, the most outlawed and most marginalized groups on campus.
Non-Jews are more or less assimilated into the predominately-Jewish culture on campus (even attending Purim parties and dinners at Chabad);

Republicans are encouraged to come out of the right-wing closet in the face of an extremely liberal community yet Greeks, those heinous fratboy monsters and their superficial sorority counterparts, are forced to hide everything about themselves and their organizations. Brandeis, an institution founded on the ideal of inclusion, ironically, wishes to exclude these students and their organizations. Even though Greek students are fully integrated in other campus programs, provided they do not wear their letters or mention their organizations (I was asked to do both of these things during orientation) the University wishes to operate under the pretext that Greek life, and the dangers it imposes, could never infiltrate the all-accepting utopia that is Brandeis University.

I understand that Student Events, of course, is not actually trying to pass themselves off as a fraternity. Instead, they are trying to create a specific atmosphere for their upcoming Bronstein Weekend. Bronstein Weekend, as I have come to understand it in the past few years, is supposed to be a fun, spirit-evoking spring release, where our Universitys lackluster social scene is filled with events and parties that celebrate Brandeis. What is ironic, then, is that Student Events has chosen to make this years Bronstein center around the fictitious university of Bronstein State. Bronstein State, Student Events wants us to believe, is a traditional and fun place, filled with foam fingers, footballs, spirit rallies, and of course, fraternity toga parties, all sponsored by Sigma Epsilon. Why would Student Events one of the largest clubs so connected to our University feel the need to create this artificial universe of Bronstein State? Whats wrong with our own school if our spirit weekend celebrates the fun we all could be having at another institution?

Furthermore, these problems are compounded by the fact that hundreds of accepted students were parading in front of these Greek letters. People outside of our community do not know that fraternities and sororities are unrecognized on campus, and they may have actually believed that this fraternity, Sigma Epsilon, was sponsoring the social events taking place this week (this would be normal for countless other schools that our accepted students probably have visited over the past few months, where fraternities are welcomed and encouraged to help sponsor on-campus activities). Why would Student Events allow for this confusion? And more importantly, why doesnt it bother the University?

Additionally, these actions by Student Events and the University come at a time that causes my specific organization, Phi Kappa Psi, an additional sting. Last week, we approached campus administrators with, what we felt, was an amazing opportunity for an on-campus event. A Brother in my organization had been in contact with Gabe Kapler, Jewish outfielder for the Boston Red Sox, and had arranged to have Kapler come to Brandeis for an appearance which would help raise money for his charity (which supports battered women and other victims of domestic violence). The Universitys response, not surprisingly, was that although the event sounded beneficial to the Brandeis community, Phi Kappa Psi, which had done all of the legwork to make it happen, could take no credit for bringing Kapler to campus. If we arranged to have a chartered or recognized club advertise and book space for Kapler, the event could take place, but again, Phi Kappa Psis name could not be attached to the event at all, and we could and the University made this quite clear under no circumstances display our letters. The University, standing by a policy that outlaws Greek organizations, would not allow us to bring a celebrated Jewish sports hero to campus, merely because we were a fraternity.

In this light, Student Events use of Greek letters for their Bronstein advertisements is completely inappropriate and offensive not only to a University so dead-set on ignoring fraternities, but also to my organization (and the half-dozen others on campus), which are completely ostracized and forbidden from posting our letters anywhere.

I would have liked for Student Events to have been more respectful when planning their Bronstein weekend campaign, and I would like to see the University hold them to the same standards to which my organization is held. If fraternities and sororities are outlawed from campus and not allowed to post their letters, then Student Events should also be prevented from utilizing Greek characters, especially in this specific mocking manner. The actions of the past week have created an unfair precedent, allowing Student Events to make a mockery of Greek symbols. More discouraging, the Universitys silence represents a complicit disrespect that further marginalizes members of its own community.

Jon Weinstein '07
President, Phi Kappa Psi