Joetopia

Are there no gentlemen in this fraternity?

Joe Tarica.
Joe Tarica.

A bunch of Greek college students got into trouble again last week.

They got caught on video acting like idiots, going along drunkenly with a crowd and engaging in offensive behavior.

They hurt themselves and the reputation of their university.

Also last week, some others dressed up like leprechauns and fell through a roof. But that’s a different story.

I’m not talking about our own beloved St. Fratty’s Day revelers and their literally over-the-top bash last weekend.

I’m talking about the fine, upstanding brothers of Sigma Alpha Epsilon at the University of Oklahoma, whose racist ditty sparked outrage nationwide. Two members were expelled and the entire chapter obliterated.

That was the result after someone thankfully blew the whistle on a disgusting tradition that apparently had been going on for years and may have involved SAE chapters on other U.S. campuses.

While riding in a bus and dressed to the nines, a collection of mindless punks crooned racial slurs and a reference to lynching to the tune of “When You’re Happy and You Know It.”

To refresh your memory, SAE is the same bunch of scholars who in 2008 hazed Cal Poly student Carson Starkey to death, an act that got the local chapter banned here.

It’s the same organization linked to 10 deaths related to drinking, drugs and hazing in less than a decade starting in 2006.

And it’s the group that — amid all that — claims to live by a code called “The True Gentleman,” which includes lines about how this honorable, fictional fellow “thinks of the rights and feelings of others rather than his own” and “appears well in any company.” Except for all the times real SAE brothers don’t.

The useless blather in that creed is so far removed from the repeatedly vile actions of SAE members, you wonder how they got into college or if they can read because they certainly have no concept of what a pledge is.

In the aftermath of their latest shame, we now get to hear more tiresome rhetoric as SAE’s national organization tries to distance itself from the scandal and an attorney hired by the Oklahoma chapter simultaneously condemns and mitigates the behavior.

“We’re talking about one incident, with nine seconds of video, on one of five buses,” Stephen Jones said in a Los Angeles Times story, as though the occupants of the others were quietly sitting reciting their rosaries, halos perched unimpeachably on their heads.

How do we know they weren’t doing the same chant and were just lucky enough not to get caught on camera?

Jones also wonders whether the brothers’ free-speech rights were violated. “We need to avoid a rush to judgment,” he said. “We need to lower our voices, and we need to take a breath.”

With all due respect, no, we don’t. We’ve done that before, and look where it got us.

Almost exactly a year ago, I wrote a column applauding SAE’s national president for banning pledging across the fraternity, in the wake of so many deadly drinking and hazing incidents.

It seemed like leadership was finally taking its problems seriously.

But, apparently that’s not enough, and cancerous growths still fester throughout the organization.

Did you know SAE is the only national fraternity whose founding traces to the Antebellum South, according to slate.com. Some 75 SAE members died in the Civil War, many fighting for the Confederacy.

Is it surprising a racist strain lives on in its houses?

Sigma Alpha Epsilon is now the largest fraternity in the United States. It has more than 200 active chapters across the country.

We can be happy one of those isn’t at Cal Poly.

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