In the last 10 days on campus, two astonishing events have come to light. On Saturday, Oct. 28, after a mass shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh left 11 people dead and six injured, a swastika was carved with a pencil into the wall in Peavine Hall on campus. The second was revealed after a document belonging to the Pi-Iota chapter of Tau Kappa Epsilon was given to The Nevada Sagebrush containing songs depicting sexual assault, rape and other violence. As these stories headline our front page, we think it’s time to show we are better than this. Nevada, our university has seen enough.
At this time last year, the university community was coming to grips with the fact that a student attended the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, which made national news. The student, Peter Cvjetanovic, was photographed yelling at the rally and his picture circulated to all media outlets across the country. Not long after, swastikas were graffitied onto the walls of the Church Fine Arts Building’s stairwell, and the culprits were never caught. It was a year of reflection as the university faced its diversity issues and learned from them.
After all that progress, we’re right back where we started.
Last year, there were a number of opportunities for dialogue between the students and the university administration, and this dialogue has to keep going. We have to do better for the people at our university to ensure a safe environment for all.
The Associated Students of the University of Nevada recognizes this and has set up a town hall discussion, similar to what they had last year in response to the Unite the Right rally, and will be available to hear concerns from the university community on Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. in the Joe Ballrooms on the fourth floor. We encourage everyone who can be there to go. Even if you do not feel affected by these events, you should go to be an ally to those who are. We need to stand together.
For the past year, Greek life has been one of the biggest spectacles at the university. In February, six UNR fraternities lost recognition for not adhering to the university’s new policies, while fraternities such as TKE decided to sign the agreement — which was created to prioritize the health and safety of students at the university.
All fraternities and sororities at the university are required to participate in sexual conduct training. This semester, in the thick of the #MeToo movement, affiliated and disaffiliated fraternities decided to display their solidarity by hanging banners from their houses showing their understanding of consent. They got a lot of praise for saying something that is a basic human right. However, it’s just not enough. Supporting a movement means showing support even when the cameras and social media aren’t watching.
Although multiple fraternities participated in the hanging of the banners, TKE did not. The only thing worse than caring about sexual assault survivors just for the good publicity is to not care at all. The fraternity was silent.
If TKE really cared about survivors, someone would have spoken up — not only against sexual assault but against the songs their fraternity chants. There’s no reason songs about the brotherhood of being in a fraternity should even include the subordination of women.
These songs are coming from a fraternity that hosts an annual “TKE Sweetheart” pageant, where one young woman is chosen to be their sweetheart for a year while donating the proceeds of the events to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. None of the women competing would knowingly want to be a sweetheart to a chapter that disrespects women behind closed doors.
It is not hard to respect women. Respecting women isn’t just a Twitter trend, it’s a practice. If men don’t understand respecting women by the time they reach college, maybe we should try new ways of teaching children about consent and interactions with women. Maybe fraternities should change their philanthropies to organizations that support sexual assault survivors and interact with survivors directly to see what harm is done by rape culture.
These events do not and should not reflect what our university is about. Let’s take our school back from hate like we did last year and prove this is not the real Nevada.
The editorial board can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @NevadaSagebrush.