FIJI Is Not The Only Chapter To Blame For Cultural Appropriation In The WSU Greek Community

FIJI Is Not The Only Chapter To Blame For Cultural Appropriation In The WSU Greek Community

One chapter shouldn't take the fall for the entire residential Greek community's complacency.

2009
views

Washington State University is in the headlines once again, and, in true WSU Coug fashion, it is not for great reasons.

Last Monday, a video posted to Twitter spread like wildfire. The original video was taken down, but the damage had already been done.

#FIJIISLANDER2018 was the hashtag. The video? The men of Phi Gamma Delta (FIJI) dancing in grass skirts, serenading women in different WSU Panhellenic sororities. Immediately, Twitter users took sides, some claiming the video was nothing more than a group of guys having some fun, but the majority of students called the fraternity's actions out for what they were: cultural appropriation.

Cultural appropriation is where people from a group that oppressed or oppresses another group mimics or represents cultural artifacts or manners of the oppressed group in a way that expresses or reinforces psychological elements of the racist ideology inherent in the colonialist project responsible for the oppression (x).

In simpler words, cultural appropriation is mimicking and mocking other cultures.

The men of FIJI were doing exactly this — mocking and mimicking Pacific Islander community.

For WSU, a university that follows mottos like "Cougs help Cougs" and claims a key component is "building global understanding," this blatant ignorance and disrespect is not exactly the image that should be associated with the Greek community, which makes up 1/4 of the WSU student body.

The Greek community was quick to respond to this offense, issuing statements and promises to do better, to be better. The WSU Interfraternity Council released their statement, which partially read:

Their actions represent clear examples of cultural appropriation which does not align with the values of the Interfraternity Community, or Washington State University (WSU). The Interfraternity Council condemns these and all acts of cultural appropriation regardless of the intention behind them.

Which is great and all. I love to hear IFC calling FIJI out and condemning this kind of behavior. The men of FIJI do need to be educated on their cultural incompetency, and they all should apologize to the communities on campus that were harmed because of this video.

However, FIJI is not the only chapter to blame.

The entire WSU Greek Community is to blame as well.

The other IFC chapters who have performed similar serenades are to blame.

The Panhellenic chapters who have laughed and encouraged the behavior are to blame.

The Greek students who mock and disregard the UGC and NPHC communities are to blame.

The Greek students who refuse to acknowledge their privilege in being white, straight, able-bodied, male, Christian — they are to blame.

I was in a Greek chapter for almost three years. I was to blame. I laughed when the boys came and did ridiculous dances and sang to us. I did not call anyone out for wearing grass skirts. I did not find the harm in mimicking other cultures. I saw the humor, I enjoyed it, I moved on. I realize my wrongs, and I am glad I am in a place where I can now see all the damage my own complacency wrought.

Not every chapter is bad, and not every Greek member is in it for popularity or the party scene. I know amazing men and women in chapters who complete hours and hours of community service, who donate time and money to wonderful philanthropies, who are leaders in the community, who are going to go on to do amazing, beautiful, life-changing things.

But I also know the culture and the community of the WSU Greek system is incredibly toxic. It is blind. The system rewards ignorance with "top" status, with more funds, with a reputation on and off campus. The nightlife rewards it with exclusive parties and special benefits. The leadership refuses to report hazing, sexual assault, students in crisis. It's a mind game, one that ends with kids dropping out of college and dying.

This isn't just the WSU Greek community, it is all the chapters across the U.S. That's a whole other problem in itself.

Maybe this incident with FIJI is the wake-up call the WSU Greek community needs to change. I can think positively and hope this is the final straw. But I am also not naive enough to think this is where the conversation ends and that all will get better from here.

The WSU Greek community does not get to point the finger at FIJI, make an example of them, and carry on with normal operations as if nothing happened. That's what they did with DU. It's what they did with AKL. It's what they do with every single chapter who has the "misfortune" of taking the fall for everyone else's mistakes.

Nothing has changed. Who's next?

You can do better, Cougs.

Image Credit: Instagram // @fijiwsu

Popular Right Now

Just Because You Can Throw A Ball Does Not Mean Your Rape Is Admissible

Why are university athletes more likely to commit sexual assault?

1960
views

I wish rape didn't seep into every sphere of my life. But, like ink, it has.

Interpersonally, my childhood friend was gang-raped by members of the University of North Texas basketball team. As uncovered in an investigation, her circumstances were not isolated, unlike what it says in UNT's initial statement. I am proud to know my friend. I am proud to stand with her. However, I am ashamed at the situation and the commonness of her suffering among students just like me, on college campuses.

Politically, Betsy DeVos, Secretary of Education, promotes new fortifications for students accused of sexual assault. Basically, the rules would reduce the legal classification of harassment while offering protections for those accused of wrongdoing. In my emotions, I firmly believe in the American ideal of being "innocent until proven guilty". However, even in a crime so entrenched in emotions, I must look at facts. Facts say that the falsification rate of rape is the same as most other crimes, somewhere around 5%. Therefore, I believe that DeVos' proposal would tilt investigations in favor of the committer and significantly lessen the number of victims who would have the assurance to come forward and tell his/her story. In a campus-setting, where 1 in 5 women and 1 in 16 men are sexually assaulted, her "solution" adds gasoline to a country-wide fire.

Educationally, Brock Turner, a swimmer at Stanford University received just six months in county jail after being found guilty of five felonies, all of which amount to him raping an unconscious woman behind a dumpster. In defense of the light sentence, the judge said, "the more time (Turner spends) in jail, the more severe impact" on his future, who wanted to go to the Olympics. Never mind the future of the victim.

First off, rape culture, a sociological concept in which sexual assault is pervasive and normalized, exists. And while it exists everywhere, I can only speak with any authority on the campus setting, where hook-up culture is both catalyzed and camouflaged. Here, the area that needs the most treatment is in the locker room, on the court, or on the field.

Student athletes are proportionally the greatest perpetrators of sexual misconduct.

While a tiny 3% of male students are athletes, male student athletes are responsible for almost a fifth of sexual assaults on campus. And that is just the events that are reported, (just so you know, about 3 out of 4 go unreported). However, the NCAA has no policy that lessens a student's athletic eligibility in the face of sexually violent behavioral patterns. If you have allowed these numbers to simmer in your mind, you can see that this is unacceptable.

Why are university athletes more likely to commit sexual assault?

Most experts make cultural and institutional arguments.

Culturally, student athletes are not seen as "normal" students – rather, they provide a service to the college. Where most students get something from the college, student athletes give to the college, and we should be so lucky to have them grace us with their presence. It is a part of the status quo: high-status students on campus are athletes, especially males who play the most popular sports, like football, basketball, or baseball. These students carry social privilege.

Obviously, athletes are not naturally ethically worse than other students. I am simply saying that absolutely no one is immune to the culture that surrounds him/her, and we have a weird culture.

On average, athletes are more likely than other students on campus to buy into the cross-cultural concept of robust masculinity, which, in extreme cases, can lead to increased sexual aggression. Don't just take it from a non-athlete like me. Even Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, an NBA champion and a former UCLA basketball player, declared the cultural privilege from which he benefited.

"I'm especially aware of the culture of entitlement that athletes feel... they strut around campus with the belief that they can do no wrong."

I am not going to sugarcoat the point that we all know well: football players are comparable to celebrities on campus, which has dangerous implications for a certain untouchability in mindsets.

Institutionally, colleges are as inclined to protect the perpetrator over non-athletic peers. A Senate report concluded that administrators tend to do three actions to protect their athletes, and therefore, their brand.

1. Higher-ups at the school discourage victims from reporting to police outside of the university. In this method, they let the campus police "handle it" and not report to less-biased city forces.

2. Admins downplay an assault's severity, making it less 'criminal', more unintentional and of an event to "move on from".

3. The athletic department can work with the administration and strategically delay proceedings while athletes finish their season.

If these three things are not enough as far as systemic ethical transgressions go, when athletes are found responsible for sexual assault, they may face small consequences.

Just to pull an infamous example from my home state of Texas, Baylor University continues to wrestle with how to deal with battery; I don't need to go over the sheer amount of claims that they were conscious and compliant to most allegations of assault involving their student-athletes.

So, not only is our mindset messed up, but the administration who is supposed to protect us is similarly bungled.

Obviously, athletes are not bad people, only people that are subject to their environment and protected by their talent. But crime is crime. The unnamed victim of Brock Turner said it well as she argued that being "an athlete at a university should not be an entitlement to leniency, but an opportunity to send a message that sexual assault is against the law" no matter your status.

Throwing a ball does not make someone above the rules.

Yes, I realize that my words have become trite. Scary articles, documentaries, and books about the sheer magnitude of sexual crime in college abound. But I see my seemingly-repetitive diction more as a reflection of our fallen collegiate system, rather than of myself.

With my article, I only ask that you keep fighting for victims like my childhood friend, for the classmate who sits next to you in lecture, for yourself. This institutional and social discrepancy of "athletics above all else" happens at more universities than I had the breath to mention.

Your first step is taking a searing examination at the failure of American universities to grapple successfully with campus rape in the systematic pattern of protecting student athletes more than other students. The next steps follow naturally. Take part in the activism at your school, encourage survivors, and productively confront the problem. Fear not, the policies will change with your effort.

Politics aside, we are in a time for you to continue speaking the truth, even if your voice trembles.

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

10 Things I Learned From Joining A Non-Traditional Sorority

Joining a non-traditional sorority may not be normal but it can have its benefits.

46
views

When I started college, I had no intention of joining a sorority. However after hearing my friends talk about the amazing time they were having in their sororities I decided to try and join one. After multiple failed attempts at joining a traditional sorority, I finally found my forever home… in a non-traditional sorority. And after talking to my friends in traditional sororities, I found there are a few things that are different.

​1.  Every time you mention being in a sorority, you get a million questions of which one and people don’t seem to understand when it is not a traditional one.

media.giphy.com

2. You get to know all your sisters extremely well... almost too well.

media.giphy.com

3. You don’t have to drink to have a fun time.

media.giphy.com

4. You can’t find your sorority letters anywhere unless you special order them.

media.giphy.com

5. It tends to be cheaper to go the non-traditional route.

media.giphy.com

6. Big/Little is just as important for your sorority as a traditional one.

My Personal Photo

7. There are secrets… a lot of secrets. But it is so worth it.

media.giphy.com

8. There is very little drama but when it does happen everyone knows everything.

media.giphy.com

9. Your sisters will become your best friends and your big/little will be even closer than that.

media.giphy.com

10. No matter where you go you will see a sister and know her name.

media.giphy.com

Related Content

Facebook Comments