Readers upset with fraternity, gang column

Stereotypes make for bad evidence

In Tuesday’s opinions piece “Fraternities, gangs share some ground,” Sara Goo makes several broad comparisons between these two very different groups.
There is some truth in her comparisons that gangs and fraternities have “hierarchical structures with leaders and followers,” create an environment in which close friendships grow, and have “visual signs to separate and distinguish them,” but these generalizations force readers to draw exaggerated connections between two very different organizations.
If anyone attempted to make such broad generalizations comparing other groups, they would be equally successful. Comparisons between gangs and families, fraternities and corporations, and apples and oranges can be made to create skewed realities. Families protect and care for members just like gangs do. Fraternities have officers to run operations just like corporations. Apples are fruit with seeds and a protective skin just like oranges. Although these comparisons are true, we must recognize that each of these entities is very unique.
The comparison between gangs and fraternities is no different.
However, the negative attributes that Goo applies to fraternities do have some truths. There is a history of “risky behavior on the part of new initiates,” a “history of engaging in sexual assault crimes against women” and making “(new members) do the less-respectable jobs.” We would argue that these viewpoints, as all stereotypes, are exaggerations based on a small sample of behavior applied to the entire group. Although we make no excuse for the behavior, we believe that these negative aspects are a small and unrepresentative sample of our organizations as a whole.
In addition, these stereotypes are growing less applicable to our organizations as we make stronger efforts to combat the behaviors that Goo highlighted. We are and have been actively working to educate our members about the issues of sexual violence; personalizing the negative affects of alcohol and drug use for our members; understanding that human dignity is shared among all, pledge or active; and the importance of opening our doors to the very diverse community we are a part of.
We have come to recognize our faults, but we have always believed in our strengths. As value-based organizations, which for many of us provide a foundation for our ethical development, there is a great deal of benefit that we receive from belonging to the greek community.
As a greek community, we work for children’s and women’s issues, leading the University, assisting in our state and federal governments and providing an environment of acceptance to individuals. Our contributions to our members, our University and surrounding communities are never highlighted. Goo believes that “society accepts and looks upon fraternities favorably,” which we strongly disagree with. As members of the greek community, we are more commonly confronted by opinions like Goo’s column than viewpoints that praise and accept us. Most opinions subscribe to the same stereotypes that Goo uses to draw comparisons between fraternities and gangs. We believe that our strengths as a collective are far greater than our weaknesses. To understand this, however, requires taking the time to know us.
Goo appears to believe that we must understand other organizations and recognize the individuals within them. She has taken the time in her life to understand that gangs are groups of people that have human qualities. We agree. Instead of looking to promote the negative aspects of fraternities, it is far more productive to understand us and our positive features and work with us to change the negative behaviors Goo refers to. In reality, the greek community has been a part of the college life since the beginning of the 19th century and at the University of Minnesota since its inception. It is unlikely that we will disappear in the near future.
Before we can ever work together to create a positive community, we must truly understand each other and not accept the stereotypes that allow us to make categorized statements that are not only unproductive, but untrue.

Kathy Ungerman, Pi Beta Phi Sorority;Jim Hilt, former panhellenic president, Sigma Chi Fraternity

Good deeds are often overlooked
I just finished reading Sara Goo’s Tuesday column “Fraternities, gangs share some common ground,” and it baffled me. What baffles me even more is that the Daily tends to publish only bad things about fraternities and the greek system in general.
As a member of Beta Theta Pi fraternity, I know that a letter was sent to the Daily editor a few weeks ago from a priest at Holy Rosary Church. The letter talked about what the members at Beta did at the church and how we really helped them out. Numerous others of the 60 members of Beta Theta Pi helped out with a big philanthropy project to raise money for the new “Elevator Fund” at Holy Rosary Church.
The priest wanted to thank us for all our hard work as well as let other students and faculty members at the University know about some of the things that we are doing.
Although I was helping out at another philanthropy project last Sunday, the priest asked me if the letter had been printed or mentioned in the Daily and he was disappointed to know that nothing was even mentioned.
I know that the greek system is not perfect, but I would like to know why the Daily continually publishes columns and articles that make us look bad. When it comes to nice things to be said and good letters written about us, those things seemed to be over looked.
Kevin J. Morkjunior and member of Beta Theta Pi Fraternity

So what if frats and gangs are similar

In response to Sara Goo’s column regarding the parallels that can be drawn between different social organizations, I would courageously suggest that all of us adhere to some group or movement that partially acts as our social descriptor. It can be as obvious as a gang, or fraternity, or as subtle as having a sticker on the rear window of your car reading “University of Minnesota.”
Sara made a truthful statement in her column’s title on Tuesday. The problem is, besides a few half-true, mostly dated statements that reveal her state of misinformation, Sara gave no useful argument regarding her initial premise. A synopsis of her article could be as terse as, “Fraternities and gangs are both social organizations.” So what? The cooking crew at McDonalds is, too. What’s the point?
Although I usually enjoy reading Sara’s column, her most recent one left me with a mental hangover. Not the kind one gets after a fraternity party, rather the kind of hangover one feels after watching any of the afternoon talk shows. Sara, you can do better than that.

John Abraham, alumnus, Delta Tau Delta Fraternity