Revelation can take many forms, whether it’s in translucent rocks that help decipher scripture or the sudden shame that comes in the fourth or fifth hour of watching the NBC miniseries “Revelations.” You might think getting feces dumped on your head by your friends would be one of these.
But while I’d bet for several seconds Friday night three members of Sigma Phi Epsilon thought better of paying several hundred dollars to be publically humiliated, it’s human nature to usually toss yesterday’s deep-felt conviction out like so much refuse. It’s just that usually no one — and least of all, those involved — notices the hypocrisy of disposal in action.
Such is the unenviable predicament members of Sigma Phi Epsilon have put themselves in, needing to square a tradition that reportedly involves pledges put through “hell week” getting revenge via buckets of human waste with their president Mike Miesen’s brilliantly circular assertion in The Badger Herald that “hell weeks are for fraternities that haze, and we don’t haze.”
I am certain Mr. Miesen is completely sincere when he says this, if only because in no possible world could his fraternity do anything constituting hazing. I’m also certain he is completely insincere when he says “the leadership including myself do not condone this sort of action.” If that was the case, then this “irresponsible and immature” incident would not have been a tradition, as Mr. Miesen acknowledges.
But wait, say the professional rationalists, the Interfraternity Council defines hazing as “any means, action or situation that recklessly or intentionally endangers the mental or physical health or safety of a student for the purpose of initiation.” Anyway, it might only have been a concoction of muesli and durian that looked, smelled and felt like shit, so that makes it OK. Let he who has not pretended to drop a bucket of fecal matter on his neighbor’s head cast the first stone.
Fine, let’s assume the buckets did not contain anything unsavory and did not violate any public decency ordinances. But even if this was not formally part of an initiation ritual, even if it was freshmen pouring mayonnaise on seniors, that doesn’t mean it can’t be harassment. Allegations against the University of Wisconsin Marching Band in 2006 did not include such a definition of hazing, but that didn’t stop Chancellor John Wiley for calling for its “virtual extinction” if the group didn’t shape up. For the record, Mr. Wiley told The Badger Herald recently he is convinced the band has turned a new leaf.
Let’s assume the ill-conceived Friday event was entirely consensual and merely a disgusting tradition. Still, what kind of tradition is this for a group with the stated goals of “speaking cleanly, playing cleanly and living cleanly?”
Hypocrisy is not against the law, but incidents like this simply confirm the cynic’s view that the Greek community is incapable of conducting itself with any semblance of maturity, except when ticking off their community service hours.
This is a gross generalization, certainly, but even if Bucketgate is an anomaly, it seems obvious that it is an anomaly that will continue as long as the Greek system is simply a bunch of people who pay a lot of money to live together. Without a specific goal to work toward, there will always be those who simply treat their position like a joke. Just ask Senior Class President Oliver Delgado. And if a joke is really all some fraternities and sororities want to be — and if no one is being degraded for the punchline — fine. But the Greek community will continue to be slung through the mud as long as it recruits its members under the two faces of community and beer bong leadership.
Tim Williams ([email protected]) is a senior majoring in English. Although he’s sending the runner for the last time tonight, he will surely go out with a blaze of masterfully articulate glory, flailing into the sunset.