This letter reflects the opinions of business administration junior Naser Abotel. Letters to the editor do not reflect the opinions or editorial coverage of Mustang News.
Like many in the community, I have struggled to properly articulate my views regarding the current campus climate. One thing is now clear, though: divisive rhetoric and actions are more common than we thought. That being said, I would like to address the authors of two editorials recently submitted by greek members, as well as the entire greek life community.
Your freedom of association is a right protected by the First Amendment; your affiliation with Cal Poly, however, is a privilege. For decades, universities across the nation have protected greek organizations for several reasons, ranging from the attractiveness for prospective students to the increase in alumni donations. That protection can only go so far. I commend President Jeffrey Armstrong for his decision. I believe he now realizes that Cal Poly can and will remain attractive without greek association. Admitted students have a complicated decision-making process; any student who treats greek life as the deciding factor is not a student that belongs at Cal Poly.
I take particular issue with greeks who play victim in this situation. On the contrary, greeks are the cause. Before you shout, “not all greeks,” please remember you are aligning yourself with ideologies such as “not all cops” or “all lives matter.” We know that most greeks are not guilty of explicitly racist actions like those by Kyler Watkins, just like we know that most police officers are not guilty of racially-motivated brutality. Those of us on the outside take issue with the culture that allows for such actions to not receive immediate condemnation from members inside the organization. That culture, which was evident in the messages sent between members of the Interfraternity Council leadership group chat, is the reason why I believe Armstrong’s blanket ban is reasonable. For greeks to earn the respect of the campus community, they must be proactive. Retrospective condemnation will never be enough.
I sincerely hope that greek organizations use this downtime to understand why the surrounding community holds such hostile views towards them. If you want to change the minds of those who consider your membership a toxic culture lacking the capacity for self-awareness, then prove it. Claiming to be the scapegoats of a multi-layered issue will not win you any new supporters. That type of rhetoric is inherently divisive, and only enables more recent incidents involving racist flyers and graffiti. Rather than claim ignorance by outsiders (for the record, I was in a social fraternity for six months), take the time to realize why stereotypes about greek organizations exist. That’s how you can make a difference in this sensitive climate.
To conclude, I would like to repeat a famous quote that has always struck a chord with me personally:
“When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.”
*This letter has been edited for clarity.