Editor’s Note: The following column contains language that may be offensive to some readers.
At 2 a.m. Wednesday morning, a female Malleteer, Mari Baroff, who willingly disclosed her name for this column, was harassed by a group of men dressed in pledge gear while sitting alone on the steps outside Palmer Hall. They drove up in a silver car, and one got out and started yelling to get her attention. She tried to ignore them, but they continued to yell a string of obscenities at her that denigrated the Mallet Assembly and its members. One brother inside the car leaned out the window to yell, “You wish you could make half my salary in 30 years, you f**king c**t.” After several minutes of this harassment, two Malleteers came outside to investigate the noise, and the fraternity brothers got back into their car and quickly left.
The Malleteer victimized by this incident was also bullied in high school for being queer. The harassment that night left her badly shaken and unable to sleep, and a subsequent night she stayed over at Palmer, despite not living there, because she felt unsafe away from her Mallet family. This incident was triggering for her, as she has suffered physical assault for being a member of the LGBTQ+ community.
Mallet is familiar with harassment from fraternities. Every year, like clockwork, the new pledges drive by our building to yell slurs and curses at us for fun. Every year, we hear about how yet another fraternity has put their members up to stealing Mallet shirts as a sort of scavenger hunt. Two years ago, a group of pledges stole the Mallet Assembly sign and when our president rushed out to remove the sign from the bed of the truck, they started the car and struck our President with their vehicle. Friday, a member of Zeta Beta Tau dumped paint down one of our stairwells as a prank. Every year this happens, and every year we deal.
But verbally assaulting a woman who is alone at night while you are drunk and surrounded by your friends is an entirely different realm of indecency. That is intimidation protected by a shoddy veil of anonymity, and I have no doubt that these boys will hide behind that cover until this has effectively “blown over.” Their cowardice is self-evident, as is their lack of character.
When we were children, the villain was so easy to identify in movies and books. The antagonist was the one bullying people, threatening people, making people feel afraid or weak. We did not root for those characters because they hurt people, because what they stood for was selfish gain at the expense of what was ethical and right. I did not grow up wanting to be the poorly written villain in a Disney movie.
And yet, I am confronted with a reality in which my friends and I are opposed by people so obvious in their lack of decency that I don’t understand how they justify their behavior. I do not see how these boys, who got out of their car to scream misogynist, classist language at a girl sitting on some steps, don’t see themselves as villainous.
I do not know how the boys who do these things sleep at night, but moreover I don’t understand how other greek students tolerate this behavior from their brothers. If you hear a student discussing the harassment they intend to perpetrate against another community on campus, will you speak up? Will you report them? Or will you laugh uncomfortably and implicitly support their antagonism, which is ultimately associated with you as an otherwise upstanding member of the greek community?
I’m here to tell you that if you are greek, you hold a far better hand in this game than I do. I urge you to use your position to better your community. Step up. There is a reason this reputation will be associated with you if you do not.
Marina Roberts is a senior majoring in accounting and was the second female president of the Mallet Assembly. Her column runs biweekly on Mondays.