Harassment of Mallet enters a new realm

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.

  • Chris Luehmann

    Here here. The level of systematic xenophobia on this campus is disturbing.

  • Joe Day

    Here’s the funny part: thanks to the news coverage of the protests last month, Mallet is the face of all that’s right with UA, and the Greeks look like a modern-day White Citizens’ Council – at least, to the rest of the world outside Old Row. How I wish the Greeks knew what tools they look like in the eyes of the entire nation. They will learn soon enough.

  • Gregory D. Hanners

    It is deeply disturbing that the University of Alabama, which like the University of Mississippi, should be HIGHLY sensitive to any civil rights issues, does not do more to educate members of the Greek system [or really ALL STUDENTS] beforehand, and hold them accountable for immature, uncivil and frankly threatening behavior after the fact. It is not funny. Bullying can be dangerous and even deadly – and not just for those being bullied.

  • Anonymous

    What happened to this young woman is wrong, but I can’t count how many times I’ve walked past Mallet alone at night wearing my sorority’s letters and been harassed by “Malleteers” sitting on the front porch. Neither side is completely innocent or guilty.

    • Alexandra

      You’ve been harassed by Malleteers? I haven’t seen Malleteers harass anyone going by the stoop, but if you do experience harassment, you should make a note of what they look like and report them to the Mallet officers so they can deal with them.

    • Adam

      I’m an officer for the Mallet Assembly, and I’d really like to know more about this. Harassment is unacceptable, and I’d really like to know how widespread this sort of thing is. if you’d like, you can email me at arbauer@crimson.ua.edu. That goes for anyone else with similar stories.

    • GuerillaPhysicist

      I’d like to chime in with partial agreement to the above Anonymous comment. This has happened to me as well. Granted, the incident in which I was yelled at from the Mallet front porch occurred in Spring 2012, so it’s possible that the person who did it is no longer even here. It was an isolated incident in my experience, and I realize people all over campus do similarly stupid things. I’m not upset about it now and rarely have a reason to be in that area of campus anymore, but I do think that incidents like that can hurt the credibility of an otherwise valuable asset to UA if they are continuing to occur, especially in discussions about harassment. Kudos to the Mallet Assembly officer who is taking initiative to find out more.

      That being said, what happened to Ms. Baroff is positively unacceptable, no matter who the perpetrators were, and it’s very sad that the culture on our campus is so permissive of that kind of behavior.

    • Anonymous

      I’ve been harassed by these “malleteers” too walking by in pledge gear. Also, they are ruining campus by the hugely unnecessary amounts of cigarettes they smoke.

      • Amelia

        Right. Because Malleteers are the only people on this ENTIRE campus who smoke. Thanks for bringing us back to the real issues. Because harassment of a young woman, gay, straight, black, white, greek or otherwise is not nearly as important.

  • Michelle Fuentes

    Clearly, our campus has a serious, serious problem. Between this excellently written article and Oct 17′s “An open letter to the boys of the street,”it hardly seems safe for women on campus. What will be done?

  • Lauren

    It makes my blood boil to know that someone is messing with my family. Those boys’ actions define them, and one day their actions and life choices are going to catch up to them.

  • Enough is Enough

    I won’t excuse the actions of these particular pledges, because there’s no excuse for harassment; but it cannot be stressed enough in my mind that Mallet places themselves deliberately in an adversarial position with regards to the Greek system on campus. See, for example, the recently-hijacked “UA Still Stands” campaign, which painted the entire Greek system as despicable racists, when in reality the fault mostly lies with the alumnae of certain sororities. Some on-campus civil war between the two groups isn’t going to solve anything. Grow up — this isn’t high school anymore. You’re real people now, and it’s time to start acting like it.

  • Minnalousha

    Some things never change :(

  • Souris

    I’ve never been more ashamed to be a UA alumna or more proud to be a Malleteer than in the past few months.

  • Anon

    It’s tough to lead fulfilling conversations on harassment when both sides of the argument have suffered from it (ie. Greeks have yelled at me, Malleteers have yelled at me, etc etc everyone’s a victim). It’s like everyone’s got a gang wars mentality or something, in which they refuse to move on or work towards solving current issues because sometime in the past they or someone they knew was injured in some way. It’s understandable, and it’s sad, but nothing gets done with pointing out everyone else’s faults because we cannot let go before we establish that “no they’re the ones who are wrong.” It does not matter if you are Greek, Mallet, LGBTQ+, or what have you. Harassment is harassment and it is wrong. So let’s focus on ending harassment where we see it, let’s focus on the present here.

  • Leonard Young

    I think I am in a somewhat unique position to speak on this matter. I was a member of the MA and I still stay in touch as an alum; but most of my family/friends were in the Greek system and I even went through rush, so I have insight to both worlds.

    It was idealistic (stupid) of me as a young student to think I could be BOTH a Malleteer and a Greek, but that was what I wanted to be at the time. Neither the Greeks or the Malleteers understand that or would accept it. I will say this about Mallet, though. When I went out for rush, I was not black-balled or shunned from Mallet for doing so. Yet, even though I was a legacy many times over, the Greeks shunned me for even being tainted by having Malleteers as friends. That being said, I have often heard many uncharitable words from the Malleteers about the Greeks.

    I think both sides are at fault and this is a war that does not have to be. Neither side truly understands or respects the other. Both sides think they are better than the other, and both sides allow prejudice and raw tribalism to overcome their larger humanity.
    Maybe where I failed someone better than me can bridge that gap and there can be at least respect and understanding between the two communities, if not friendship. Tolerance is really not so difficult, folks.

  • Anonymous-er

    I’m only disappointed that Mallet didn’t do something like, I dunno, take down the plate number and later surreptitiously fill the offender’s hubcaps with dead shrimp. Where’s the creative malice, y’all? You’re smarter than them… punish like it.