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The Blue & Gray Press | October 19, 2017

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A divided campus achieves nothing

A divided campus achieves nothing

By COLEMAN HOPKINS

Following the brutal terror attacks in France, Secretary of State John Kerry went to Paris along with singer James Taylor to show solidarity through a performance of his famous song, “You’ve Got a Friend.” The song couldn’t bring back those killed by radical Islamic terrorists, but it did help to bring the U.S. closer to a country that we have been on friendly terms with historically and to assuage fears that America was disinterested in the plight of the French.

In recent weeks, two op-eds have created a rift between different parts of the University of Mary Washington student body that also seems to require a diplomatic song from Taylor. While it may be difficult to secure a visit and performance by Taylor in Fredericksburg, I believe that is time for the UMW community to come together to resolve some petty differences and to move forward together on an issue that has been dominating the campus for the past few months.

On Jan. 29, an op-ed written by Feminists United on Campus’ President Paige McKinsey touched a raw nerve within the student body.

The article, titled “Why UMW Is Not a Feminist Friendly Campus” received plenty of feedback and attention, some positive, but most negative. It even drew out a second response by the club’s Vice President Kelli Musick.

The opinion piece presented several different anecdotes before coming to the conclusion that our school is not “feminist friendly.”

The article cited the popular anonymous, location-driven app, “Yik Yak,” as a piece of evidence that UMW is not as progressive or egalitarian as it may seem. Specifically, McKinsey noted that people “yakked” about the club, using derogatory language to, as she saw it, try to impact or deter the club’s message.

Though other forms of social media, like Facebook and Twitter, have become acceptable to use as evidence in opinion pieces, some have viewed the decision to cite the app as controversial because of the anonymity factor. Certainly some people only “yak” on the app for attention, resulting in plenty of outrageous and offensive content. It is because of this that it is difficult to determine whether or not a few immature and ignorant “yaks” are representative of our more than 4,000 member community’s collective culture.

Other evidence put forth by McKinsey included the allegation that the UMW men’s rugby team chanted an offensive and perverted song late last semester that promoted rape and sexual violence against women.

Some have praised this segment of the article for its specificity, while some have felt that this unnecessarily and very publicly portrayed the men’s rugby team in a poor light that was not meant to promote dialogue or solve problems.

Additionally, McKinsey recounted a walk back from an FUC meeting in which obscenities were launched at her and other FUC members from a car on the street. The insults were specific and meant to hurt at the very least, but, as she saw them, they spoke to the greater anti-feminist sentiments of the campus.

The article also touched on the recent Greek Life debate at a UMW town hall meeting. Specifically, McKinsey wrote, “When the argument was made that research shows that institutionalized Greek Life on campus increased the rates of sexual assault, a fellow senator said this statement (which is supported by numerous studies) is simply a stereotype and to stereotype fraternities in such a way was the equivalent of racial stereotypes.”

The piece ended with a warning to detractors that FUC is not going anywhere and is committed, now more than ever, to “[making] UMW a safer and more equitable place for all students.”

The biggest complaints that I have seen against the FUC have been in their methods and in their arguments.

There are many arguments against Greek Life – the desire to maintain UMW’s traditions, to be against an uptick in partying or to preserve a quiet campus, to allow the student government to be fully representative when deciding on serious changes, to try to maintain a respectful relationship with the city of Fredericksburg and its people – yet the one presented by the FUC is simply too shaky an argument to seriously use.

If one tries to say a group cannot be included in society because of the negatives associated with the group that may be statistically common, then there is the risk of opening up a very large can of worms because most groups of people have some undesirable traits associated with them. Moreover, this very same argument has been used to justify racism and the mistreatment of LGBT people, and that is not a point to dismiss with a passing comment.

I fully understand some peoples’ fears about Greek Life, but I also believe that there are better ways to state reasons for being against Greek Life than to use such a poor argument that comes off as thoughtless.

Another issue that some at UMW have voiced about FUC has been their methods in dealing with problems. Mckinsey’s op-ed painted an entire group at UMW in a very negative light.

Rape and sexual assault are horrendous things that we as a community need to address in order to limit them as much as we possibly can. With that said, calling out multiple members of our community here at UMW with an opinion piece over a stupid decision at a party is, at best, misguided. I am not standing up for the rugby team, because it is gross and immature to make light of rape, but again, there are better ways to resolve problems here at our small school than taking to the newspaper.

When anyone takes combative positions against fellow members of the UMW community, even in the unstinting belief that you are right and they are wrong, it increases the risk of alienating people normally sympathetic in a community the size of UMW.

While there are problems to resolve and improvements that can be made to improve our community, UMW is a feminist school. Moreover, we are an extremely inclusive school with something for everybody, which I believe is why many of us chose to call this place home for four years.

I feel confident in saying that we are the most inclusive school in Virginia, with a thriving LGBT community, many political clubs for people with various ideologies and an acceptance of those with disabilities that is hard to beat anywhere.

There is always room for improvement, and I believe that is why FUC is such a valuable part of our community. There needs to be a greater effort to explain what feminism is, which is what FUC needs to lead on because feminism itself is often misunderstood, and as has been the case the past few weeks, the message has been lost in the delivery.

Comments

  1. Kyra Ketch

    In your argument you state that an argument against Greek Life based on their high levels of sexual assault is “simply too shaky an argument to seriously use” and is “thoughtless.” I would like to ask you, how are statistics and facts shaky? According to One in Four, a reputable organization, “Women in sororities are 74% more likely to experience rape than other college women, and those who live in the sorority house are over three times as likely to experience rape.” It is absolutely a valid argument to state that Greek Life should not be accepted at UMW based on the fact that women are more likely to be assaulted. One in four college women already report surviving rape or attempted rape at some point in their lifetime. Introducing Greek Life would only increase the rates of assault on our campus. Additionally, “Two different longitudinal studies have found that fraternity men are three times more likely to commit sexual assault than other college men.” You cannot dispute this, these are facts, and facts are the farthest thing from shaky.

    What is shaky is your half-assed support of feminism and women on this campus. I might even go as far as to say you don’t care at all. You state that “Rape and sexual assault are horrendous things that we as a community need to address in order to limit them as much as we possibly can.” And yet you readily excuse the actions of the Men’s Rugby Team by addressing their disgusting chant as a “stupid decision at a party.” A chant is not a “stupid decision.” It is a song, carefully and intentionally created. This was a chant which according to Paige “discussed violence against women, including murder and battery, sexual violence against women, including assault, necrophilia and rape, and used derogatory words to describe the women in the chant.” Someone intentionally wrote this into the chant, and an entire team of men intentionally sang it and have sung it multiple times. This was no “stupid decision”, it was not a one-time mistake. Their use of this chant deserved to be addressed publicly, as they were the ones who decided to publicly perform it. These are adult men, and they need to learn that their actions have consequences. This is not the first time a prejudice act was written about in a newspaper, and it is silly to suggest doing so is inappropriate. This is not pre-school, Paige does not owe anything to these men, and she does not owe it to them to have a polite discussion about their appalling decisions. You say that you are not standing up for the rugby team, but your words about them and your attitude towards Paige’s article clearly show that you excuse their behavior.

    The last thing I want to say is that your concern about “alienating people normally sympathetic in a community the size of UMW” is appalling to me. Why aren’t you more concerned with the rugby team and supporters of Greek Life alienating women and specifically survivors of sexual assault? Why aren’t you as passionate about making sure women and survivors feel comfortable on our campus? You are defending these individuals who you say are “normally sympathetic,” but how sympathetic can they truly be towards women and women’s rights if a newspaper article about misogynistic events that actually took place was enough to turn them off? Your argument is flawed and poorly put together, and is in fact just one more piece of evidence on why UMW is not a feminist friendly campus.

  2. Christopher Jackson

    Somebody didn’t read the article. I don’t want Greek life at UMW either, largely because my old school had greek life and it was a sight to behold (sarcasm), but if you go by only statistics on why you shouldn’t have people in your community for negative actions that are more likely to occur in their demographic, then that absolutely would include gay men, who are more likely to have HIV, and blacks, who are more likely to commit crimes. As an alum, I am concerned that your selective reading caused you to completely miss the point he made about other arguments against Greek life that are equally strong. Clearly the author doesn’t want UMW to change in that way, but at the same time it’s also obvious that Greek life’s purpose is not to rape women.

    I find it pretty appalling that you think a public forum is the best place to address a bunch of drunken jocks chanting a stupid song from the previous semester. The author is completely right in saying that all that accomplishes is pissing people off. I pretty much agree with the assessment that there are better ways to solve problems like this and if you can’t see that then you’re a lost cause.

  3. Both wrong

    Greek life absolutely deserves a place at UMW; were it not for a feminazi lie perpetuated by Rolling Stone to smear UVA last semester, UMW would likely be on its way to officially becoming Greek. If the author actually believes that UMW is a feminist campus, then he would support Greek life, which offers something for men and women. Moreover, to pretend that the “one in four” statistic is remotely credible is to be supremely ignorant. There is something like a 99% chance that you will never be raped and a .05% chance that you will. The Washington Post and the Baltimore Sun have both stated this repeatedly. The only thing I can agree with is that even if you want to use statistics, that doesn’t make your argument correct because an average does not represent an individual. Repeat after me, the average does not represent the individual. If you can’t get that through your skull then you might as well sign up for a David Duke rally or become muslim and stone gays to death in Iran. The rugby team was wasted for their hate-filled chant, what is your excuse? Honestly the closed-mindedness of this school – particularly amongst the supposedly progressive FUC – is appalling. If you can’t deal with an “anti-feminist UMW” then good luck in the real world.

  4. Aidan T.

    Great article. I remember you telling me about FUC. They’re propagating hate and divide. It cannot be left up to one feisty group of misinformed man-haters to have the biggest “feminist” voice on campus, which is unfortunately what is happening at UMW and UVA alike. Slutwalks are all too common at UVA now due to the fictional RollingStone article. The women involved may have good intentions, but they are depicting their agenda in an extremist light. When polarization happens immediately, that is how the message and group behind the message fails.

  5. Women haters

    Anybody defending this article hates women, it’s as simple as that.

  6. Anonymous

    Anyone unable to understand the logic and argument behind this article should be euthanized.

  7. Anonymous

    How ironic. The supporters of this article are simultaneously calling feminists “nazis” while also saying that anyone who disagrees with them should be euthanized. It’s not even necessary to point out how ridiculous you are, you do it all on your own.

  8. Anonymous

    It’s not who disagrees with them, it’s the people who do not understand the argument of the article at base value. If that level of comprehension is not attained by this time in brain development and higher level thinking, it would be better if those brains just weren’t around to continue spoiling the logical world. Polarized people do more harm than good. It takes a bipartisan approach to achieve anything, something that FUC is vehemently against supporting in any way.

  9. Anonymous

    Are you STILL posting about FUC? I think three articles is enough. We have heard enough of these one-sided arguments. There is a reason why a group supposedly focused on equality is not gaining the support of their classmates.