Stephen Joel Trachtenberg is president emeritus and a University Professor of Public Service.
I was a guest on the nationally syndicated public radio program “The Diane Rehm Show” on Tuesday. I was one of five in a conversation about how fraternities and sororities fit into the college experience today, their evolving roles and ongoing challenges.
In the course of a robust discussion, we covered the social value for students of Greek life, community service provided by Greek life members, the allegiance these students often feel toward their alma maters, the perceived elitism of the system and several other facets of campus involvement.
The dominant topics of the show, and rightly so, were (a) the concerns around the abuse of alcohol and drugs by men and women, and (b) sexual assaults against women and some men and how this is handled on campus.
I’m glad I have an opportunity to extend the issues discussed.
First, I am terribly sorry any observations of mine have been construed to mean anything other than full support for the victims of sexual assault or rape. As a man, I realize it is unlikely I fully understand what it is like to be a woman faced with such a threat or the victim of such actions. As a caring adult, however, I do understand the responsibility we all share for the actions of our friends and classmates.
Rape and sexual assault are terrible things and should not be tolerated anywhere, on or off campus. Those acts are criminal, illegal and reprehensible.
We need to continue the broader conversation in our country, including on college campuses, about the perceived power and entitlement too many men feel toward women. This includes, foremost, physical acts against women, but also includes the use of language and social actions. Respect is the entitlement we should all strive for.
Our community should not and does not tolerate physical and social abuses. Friends must watch out for friends, male and female, who have a tendency to over-indulge. In our world, equality of the sexes comes with rights and responsibilities: No man has the right to abuse a woman. No one should ever be a victim of illegal behavior by another.
Campus life comes with a social contract. We are each accountable for our own behavior, and also collectively share responsibility for acts by those people with whom we socialize or share a dorm room, fraternity or sorority house. A high campus priority is the elimination of a climate of silence that in the past has condoned assault.