On any college campus, parties are the most popular social events. Several of these parties are hosted by fraternities, oftentimes with a particular theme.
Last weekend, a fraternity planned to host a party themed “A Night at the [Playboy] Mansion.” As a party that has been thrown for years, the fraternity brothers didn’t think twice about the potential implications of the theme; they simply looked forward to an enjoyable night.
Others did not find the theme as enjoyable. Over 100 community members signed a letter objecting to the theme of the party. The undersigned felt that the theme was “extremely degrading to women … fuel[ing] the atmosphere of sexual assault that is already a severe problem on this campus” and that the “degrading theme is not consistent with the values of respect that lie at the heart of a healthy campus community.”
The reactions to the petition were diverse. Some community members completely identified with and supported the sentiments expressed in the letter. They believe that the theme objectified and exploited women, encouraging sexual assault. Others felt that the theme was taken too seriously. Students do not have to dress in theme, nor do students even have to attend the party. Students should only participate in the event to the extent with which he or she is comfortable.
Regardless of anyone’s personal stance on the issue, it is undeniable that this was a learning experience for the campus community. We were able to hear several voices and understand them. Community members of every kind—students, faculty, staff, and even alumni—took part in this dialogue.
Most importantly, the fraternity’s response was mature. The letter asked for the fraternity to “reconsider” the theme of the party, but the fraternity ultimately chose to cancel the party. By making this decision, the fraternity shows full recognition of the issue at hand and respect for the opinions of everyone who signed the letter. The decision to not simply change the theme but rather cancel the party altogether is commendable.
The outcome of these events is significant. People felt strongly enough to speak out and actively participate in a conversation. While we may have differing views on the particular events at hand, we ultimately share a common desire: to uphold the integrity and values of our campus community. What matters is the continuation of—to quote the president of the fraternity—“the community conversation.”
Read the Petition Here
Read Sigma Chi’s President, Michael Sahagian’s Response Here