Letter to the Editor

Joe Yankelowitz '15

When President Ruscio lengthened the IFC’s sanction against Phi Psi to three years, he did the right thing. Leading by example, he told the community that we need to hold ourselves to a higher standard.

I do not believe that this offense reflects a problem inherent in the Greek System or Phi Psi. However, we as the W&L community need to affirm that we find hazing unacceptable. Regardless of the specifics of how the university found out about the incident, the fact remains that a clear act of hazing occurred.

Many people seem upset, even betrayed, that Ruscio went over the heads of the student body in order to make a statement. Ruscio did indeed make a statement, a necessary one. Failing to speak out against hazing would have cast a shadow of compliance over the administration. True, the IFC has the responsibility to levy judgment against fraternities, but so does the university.

Some people also believe that the length of the punishment is unfairly long. However, the Office of the President of the University has an obligation to look out for the well-being of the students. When someone suffers bodily harm, the administration must act. President Ruscio needed to lengthen the suspension not only to punish Phi Psi, but to send a message to all student organizations, Greek and non-Greek, that W&L does not tolerate maltreatment of its community members.

The university does not have a vendetta against fraternities. The Greek System at W&L dominates the school’s social life. If you ask anyone about what is happening the coming weekend you will usually get a list of mixers and formals. On any given day, you can see a flurry of students wearing t-shirts commemorating some event hosted by a sorority or fraternity. I feel sorry for the Phi Psi members who lost their fraternity, but the administration responded properly and within its rights.

I was dismayed at the email sent out by The Spectator. I do not object to the opinions expressed in it. They reflect the genuine sentiments of members of our community. However, I found the presentation of the issue to be irresponsible. The email focused largely on the semantics of Ruscio’s address, and framed the issue as an act of aggression by the President rather than a response to something that happened at a fraternity. The Spectator email was a public indictment of the President, not a discussion of the incident.

We have an honor system at W&L, but we fail to use it the right way. It tells us what we do not do–lie, cheat, steal—but it does not tell us what we should, or must do. If we truly hold ourselves to a higher standard, as the existence of an honor system implies, then we need to feel a duty to speak out against wrongs, help others, and practice kindness and compassion. I am not saying that the incident involving Phi Psi constitutes an honor violation. Rather, I believe that our honor system should compel us to decry the action and recognize all hazing as intolerable.

At W&L, we have adopted the honor system as a creed that defines us. By this creed, we are honor bound to do the right thing.


Joe Yankelowitz ‘15