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Monday, October 14, 2002
Zeta Psi: The Idiocy Continues

Having created earthenworks around my desk for the incoming 88 fire I expect (I hope you all appreciate the allusion), let me first state my position on the derecognition of Zeta Psi. I opine it should not have happened. I would offer for consideration (although I suspect none of you will give it any, since by now I am sure you all have opinions equally justifiable) that although what Zeta Psi wrote in the now-infamous Zetemouth may be seen as some egregious trespass against women everywhere (I personally just see it as idiocy, not indicative of some serious problem - which is not to deny that a problem of date rape exists - merely to be dubious of the fact that the Zetemouth serves as its corollary, precursor, or side effect), and although many of you may have great disdain for my love of parenthetical asides, the removal of a ripped and vomit soaked copy of The Zetemouth by one individual lampooned in its pages and the resulting persecution of the Zeta Psi fraternity was a ludicrous overreaction to frat boy stupidity. The response, of course, is to offer a contrary opinion to that I snuck into one of the previous asides: that in fact there is a tangible correlation between the contents of The Zetemouth and the unfortunate problems young women face from sick, reprehensible individuals. A common retort that surfaced at the time of The Zetemouth controversy was that many - if not all - men and women of this age very often say things that are equally distasteful. The response to that: putting such things in print, despite the limited audience, gives the statements an different ontological value. For the sake of my post, I will sustain that argument. Heresay, rumors, jest, and humor-in-poor-form, take an ontologically different value when written, and the parties responsible for disseminating such materials in print form should be held accountable in ways that those that speak them should not.

In my perusal of last Friday's issue to The Dartmouth, I came across this interesting letter. I have quoted it in its entirety below to make my post seem more substantial:

A Sincere Apology
by Katherine Rue '03

To the Editor:
Rumors abound on college campuses. BlitzMail is an easy way for rumors to be forwarded and go from being merely opinion to something people accept as true without verifying their sources. I sent an email to a group of friends which was then forwarded out to the campus, although I had no intention of it going past my original list of recipients. This email stated that Zeta Psi fraternity was implicated in recent campus sexual assaults. The head of the Women's Resource Center recently stated in an article in The Dartmouth that there have not been any reported assaults of this nature this fall.

This was information I had gotten from what I considered to be a respectable source, but who has subsequently stated that there is no evidence supporting this. I want to apologize to the members of this house for the fact that my email was forwarded past my original list of recipients, and that negative feeling has resulted from the dissemination of this email among students at Dartmouth. I did not send this email with malicious intent towards Zeta Psi; in fact, most of the email does not deal with them -- but the fact is that women need to help other women stay safe.

In sum, the email that some of you may have read was not intended to be forwarded to anyone, and Zeta Psi has not been implicated in any wrong-doing. I apologize for any confusion my email may have caused among the Dartmouth campus at large.

I'm sure, in context, it is apparent to this educated audience where I am going with this. I'll say it anyway. This girl has perpetrated an act of the same sort against Zeta Psi (nevermind the fact that they are technically nonexistent [wink wink], making this even more puzzling) that Zeta Psi was derecognized for perpetrating against some individuals. In fact, the very nature of Blitzmail made it quite likely that her communique would be disseminated beyond her "intended recipients," and I feel safe in saying she has either convinced herself that she never thought this possible or was truly in space when she sent the blitz. The girl has taken a rumor - an item that purports to be true - and perpetuated it as fact to, apparently, some large body of people. Contrast this with Zeta Psi, which printed a poor joke, never alleged any truth, and dispersed said material in a form unlikely to reach other recipients and directed to an audience who knew that the ontological value of the contents was zilch (In fact, even if one assumes that portions of The Zetemouth were true, such as those in which members tallied the women with whom they had slept, I have seen with my own two eyes such tallies kept by females on this campus. While I find the value of keeping track of such things negligible, I also find the harm done, as such, to be negligible). Zeta Psi was accused of libel by some students, although in fact they did not publicly distributed false claims against anyone. The individual who originated the charged of sexual assault against Zeta Psi, on the other hand, is guilty of libel.

So, if you're still reading this, enraged women, you may wonder why I titled it "The Idiocy Continues." Perhaps you have concluded that the "idiocy" of which I spoke was merely my opinion, which followed. Sorry to disappoint. In fact, I will conclude that this letter, the argument that I have drawn from it, and the original Zeta Psi controversy are all idiocy. I will not give the original controversy any sort of primacy by establishing with any public display of vitriol (beyond this) the miscarriage of justice in the Zeta Psi case, nor do I wish to reference this incident to display a hypocritical society (although in some small way, I wonder if that is what it indicates). Rather, I write of both to make this comment: people, especially college students, do stupid things sometimes. Am I saying this should unburden them from the consequences of their actions? No. Am I saying that people should not act as adults if they wish to be treated as adults? No. (By the way, I came to the realization that the gamut of "adults" begins at the maturity level of high school freshmen). I am saying, though, that many times people make battles for themselves where none exist. Hell, that's what this blog is for. This, however, is all academic. The execution of this particular melodrama, in grand scale on the Hanover Plain, though, seems to me a satirization of the reality of any of the debates it was seen to encompass. And now, back to my more unpleasant reality: thesis writing.

As an addendum, I should like to point out that for Dartmouth students who read The Observer, I still welcome your comments via blitz. My email address has been removed from this page for reasons outlined in a previous post. I hope that some of you might offer some resistance to some of my posts, and I welcome it.