Zeta Psi is a very old, very rich, very prep-school fraternity at the University of Virginia that's known on campus as Zete and to the rest of the country as "that one frat, I forget where, somewhere in the South probably, that sent a pledge to the hospital for three days after making him wash down some dog food with 12 to 18 ounces of soy sauce."
Zete was "disbanded" for two years, but reinstated in 2013. (Previously, they'd been suspended in 2002 for a party where attendees came in their finest blackface.) As is the case with most fraternities that find themselves in official trouble, the incident that got Zete suspended is not the best thing they've ever done—nor (take this no-big-deal pledge DUI during rush in '06) is it anywhere close to the worst.
A sign that UVA is not turning as "anti-frat" as some might think ("some" meaning "white men who have aired this sole concern with me after reading my piece about rush") is the fact that Zete seems to be doing fine after throwing a "Bombs Over Baghdad" party. As reported by WUVA, there's a Change.org petition from Iraqi students at UVA asking for a formal apology, but no administrative need for it as of yet. From WUVA:
In response to a request for a comment, second year Gardner Fiveash, the president of the UVA Zeta Psi chapter, stated that the party was named solely in reference to the song, part of the 2000 album Stankonia. Gardner said, "a bunch of the guys in our chapter are huge fans and wanted to do an Outkast themed party."
Gardner Fiveash. ("We want it to be like Divergent meets Nantucket," said the expectant parents, smiling brightly.) Anyway, the excuse that their "Bombs Over Baghdad" frat rager was themed after Outkast is a weak one, as they might have just done an Outkast-themed party and not sullied the loosely brilliant B.o.B. war analogy and one of the hands-down best songs of a past decade and perhaps the approximately 150,000 civilians who have died as a result of the Iraq invasion with some sticky country-club-from-hell detritus.
But there's no strict campus rule against announcing yourself as a lily-white bastion of amorality. Fiji, another "prestigious" fraternity at the University of Texas, is not in trouble for throwing a Border Patrol-themed party in early February. A spokesperson said that Fiji's Border Patrol party doesn't reflect "core values," but is within the students' right to free speech.
Two of the deaths that I imagine must be most horrible in this world are being shelled as a civilian in a battle over resource control, as well as dying of thirst and exposure on the way across the US border. (307 migrants were recorded dead in crossing last year, the lowest number in 15 years.) But I fall on the side that this is within these fraternities' right to free speech. It's not illegal or even against campus rules to show your ass so egregiously, and this way the organizations have a built-in litmus test: if it's really going to be institutional privilege and raging versus basic decency, why not know immediately who's going to be on what side?
In the meantime, four activists who protested on the steps of UVA Phi Psi in November have been arrested for trespassing and sentenced to 44 hours community service each.
Image via Shutterstock