By Jamie Weissman
Every year, thousands of students return to college campuses for a year filled with academics and exciting social events. Although most universities have relatively smooth semesters, it wouldn’t be a traditional academic year if at least one university didn’t make headlining news.
During April 2013, our university was at the center of controversy when an email written by one member of Greek life went viral. The email, written by a sorority girl about her chapter’s behavior during Greek Week, was spread to numerous news sources such as “E! News,” BroBible.com, and Gawker.com, making the author of the email an overnight Internet sensation. Although the email has since become old news in the community, the scandal took a toll on Greek life at this university.
“It was very difficult because a lot of people saw it as affecting one particular chapter, but it really affected Greek life as a whole,” said junior art education major and president of Sigma Delta Tau Talya Laster. “There will be a lot of girls who are turned off from [Greek life] just because that’s what they have in their mind of what a sorority is.”
Since the email went viral, several news outlets have been less than flattering toward the author, referring to her as “the most deranged sorority girl you will ever meet” and “ the angry sorority girl” to name a few. Although she has now become a contributor to BroBible.com, Greek life, more specifically her former chapter, at this university is left to pick up the pieces of the scandal.
“There’s already such a negative connotation to Greek life. All over Maryland and the United States, people were saying it’s a horrible chapter. That email didn’t represent what they were as a chapter, so I think it’s up to [sorority] to rebuild the reputation,” Laster said.
As the university continues to sort through the scandal, other universities around the country are working to do the same. Perhaps one of the most famous college scandals of recent time is that of The Pennsylvania State University.
Known for its highly talented and successful football program, Penn State was at the center of scandal when it was revealed that the university allegedly covered up a sex scandal involving former football coach, Jerry Sandusky, who was found guilty of years of child sex abuse, before the crime came to light. The scandal brought the university through a downward spiral, resulting with Sandusky in jail and the death of famed football coach Joe Paterno.
Though the infamous sorority email will never match the severity of the Jerry Sandusky scandal, Penn State was left with the same task: to rebuild. Pete Thamel stated in his New York Times article, “Shaken by Sandusky Scandal, a Changed Penn State is Moving On,” that “what has emerged in the post-Paterno Penn State is a new normal, as the university will continue to be scrutinized even after Sandusky was found guilty.” Even though there was not a decrease in applications to the university that year, the scandal left a huge mark on the institution, the article said.
If anyone can begin to understand the intensity of a sex scandal rocking a college campus, it would probably be Duke University. In 2006, our university’s rival was hit with a shock when an exotic dancer accused lacrosse team members of raping her. The accusation received immense media coverage, as news outlets portrayed the athletically gifted students as sexually charged teenage boys who gang-raped the dancer at their off-campus residence. However, a year after it occurred, the charges were dropped against the three boys. Although they were spared more than a damaged reputation, the university’s lacrosse program became known for more than talent. Though it has been seven years since the incident, the scandal added to the negative reputation that college culture so often receives.
College scandals obviously come in all different forms. Sometimes they come in emails, and other times they come in the form of faculty or staff behavior. However, no matter what the scandal is, one thing remains constant: The universities must rebuild and move forward.