The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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A bad excuse for bad decisions

In the five years I have taught at SMU, I have been called a lot of things, from “faggot” on down.

One of the least offensive things I’ve been called is “George,” by a student in a column in which he also inelegantly claimed that gays’ “flamboyant, in-your-face approach [made him] gag.” Perhaps his parents never told him not to call his elders by their first name. Who knows what they told him about gays.

In the last five years, I’ve been accused of hating SMU, hating football and hating America, none of which is true. I’m sure not a few believe I hate fraternities, especially SAE, neither of which is true.

On the contrary, some of my favorite students at SMU have been members of fraternities. Albino Garces, a member of Lambda Chi Alpha, is one, Brad Bandel from Kappa Sigma another. Jonathan Purdy of Phi Delta Theta is another.

I had the privilege of having Mr. Purdy in two classes. Yes, some students actually do take more than one of my classes. One actually took four. Talk about glutton for punishment.

I met Mr. Purdy as a bright-eyed, enthusiastic, if not a little naive, first year. I witnessed him struggle through his pledgeship his second semester, struggling to keep his eyes open in my 9 a.m. class, the result of sleep deprivation and God only knows what kind of hazing. He never complained. Occasionally I saw him on campus during his sophomore and junior years. Last semester, he stopped to tell me he had gotten a job in advance of graduation. I told him I was proud of him. And I am.

There are other fraternity men whom I have had the honor of knowing and teaching, some of which I am teaching now. I won’t embarrass them by naming them here.

I also had the honor of knowing Jake Stiles, if only briefly. Jake was a student in my Advanced Spanish Grammar class during his freshman year. He dropped the class in the middle of the semester. I never knew why. And although I knew him for only a few weeks, I remember him as well as I remember the young men I mentioned above. Not because he was the best student in the class. Not because he was gregarious or outgoing. That wasn’t the Jake I knew. The Jake I knew was quiet. Respectful.

It’s unfortunate that someone else has decided that the best way to defend SAE is to attack Jake. After all, Jake can’t speak for himself. But I can. We’ve heard time and time again that Jake’s death was the result of the decisions he made. If only life were that simple. Certainly Jake made decisions he shouldn’t have. Just as I’m sure Mr. Webb has made the wrong decisions from time to time. Haven’t we all. I’d venture to guess, however, that Mr. Webb’s mother would be little comforted by the “your son made the wrong decisions” line if something tragic happened to him.

There are those who would have us believe that Jake Stiles got up the morning of his death and decided, “I’m going to take a drug, fentanyl, that could possibly kill me.” Or that Jordan Crist got up and decided that he was going to drink himself to death in a dorm. I’d bet anything that he didn’t. What we don’t know is if someone – more than one? – decided not to take him to the hospital when he was in distress.

Does anyone believe that Meaghan Bosch decided to die in the horrific way she did? To suggest that Jake’s, Jordan’s and Meaghan’s deaths were the inevitable consequence of their decisions is wrong on so many levels.

It’s funny how cavalier some students are when it comes to proportioning blame for events as tragic as these – especially when many students aren’t even willing to accept the consequences for decisions like missing class or not turning in an assignment on time.

No one has ever said Jake Stiles didn’t make bad decisions. Not his parents. Not even me. What they have said, and I have said, is that there were others that night whose actions deserve to be investigated.

I’m not sure what Mr. Webb knows. I know what I know. I’m sure he has been told a story that matches the official version of events. I doubt he has seen the same evidence I have. Perhaps he’s heard the same rumors. But nothing I’ve said about Jake Stiles’ death is based on rumor.

I’m sure Mr. Webb does have some very good friends in the SAE house. I don’t doubt that many of the members are fine men. But there are members of that house – past and present – who know more than they have been willing to admit. Mr. Webb may, like Mr. Slick, believe that I have it out for SAE. I will tell Mr. Webb what I told Mr. Slick last semester: Jake Stiles didn’t die in another fraternity house. He died in the SAE house. If he had died in Jonathan Purdy’s house or in Brad Bandel’s house or in Albino Garces’s house, under the same circumstances, I would be doing the same thing.

Finally, Mr. Webb suggested that I fabricated my statement about fraternities and rape. I may do a lot of things – forget to shave in the morning, wear the same shoes every day, drink too many Diet Cokes, eat too much junk food, and call George Bush the worst president in American history – but I don’t make things up out of thin air.

There are a myriad of studies that support my statement. Most are as close as Google. Others may require going to Fondren Library. If you’re not doing anything this weekend, Mr. Webb, perhaps you might cozy up with “Fraternity Gang Rape: Sex, Brotherhood, and Privilege on Campus” (New York University Press).

George Henson is a lecturer of Spanish and foreign languages and literatures. He can be contacted at [email protected].

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