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

Letters don’t tell the whole story

As active members of Phi Delta Theta, we were disappointed that Dr. Lori White purchased a $1,200 advertisement in the April 22 edition of The Daily Campus that, along with a letter from Dr. White to the student body, contained two anonymously published letters, one which depicted student misconduct at the 2008 Phi Delta Theta Casino event.

To be clear, we are not arguing that misconduct did not take place at this year’s Casino philanthropy event. However, we feel that the manner in which the letters were published was disingenuous and unprofessional, and the fraternity as a whole felt a great deal of dissatisfaction concerning Dr. White’s handling of the complaints. Specifically, no officers of Phi Delta Theta at SMU, our national governing body or our advisory council were notified that Dr. White was going to publish this letter in a public forum. Regrettably, on Tuesday, April 22, our chapter and the rest of the student body, faculty and administration opened The Daily Campus to see these accusations for the first time.

In summation, the letter depicted “an SMU fraternity which poorly represented appropriate conduct for young adults, bringing great shame to a great cause and effort [a philanthropy event benefiting the MD Anderson Cancer Research Center].”

It is our position that publishing this letter without notifying our fraternity or offering advance warning in any manner showed a blatant disregard for professional integrity and represented a malicious attack on Phi Delta Theta’s active members and a charitable event which has raised $45,000 for charity and $60,000 for SMU over the past four years.

Had Dr. White notified our fraternity of her intentions to publish the letter she received, Phi Delta Theta would have had an opportunity to refute many of the negative aspects detailing student misconduct. Unfortunately, we had no opportunity to offer an explanation detailing our position concerning the nature of the event before the publication of the advertisement. Our fraternity was never offered an opportunity to explain, in advance, our increased efforts to ensure students’ safety at the hotel during Casino Night, including our progressive attempts to mitigate the risks associated with hosting an event of such magnitude. This year, these attempts included hiring 30 additional police officers for the event. When our fraternity was finally offered an opportunity discuss the article with Dr. White three days after its publication, we reiterated our dedication to ensuring students’ safety and requested administrative input for planning subsequent philanthropy events.

Students, faculty and the administration are constantly striving to improve campus unity, and the 2008 Casino event attracted over 1,200 members of the SMU community from every Greek organization as well as unaffiliated students, members of various athletic teams, prospective students and alumni. Although the fundraiser was promoted and hosted by Phi Delta Theta, the entire SMU community was urged to participate in what constituted an SMU-wide event. The 1,200 members of the campus community represented a larger turnout for a school-wide event than is seen at many home football or basketball games, where admission for students is free.

While Phi Delta Theta has accepted responsibility for the reported student misconduct at Hotel Intercontinental, it is imperative to recognize that our fraternity members constituted less than 10 percent of the Casino guests at the hotel. In an April 23 editorial criticizing student behavior at the Casino event, The Daily Campus editorial board stated, “This is an issue on campus that keeps reappearing and has to be addressed. Ed Board commends Dr. Lori White for writing a letter to the student body and printing the two letters she received.” Obviously, the overriding issue that the Ed Board is referring to is the issue of alcohol and substance abuse on campus that has been magnified by three student deaths in the last two years.

It is our contention that Dr. White could have more appropriately addressed these relevant issues without purchasing a $1,200 advertisement attacking our philanthropy event. Possibly, Dr. White could have written a letter to the editor broaching the concerns expressed in the letters without tarnishing our fraternity’s name and our attempts to increase the unity of the SMU student body, as well as our efforts to raise money for a charitable cause.

We were also disappointed that the publication of the second letter regarding student behavior on Spring Break was adjacent to the letter detailing complaints from the Hotel Intercontinental, as it created a rash association between the individual students in Mexico and the members of Phi Delta Theta. Many readers made the assumption that the subjects of the Spring Break letter were Phi Delts, simply by the association of the two letters. Countless members of Phi Delta Theta were innocently presumed to be responsible not only for the complaints stemming from the Casino event, but also for the complaints detailed in the second letter regarding student behavior at a hotel in Mexico. Numerous members of our fraternity were questioned, condemned and looked upon poorly by many students and professors who assumed that the fraternity was responsible for both letters.

In our opinion, Dr. White’s decision to not only imply that our fraternity was solely responsible for the student misconduct at the Casino event but to also infer that we were responsible for the alleged misconduct in Mexico was unprofessional and in poor taste. Unfortunately, her $1,200 advertisement caught many people’s attention, and led them to make assumptions about our fraternity which were both factually unfounded and damaging to our reputation. It is our sincere hope that in the future some of the issues that we have addressed in this article will be considered by Dr. White before she publicly places blame upon any student organization for misconduct which may occur on or off campus. At a minimum, the accused party should have an opportunity to comment on the situation before being libeled in The Daily Campus.

Joseph Goddard is a junior political science major and can be reached at [email protected]. Peter Susman is a senior accounting and political science major and can be reached at [email protected]. They are both members of the Phi Delta Theta fraternity.

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