When news broke this week that a Penn State fraternity had allegedly run two private Facebook pages where members posted photographs of nude, unconscious women, hazing and other illicit deeds, we, like everyone else, wondered: How could anyone do this? Who could justify such behavior?
An ex-fraternity member first told authorities about the Facebook pages, which were dubbed “Covert Business Transactions” and “2.o,” according to a police warrant. They allegedly featured photos of “nude females that appeared to be passed out” as well as “marijuana and edibles, concentrates, ADD medication, and some cocaine.” Police said fraternity members could face charges of invasion of privacy and harassment.
We found a member of Kappa Delta Rho who was willing to talk anonymously about what happened and how fraternity members are reacting to news coverage of the scandal. His remarks offer a glimpse into the mindset at Kappa Delta Rho.
First, he provided us with this statement:
It is shameful to see the self-righteousness that has sprung from the woodworks in response to the alleged Penn State fraternity “scandal.” Here’s a quick reality check: everyone — from Bill Clinton to your grandfather to every Greek organization in the nation does the same old stuff, just as they have been for the entirety of human history. That’s where that lil’ old quip, don’t throw stones if you live in a glass house, comes from. And believe me, we all live in a glass house. Thus it is laughably pathetic to see the media spring on an occasional incident such as this, especially a media complicit in overturning the same sexual mores and moral standards that for millennia had at least to some extent curbed outright licentiousness. The fire of indignant, misplaced self-righteousness that looks to ruin people’s lives and unjustly ruin reputations is the abuse and violation that should be at the center of discussion, not the humorous, albeit possibly misguided, antics of a bunch of college kids.
We wanted to talk to him more about those “antics” — the ones that got Kappa Delta Rho suspended for a year.
The fraternity member agreed to a brief interview with Philadelphia magazine. A lightly edited version, in which our questions have been paraphrased, is below.
Philly Mag: In the statement you provided to us, you said “everyone … does the same old stuff.” Do you know other fraternities that have similar Facebook pages?
KDR member: No.
Philly Mag: Then what did you mean?
KDR member: What I meant is that everybody fools around, everybody makes jokes, everybody occasionally engages in … what might be considered inappropriate behavior, and it’s not just, shall we say, when somebody happens to be caught doing the same thing that everyone else is doing … [and] they’re just tossed in the crowd, you know. Like back in the Middle Ages, they would find a witch or somebody who the community thought was a witch or something like that and toss them to the crowd, you know? When the person’s no different than anyone else.
Philly Mag: What would you consider an appropriate response from the media?
KDR member: I don’t think that something like this should be reported … as spectacularly and scandalously and widespread as it has been. It’s minor. There’s misdemeanors every day, thousands and thousands of little misdemeanors in every single community in the United States, and this is no different. This is a few select individuals who did a few select … possibly or probably inappropriate things, right? So along with thousands and thousands of other people, just in this community of State College, it should be reported no differently, if at all. A little citation, where all the rest of that content goes, not the front page of CNN, of The New York Times, and so forth.
Philly Mag: You’re laying a lot of blame on the media. Do you think the frat deserves any type of blame?
KDR member: It’s a hard question to answer. I think people should be responsible for themselves, and, I mean, I obviously had nothing to do with any of these postings, but … just think, is it smart to post this on social media? Is this ethical in regards to the people who it involves? But this is not a criminal thing. It’s not anyone else’s business, pretty much. It’s an inter-fraternity thing and that’s that.
Philly Mag: You said you didn’t have anything to do with the postings. Were you a member of KDR’s secret Facebook page known as “2.o”?
KDR member: Yeah.
Philly Mag: Did you comment on any of the posts?
KDR member: No.
Philly Mag: Did you post any of the photos?
KDR member: No, no, absolutely not. I’m a good guy.
Philly Mag: Do you regret being part of the group at all?
KDR member: Obviously, retrospectively with this having happened, sure, but the thing is, that it was a satirical group. It’s like, there’s literally sites like that that millions of people access, whether it’s totalfratmove.com or any of the other thousands of sites that post, you know, pictures of girls and post funny text conversations and Snapchat stories and things like that. It was a satirical group. It wasn’t malicious whatsoever. It wasn’t intended to hurt anyone. It wasn’t intended to demean anyone. It was an entirely satirical group and it was funny to some extent. Some of the stuff, yeah, it’s raunchy stuff, as you would expect from a bunch of college-aged guys. But, I mean, you could go on any one of hundreds and thousands of different sites to access the same kind of stuff and obviously a lot worse and a lot more explicit.
Philly Mag: You said the page was funny. What was funny about it?
KDR member: It’s not funny. Funny’s not always the right word. It’s satire. There’s a certain stereotypical Greek life culture and, as you see in movies, people try to live up to that and people try to kind of incorporate those elements, but it’s like, you know what Snapchat is?
Philly Mag: Yes.
KDR member: Yeah, like you get a Snapchat, and people send like raunchy Snapchats all the time. … It’s not a malicious type of thing … Everybody’s … saying, “Oh, there’s pictures of passed-out girls,” and making it seem out to be such a malicious thing. It’s like, yeah, girls pass out or fall asleep all the time and somebody takes a Snapchat or picture and, like, it’s not that it’s funny. But it’s just satire. … Nobody’s sitting there like, “Oh … how are we going to victimize these people?” … Go on a site like totalfratmove.com [where they post things like] the girl of the day or … like the swimsuit model of the day … it’s just, you know, fooling around.
Philly Mag: But isn’t there a difference between a swimsuit model and a woman who is photographed unconsciously?
KDR member: Right, so that’s what I was saying … on those sites, it’s not just swimsuit models. It’s girls doing stuff at parties. It’s people putting themselves in provocative situations and things like that.
Philly Mag: The first secret Facebook page was allegedly called “Covert Business Transactions.” Then, according to the police warrant, KDR took that page down after a victim saw a photo of herself topless on it and threatened the fraternity. Why did KDR relaunch the page?
KDR member: Well, the site, first of all, was primarily used for communication for important fraternity business and so forth and so on. The questionable postings are single instances out of hundreds, if not thousands, of different postings that are related to stuff like community service to THON, which is our charity organization, to social events and so forth and so on. Once in a blue moon, there was a questionable post of this sort that everybody’s now referring to … We obviously need a group to communicate. Some chapters use listservs, other chapters use Facebook groups, so it’s not like, oh, this was a group that was intended for distribution of this kind of material. Not at all. This was a group intended for, right, communication within the fraternity.
Philly Mag: One of the things you said in your statement is that the media is looking “to ruin people’s lives and unjustly ruin reputations.” Couldn’t the same thing be said about the fraternity? That by posting photos of nude, unconscious women online, as well as intimate messages with women, that it could ruin their lives or their reputations?
KDR member: How would it do so when it’s kept within the entirely, well, it’s supposed to be an entirely private group of 144 people?
Philly Mag: Right, it’s 144 people on the Internet.
KDR member: But it’s a private Facebook group.
Philly Mag: But doesn’t that put a lot of trust in all 144 guys? Any of them can take a photo from the “secret” group and make it public.
KDR member: But nobody except the one kid who snitched out this group did that … It just doesn’t work that way … It was just these occasional Snapchats, these occasional pictures of people doing silly things … there’s plenty of self-demeaning pictures … like guys would post pictures of themselves looking stupid or doing dumb stuff. … It wasn’t a legitimate concern. … It is a brotherhood and nobody expects anyone to go and post stuff publicly or so forth and so on. It’s a real disappointment that this kid went and did this.
Philly Mag: Is there anything the world should know about these allegations?
KDR member: I think that the entire world and all of society would do better to return to higher standards of morality, of moral and ethical conduct, and that certainly includes fraternities, but doesn’t exclude anyone else. And to single out individuals or organizations who happen to get caught in compromising situations that everybody else is equally complicit in, is not fair. It’s not just … Just like what happened when Penn State, Penn State in general, during the whole Sandusky thing … Obviously, it was a tragedy, it was a horrible thing … But it included Sandusky and maybe a few other administrators. It didn’t include the entire football team. It didn’t include this whole university. You know, who cares about that? Just toss all of Penn State to the wolves, to the crowd. Let them chew them out, chew them up, and spit them out, as they say, you know?
Philly Mag: Are you scared at all?
KDR member: Scared of what?
Philly Mag: Possible charges, what this might do to your reputation.
KDR member: No, because I had nothing to do with it.
Philly Mag: Are you scared for your fraternity brothers?
KDR member: Yeah, I mean … scared is the wrong word. I hope nobody gets in trouble because nobody did anything worth getting in trouble over.