By Jonathan Smith, Editor in Chief
If I believed everything I hear around campus then one social club pledge could have died in a recent pledging activity, and packs of club members have been roaming the streets of Abilene breaking into other clubs’ members’ homes, stealing and threatening the physical well-being of others.
I don’t know whether any of that is true. I didn’t witness any of these activities, so I can’t confirm anything. And I do not know if I ever will be able to confirm them.
Clubs operate with an attitude of secrecy, and it shows during Bid Night activities, club traditions and events. Some of this secrecy is healthy-it makes the clubs more special and unique to their members.
But there is a dark side to the secrecy. Whispers about demeaning pledging activities. Rumors of the most recent club activity or prank gone too far.
This side becomes all too apparent when rumors begin to circulate about the newest problems, like last week when three clubs’ pledging seasons were cut short amid questions and allegations about pledging practices.
When the Optimist covers stories like this that deal with clubs, common phrases finds its way into those interviews: “No comment” or “I’d rather not get into that.”
Offering no comment for a story does not make the story go away. If anything, it screams to reporters and readers: “There’s much more of a story here than I’m telling you, but I don’t want to or am not supposed to talk about it.”
You might not want to talk about it, but the rest of the campus will, whether you talk about it or not.
And the rest of the campus won’t care if the rumors it has heard are true. Where else can students turn but each other for information and gossip if those who know the truth won’t discuss it?
Understandably, clubs will not want to talk about certain activities-the activities and traditions that make each club unique. And outside of mild curiosity, many students around campus do not care to know. These are not the types of events the Optimist looks to report.
But when clubs go on probation, are investigated by the police or essentially cease to exist from campus life for a semester, this is news that simply cannot be swept aside.
Clubs fall into the trap of thinking that what happens within their ranks does not affect anyone else and should be handled completely internally.
To pretend that the treatment of a fellow brother or sister in Christ should not matter to anyone else on campus is selfish. The actions of a single social club reflect on all social clubs and the entire student body; students deserve to know how they are being represented within the university and to the community.
We are not looking to crucify anyone in the newspaper for a single mistake, but we do seek to answer questions with our reporting-not create them. But the Optimist cannot do this alone.
The rumors are out there: pledges going to the hospital, members committing borderline felonies.
Now, is anyone willing to help us set the record straight?