• Rich Barlow

    Senior Writer

    Photo: Headshot of Rich Barlow, an older white man with dark grey hair and wearing a grey shirt and grey-blue blazer, smiles and poses in front of a dark grey backdrop.

    Rich Barlow is a senior writer at BU Today and Bostonia magazine. Perhaps the only native of Trenton, N.J., who will volunteer his birthplace without police interrogation, he graduated from Dartmouth College, spent 20 years as a small-town newspaper reporter, and is a former Boston Globe religion columnist, book reviewer, and occasional op-ed contributor. Profile

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There are 60 comments on Fraternity Suspended for Party Promotion

  1. This article (conveniently) neglects to clearly state that NO brothers attended this party in the end, and that the brother responsible for organizing it stepped down. As a female who has zero tolerance for misogyny, I have never been a fan of fraternities and agree that the behavior of this non-BU-affiliated event organization (Blackout University) is disgusting. But even I think BU admin has blown this out of proportion and skewed the story to fit their Greek Life bashing agenda.

    1. “…..Dean of Student Kenneth Elmore (SE’87) says that when the University discovered the promotions before the party and contacted the fraternity, it took down the promotions, and no brothers attended the scheduled party.”

      I thought it was clear.

    2. It was stated in the article, and it really doesn’t matter if brothers attended or not. They are responsible for creating the event and promoting it in such a vile way. The members responsible may have stepped down, but leaders in the fraternity did not think to stop the sexist promotion before it got to this point; they enabled this misogynistic behavior. It is NOT blown out of proportion. BU did the right thing and rightly had zero tolerance for such disgusting behavior.

      1. While I do agree with you on the decision that BU has gone forth with, I completely disagree with you on the reason why. They are being kicked off campus for infringing on the policies that BU has set in place.The university has an unrealistic amount of power governing over student groups so they should be kicked off if they break a rule that the University has put in place.

        That being said, the sexist promotions and misogyny is just plain marketing. Just like any other commerical or flyer, they choose to promote it however they want. The fact is that it ends up working and people are paid to go around the club and film things that are happening. You can not blame the promoter for using these tactics because he/she has a job and this is a solution. Esurance used babies as a tactic to lure in customers just like clubs used the female body to lure in customers. Plain marketing strategy. If you have anyone to blame at all, it would the people who are attending these events and promoting the fact that these types of promotions work.

    1. Did any sexual assaults need to occur in order for this article to be relevant? Report or non-report of sexual assault cannot alone be a sufficient measure of an organization’s attitude toward women. I’d encourage you not to think of it as such. (If you’re asking out of concern I can understand, but at the end of the day i feel the answer to your question is irrelevant. Let’s remember, also, that sexual assaults often go unreported.)
      It seems the issue here is about culture – about BU’s decision to not in any way promote an idea that it’s ‘ok’ to abuse women. Because it’s not ok. I support BU’s decision to withdraw recognition of Kappa Sig, in promotion of a college environment in which women are respected both physically and intellectually. This isn’t Greek Life bashing, it’s action in favor of social equality.

    2. @lnce….actually not that clear. The wording of this article makes it seems as if the party still occurred but in reality the event was cancelled immediately out of full cooperation by the fraternity.

  2. Of all the fraternities that truly and honestly deserved suspension, KS was at the top of the list. They’re ere the largest fraternity because they gave no heed to the quality of members they allowed in. They would take members who had GPAs below a 2.0 in order to be the largest fraternity on campus. Most fraternities have a cutoff around a 2.8. Are there outstanding guys in KS, absolutely. A few good guys doesn’t make up for pledge scavenger hunts that send you out to motorboat women and harass guys that dropped from KS. Regardless of the specifics of this event, the culture in that fraternity was inevitably leading them to this result and ultimately a bad apple that needed to be picked in order for the rest of Greek life to actually create a positive reputation.

    1. That’s not true at all. The problem is that anytime you put 50 college males in any room for any reason, there will be a small percentage of them that are complete assclowns. There is no way to prevent that. There is nothing specific to Kappa Sigma and judging the entirety of the membership based on the actions of just a few of them is unfair. Most members of any fraternity are not involved in decision making and learn about things like this only after it has happened. This is not a Greek life issue. This is college issue. This just as easily could have a dozen random guys, and in fact, probably has happened a million times with random unaffiliated people. However, that doesn’t get reported because it doesn’t fit the anti-Greek life agenda.

  3. Let the record show that the event never even happened and there are NO sexual assault accusations AT ALL. This is a reactionary suspension at best and a poor piece of journalism in regard to the facts.

  4. Over the past few years, the University has become far stricter with Greek Life. There are many organizations on campus that end up doing the exact same thing (hold events that are not sanctioned by the Student Activites Office). Kappa Sigma just had the misfortune of doing so as a Greek organization during a time that Greek Life was under heavy scrutiny. This is just the University’s way of flexing and showing other chapters what they can do if the rules are broken.

  5. I think the university failed to understand what a blackout party is and a party where you drink to black out. The party that they were trying to throw was the equivalent to a white out party, in the sense that everyone was supposed to wear black attire.

  6. I feel the Dean Of Students’ response was appropriate and reflects some understanding of what it takes to make BU a safer environment for all its members. I hope they will continue even further with such efforts.

    1. Safer? This is a school for adults, if you don’t like it or don’t feel safe, then don’t go. That’s all there is to it, I understand the university needs to placate the moronic helicopter crowd but they’re doing it at the expense of everyone else.

  7. I was a brother in KS at BU from 2006-2010 and while I am aware of only a few details regarding this situation beyond what is reported, the chapter e-board has been extremely responsible in responding to this event which was organized by individuals loosely or not affiliated with the Chapter at all.

    It’s important to note though that the trend of pushing BU Greek life social events from unrecognized off campus residences to events at private establishments has been primarily advocated by the University Administration. While I’m not suggesting the previous Ashford status quo, this situation shows the damage that can be rapidly attributed to the fraternity and university’s reputation thanks to one or two members rouge members within an organization that by year’s end often reaches near 100.

    With the growing chapter sizes and presence on campus over the last 10 years, its time for the University Administration to get serious about Greek Housing. With official residences social events could be conducted in a safe and controlled environment in coordination with appropriate University officials and Chapter executive boards elected by and representative of the Chapter as a whole.

    1. The University has these strict regulations and policies set forth for many years. Regardless of chapter size, it is up to the more seasoned brothers to educate the younger ones of these regulations and policies. It is also their job to immediately take down or rescind such flyers or promotions the moment they feel that it could be a threat to their standing with the University. If your chapter can not handle teaching every single brother of these policies and regulations, perhaps it is time to consider decreasing the number of brothers you intake.

      That being said, I feel like the suspension is due to not only the content of the incident but also the sheer fact that the regulations were infringed upon. This would push the current administration further away from giving Greek Life specific housing because of the fact that fraternity members are failing to follow the rules and regulations set forth by them.

        1. Because BU Admin. has a history of either indifference or negativity toward Greek Life in general. It’s a perspective that has been grandfathered down since BU sold all of the on campus housing for Greek Life to MIT. It is easier and has a smaller opportunity cost to get rid of Greek Life than it does if it were to offer on campus housing as BU would become liable for anything that takes place at that residence. And BU Admin. is known for putting priority on liability than anything else.

          1. Actually, BU did not sell those properties to MIT. They were owned by the national chapters. Interest in greek life at BU was so low in the 1970’s that the chapters closed and the nationals sold their houses to MIT chapters. When student interest revived in the late 80’s, the BU administration worked with the chapters to re-establish a Greek system. An at the time, Kappa Sig was the model chapter, it’s a shame to see this disgrace.

  8. BU Withdraws Recognition Of Frat For Throwing Unapproved ‘University Blackout’ Party | Boston Business Classifieds and Directory

    […] BOSTON (CBS) – Boston University has withdrawn recognition of a fraternity chapter that held a pre-Christmas “University Blackout” party that was not approved by the school and promoted sexually suggestive content, according to a BU Today report. […]

  9. While I understand that targeting an entire fraternity due to the inappropriate actions of a few may seem unfair, I’d rather the administration call out sexually harmful behavior and nip it in the bud rather than let something far worse occur. It’s easy to criticize the administration and find fault with their preemptive action, but what we should really be asking is why intelligent Boston University students thought hosting this kind of party and promoting it with the accompanied video was alright in the first place.

    1. I totally agree. As a further step I think see should castrate all incoming males. It may seem unfair but I’d rather the administration curb potentially harmful penii rather than allow males the right to be innocent.

      1. I definitely agree… I’d be happy to see student castration “partially funded my undergraduate student fee” rather than the continued oppression of women as a sexually objectified underclass.

  10. As someone who was part of Greek life in college, I am so proud of BU for suspending this fraternity. And for those of you saying the issue was “blown out of proportion” because the event never happened/brothers didn’t attend the party/other stupid excuses–shame on you. It doesn’t change the fact that members thought it was OK to degrade women and promote a party with misogynistic marketing, and leaders of the chapter allowed it to happen. Letting them stay on campus would just perpetuate the rape culture that is an issue at so many colleges in the US.

    Greek life can be a great thing–it can forge lifelong friendships, raise money for important causes, expose you to leadership opportunities, and give you an amazing college experience. But members such as those certain men of Kappa Sigma are an embarrassment and should be punished for their actions. Unfortunately, that means the entire chapter needs to pay. This may not be fair, and all members may not have agreed with the behavior, but the fact is that the behavior wasn’t stopped and it was NOT OK.

    1. LOL this is blatant misandry from an outcast who is still complaining that they didn’t have any fun in college. Literally goes so far as to say “this isn’t fair” in their blind rage that people with penises are allowed to exist.

      What is the end game of your complaining? It’s obviously not about fairness or equality – its a muscle move. So what do you even want, besides a soap box?

  11. It saddens me, even as a non-member of Kappa Sigma, to see administration coerce a simple misunderstanding into a suspension and media slaughter of the fraternity and fraternity culture at BU. “Blackout” theme simply means dressing in black, last I checked having a theme to a party was not the same thing as sexually assaulting a girl. While a very large brotherhood, the Mu Psi chapter of the Kappa Sigma Fraternity has always showed what it takes to be gentlemen. Unfortunately, with one simple mistake of HIRING A PROMOTER for a party (God forbid we are allowed to have a little fun in college) they get suspended.

    All in all, I am sick and tired of attending university where risk management is the only thing that fraternities can afford to focus on because of the tight leash administration is keeping us on.

    Philanthropy, character development of young men, and leadership opportunities will never be mentioned in a BU-supported article about greek life because those aspects do not play a part in the university’s detrimental tunnel vision for student organizations like this.

    Let’s start seeing both sides.

  12. I don’t particularly understand what the big deal is when it comes to their marketing strategy. Unless those photos were staged and nothing like such occurs during the actual event, it is fair game. Just like how someone would like to see how a trailer for a movie, a video such as this would be analogous. Even if it was staged, it’s still marketing strategy. The burgers you buy from McDonalds look nothing like the ones in the commercials. It may be deceptive, but if it works it works. If everyone stopped buying McDonalds, they would be forced to try a new marketing strategy. The moment people stop going to parties that are promoted this way, the sooner these types of promotions will stop.

    1. Or, y’know, once young men learn that objectifying and degrading women to get people to attend a party/promote anything is wrong, this type of promotion will stop. It’s not the fact that it was a marketing tactic. It’s the fact that the marketing tactic was misogynistic and supports a culture that often leads to sexual harassment and rape. It doesn’t matter if the harassment happened or not–it happens all the time all over the world because unnecessary content such as their marketing is seen as “not a big deal” and is so engrained in our culture that people don’t realize the effect that it has on how women are treated.

      Comparing half of the human race to a hamburger is just ridiculous.

      1. “It’s the fact that the marketing tactic was misogynistic and supports a culture that often leads to sexual harassment and rape.”

        Then how do you explain the all-time lows in sex crime and violent crime throughout the west even as sexual expression has become less and less restricted since the 60s and the Sexual Revolution? If these marketing tactics support a rape culture, then they’re doing a pretty poor job at it.

        And calling a metaphor that compares marketing strategies as “ridiculous” because you can’t look past your social justice blinders to understand the person’s core argument is just as ridiculous.

    2. Clearly women wanted to go to it, otherwise the university wouldn’t have shut it down. It looks like they’ve decided to segregate the sexes in the spirit of being progressive.

  13. LOL punishing 20 year olds for the culture of sex in our country. They showed pictures of girls in bikinis! At a party!

    Just enforce sharia law at BU, it would please the students you cater to anyway and then maybe you can provide them with more real estate, as long as you don’t care about educating the young adults in your own country : )

  14. Can anyone explain the purpose of frats or sororities? I don’t understand them at all. I hear lists of positives: brotherhood, sisterhood, philanthropy, etc… Brothers, Sisters and pledges pay incredibly high dues to join these organizations – correct? Can’t the same goals/objectives be accomplished by making friends with the people you live with? Making friends with students in the same academic major? The same clubs and organizations? I don’t get it at all.

  15. Greek life and university Greek organizations need to end. They serve no real,meaningful purpose anymore. They have outlived their intended purposes. All good things must come to an end. And all not so good things too.

    1. To say Greek life serves no real, meaningful purpose means you have not exactly done your research BU Mom. During my four years at this school I can proudly say I have watched so many members of greek life do great for the community. Whether it’s volunteering with local charities or working to raise money for various foundations, these men and women are some of the most hard working and caring people that go to BU.
      Sorority women at Boston University consistently perform at a higher GPA and GPI standard than those of the All University average and All University Women’s average. How does this happen? The answer is simple. These women are making each other a better version of themselves. These women care about each other and encourage each other to succeed.
      I am sorry, but I cannot sit here silently and have someone diminish a community’s worth when they do not know all of the facts.

  16. I find the wording of this article and reactions from the administration far more misogynistic than the actions of the brothers of Kappa Sigma. The promotional material in the event was strictly that; promotional. Women choose to attend these events out of their own free will and are not “forced” to kiss men as Dean Elmore so eloquently put it. If a woman chooses to have fun by expressing her sexuality in the presence of men all the power to her. Going go to a party and dressing in a way that makes me feel attractive does not mean I am being “belittled” and before BU turns all of Greek life against administration they should take a moment to step back and realize it is a community full of some of the most well-spoken, driven, and involved members of this campus. Countless of other individuals partake in the same behavior, and far worse, than what has happened here but the University and the media do not care because they can’t slap the “horrible frat boy” label on it.

  17. Pinning a “rape” label or implying a “rape-culture” on an individual or organization based on the promotion of a party whose name has a dual meaning is in every way is worse than the promotion itself. And, it is hard to shake! This reminds me of what happened in our country to many African Americans in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s and often even after the civil rights movement. Let’s be clear, I am not a supporter of anything that degrades, or puts women at risk. This party, which I understand was financed and organized by a third party, but yes, promoted by a BU social organization, was to allow students to let off steam at the end of a semester. It had wide support from both male and female students. I understand the lack of not thinking through the potential for confusion regarding the double meaning of the event’s name, “Blackout”, and I understand the Dean of Students’ position, especially given the recent (and ultimately discredited) article about gang rape at a UVA fraternity. It is inherently unfair to tag this group with this label and reputation. There is no evidence of disreputable intent – lapse in judgment, perhaps. Please understand, that the reputation, on both sides (BU, and the organization in question), is precious, and in the case of the organization, should not be besmirched by an incomplete fact set in an article from a school newspaper.

  18. Pardon me for playing devil’s advocate however is it not ironic that BU is so quick to crack down on these guys for associating themselves with “sexually suggestive, misogynist videos and photos” as well as “a culture of abusive behavior that openly celebrates verbal sexual coercion, belittling women…” etc. yet has absolutely no problem with hosting a Robin Thicke concert who’s “Blurred Lines” heavily promotes (both in it’s lyrics and music video) the exact things for which this fraternity is being accused? I smell a hypocritical administration blowing an admittedly stupid mistake on behalf of this fraternity way out of proportion in order to further its own hidden agenda and bitterness towards greek life…

  19. The University did the right thing. Good for them. The immature responses of these kids on this thread only reinforces thier need for adult supervision. If you are going to belong to an organization that condones this then grow up and face the consequences.

  20. There is so much ignorance in these posts. Read the article. “The decision was made largely due to the fraternity’s unauthorized usage of BU’s name to promote the event.” This isn’t Greek Life bashing. It’s keeping BU separated from misogynistic events. They used BU name thus putting BU in a situation of being affiliated with an event that is against its social policies. The article states that BU has withdrawn recognition – is this suspension? I don’t think so. Simple put, BU no longer recognizes the Frat even exists.

    @BU Mom, you certainly do not seem to know anything about fraternities. Fraternities do a lot of good work and are the accepted standards of philanthropy, character development, leadership and conduct. The mere mention of the ‘right’ fraternity can get you in the door for countless job opportunities. Not to mention the brotherhood of like minded individual that turns into friendships that last a lifetime.

  21. As a recent BU alum, I think a lot of these issues could be solved by the University becoming less stringent in its on-campus discipline and expectations. By encouraging a zero tolerance policy for Greek life, drinking or partying in dorms and on-campus locations, the administration pushes this activity off campus, where it is harder to encourage safety and good decision making in the event of an emergency, and where it is more likely to irritate the neighboring community. It’s naive to think that college students won’t engage in these activities because of campus restrictions. But BU blames students when an incident occurs rather than examine how its own policies contribute to those problems, because all the administration cares about is its own liability and perception of campus safety by the helicopter parents of students it’s trying to recruit.

  22. As the mother of a female college student who, with many other female students, was served drinks mixed with date-rape drugs at a frat party at another university just two weeks ago, I am thrilled that BU cracked down. The college culture that encourages frat boys to treat their female classmates as prey, subject to sexual coercion and far worse, is appalling. Where a “party” is an exercise in sexual predation which we all know can easily slop over to outright criminality, the adults should step in before the college idiots (male AND female) end up in situations which can carry severe repercussions (psychological and legal) which can last for years.

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