Column written to warn about possible safety threat, not as attack on Greek Life

Ruth Brown

Ruth Brown

In the March 3 issue of The Collegian, I wrote a column about a possible hazing that may have occurred in Brookings. Since that time, I have received both positive and negative feedback from members of the Brookings and SDSU community.

The column I wrote described the story that a young man told me of himself and seven other male students being victimized after responding to a poster that was said to be hanging on campus.

I had no intention of harming the reputation of SDSU’s Greek Life program, harming the university’s reputation, ruffling feathers or offending anyone. I purely wanted to inform students that this may have happened, and if it did, then the student’s story should be told.

At no point did I think that Greek Life was responsible for this incident. I felt the column made it clear that this alleged incident did not involve any legitimate fraternity, or legitimate organization for that matter, but rather was a cruel joke. In hindsight, we at The Collegian wish we would have written the headline differently, and we apologize if that headline tied Greek Life to the incident in students’ minds. That was not our intention. I would also like to mention that Greek Life does have strict policies against hazing and does not support hazing of any kind.

I asked the student if he had contacted the police, and he said he had not. Since the time the column printed, the South Dakota State University Police Department and I have been in contact about the hazing incident.

After talking with the student and hanging up the phone, I immediately knew that it couldn’t run as a news story because I wasn’t 100 percent sure it was factual. At the same time, I felt I could not just sweep it under the rug and pretend it didn’t happen.

Because all posters hanging on campus are supposed to be approved by Information Exchange, I contacted them and checked to see if they had approved anything similar to the poster the student described. I did not find anything out of the ordinary. However, posters are often hung without approval on our campus.

If indeed this incident did happen, it could easily happen again. I, as a human being, could not just sit back and wait for it to happen again. I felt a responsibility to share this with students – a responsibility to inform them so that they are aware that this could not only be a part of our world, but a part of our community.

The Society of Professional Journalists’ code of ethics states that journalists should be “free of obligation to any interest other than the public’s right to know.”

I do not regret running the column. I saw the column as a kind of public service, and I apologize if readers thought it was anything but that.