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Opinion

April 28, 2013

Mob mentality enables substandard values

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Written by: Madison Hopkins

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For Nazis to participate in the senseless murder of millions of Jews, they needed to conform. It is very unlikely that every individual who acted in the Holocaust was a bloodthirsty sociopath. More likely, they were a part of a larger group, and simply conformed to the mob mentality of hyper-racism encompassing their lives and culture. Fear of rejection by the men in charge led to the creation of millions of citizens with one mind.

On a smaller (and relatively less anti-Semitic ) scale, we have collegiate Greek life. For many, moving away from home to earn a degree in a strange new place is frightening. Sororities and fraternities hold the allure of comfort in numbers. Potential new members, or “rushees,” think, “Things can’t be that bad if we’re all in this together, right?” That may be the case for many Greek life members, but probably not for the Delta Gamma sorority at the University of Maryland. Unfortunately, these ladies have not had a semester worthy of snaps from Elle Woods.

The sorority was recently paired with a fraternity for a weeklong event known as Greek Week. I am not in a sorority, so I can’t tell you exactly what constitutes such an occasion. From research, I have learned that it involves several parties, sports games and other activities between the two groups. I assume it is meant to be fun. However, according to a colorfully composed email by one of the executive members of the sorority, things weren’t going as planned.

The email, which was sent to all the “sisters,” begins with “If you just opened this like I told you to, tie yourself down to whatever chair you’re sitting in, because this email is going to be a rough f—–g ride.”

And a rough ride it was. Apparently, many of the young women were not socially active enough with the young men at the events, thus embarrassing the chapter and risking rejection from future events with fraternities. To emphasize her point, the author questioned the ladies’ mental health and utilized vulgar language and the classic tactic of all caps. Not to mention the horrible display of improper grammar and punctuation, but that may be beside the point.

Despite the impersonal method used to share the message, the real issue is how she saw this as a serious enough reason to get verbally abusive. For this woman to view the matter as worthy of heated mass communication, she must have thought others would respond to her words. She must have believed everyone else would sympathize with her point. And she probably wasn’t wrong. If such a message was considered absurd within the sorority, chances are she wouldn’t have thought it was appropriate to share. Something about their group mentality validated these warped priorities and predicated her response. She is not an anomaly in this group, but merely the regulator of standards these girls agree upon.

Belonging to a group can become a way of life. It is said one acquires attributes from the five people he or she spends the most time with. Well, what about the top 100? Greek life members often live, breathe, eat, party, sleep and study together. They become a family of young adults during a transitional stage in their lives. To stray away from this adoptive family is scary, so most don’t.

Rushees endure the recruitment process to find organizations they are comfortable with and accepted by. To guarantee continued acceptance, members do what they know works and act in ways they know are accepted. Others follow suit, and a group culture becomes normalized.

This isn’t necessarily a problem. It only becomes one when the corruption of a few dominates the group mentality. If one group member’s beliefs are widely accepted by other members, it usually isn’t long before they are adopted as standards. To reject the norm is to risk rejection of oneself.

It’s this idea that allows a group to deteriorate into a sham of its public intent. It’s the principle behind the rationalization of rape culture within fraternities, and why fraternity men allegedly perpetrate 70 to 90 percent of college gang rapes.  It’s why 62 percent of sorority members engage in binge drinking, compared to 41 percent of non-Greek women. It’s monkey see, monkey do with drastic consequences.

Despite negative possibilities, the desire to be a part of a group is not necessarily a bad thing, and it’s arguably an inherent aspect of human life. Groups foster interpersonal communication and conflict resolution skills in addition to lasting friendships. Greek life is sometimes responsible for outlandish incidents, such as the Delta Gamma email. But it also shaped almost all U.S. presidents and 85 percent of Fortune 500 executives into the people they became.

Navigating the way the moral compass sways for institutions is dependent on the circumstances. If influential members promote certain values and respect differences of opinion, tolerance will eventually become the norm. It may be difficult to stand up to peers, but it’s necessary to retain some semblance of individuality.

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About the Author

Madison Hopkins
Madison Hopkins is a junior at San Diego State studying journalism and women's studies. She is currently the Opinion Editor of The Aztec.




 
 

 
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21 Comments


  1. Hallie Halliej

    Insensitive, poorly formatted logic and outright insulting. Journalism at it’s worst.


  2. Jane

    I agree this article is offensive. The author claimed to have done “research” but failed to look into the values and standards of membership for any Greek organization. With such a large Greek presence at SDSU it would have been more beneficial to talk to a member of the Greek community, rather than quote a crazy email from someone in Maryland. Additionally, there were many hasty generalizations that lacked qualification. Express your opinion, but if you are going to put your opinion in print it is important to be well informed.


  3. sam tamale

    lol at all the butthurt greeks


  4. Brooke

    Being Jewish and a proud sorority member I am shocked and disgusted by this article. I have some choice words that I should not post publicly-just as this article should not have been posted. This is ridiculous and insensitive. Most of my ancestors were killed by Nazis and you have the audacity to insinuate that I would just an organization similar to that? This article should be removed immediately and an apology should be posted. This is disgusting trash. You should be ashamed of yourself Madison Hopkins and fired. How dare you even THINK about writing such an article.


  5. Sarah Stevens

    While I do understand that the comparison at the start of this article may be construed as offensive by some, I think it is vital to understand that the author is in no way calling Greek members “Nazis.” Was it a bold choice for an attention grabber? Yes. That being said, she in no way drawing equal comparisons between extremist groups and campus organizations. Most importantly, she is not comparing the intent of the groups in any way, but rather seeks to juxtapose the mentalities within tight-nit groups, whether they be political parties or social institutions. Furthermore, the article goes on to make valid points about the pros and cons of involvement, specifically noting that Greek Life has “shaped almost all U.S. presidents and 85 percent of Fortune 500 executives into the people they became.” The author may lean to one side of the argument (this IS an opinion piece after all), but I must strongly disagree with other comments that she appears “ignorant” of the opposing side.
    The controversy this article has generated and the posts I have seen urging fellow fraternity and sorority chapter members to attack the author’s opinion are, in fact, exemplifying the “mob mentality” she speaks about. Criticism and expression are great, but individuals would do well to form their own thoughts about the points made, rather than blindly following the group in verbal attack on one writer. Those who see this piece as a likening of Nazi Germany and the Greek system are seriously misinterpreting what was written and should probably work on their reading comprehension skills.


    • Scott

      Sarah, I understand that perhaps using the comparison of Nazi Germany to the Greek system was as an attention grabber, and was used to illustrate an overall point about mob mentalities, but it was a poor choice from a journalistic standpoint, even for an opinion piece. This isn’t my main beef with the article, though. I respect opinions that differ from my own and don’t think they should take the article down necessarily as others do. I do have to disagree with your assessment of the author’s work. It was not a very well represented, researched, or formatted article. The author makes unfounded generalizations that are backed up by nothing but her own personal bias, to say that this article showed pros and cons of the Greek system is disingenuous at least; a couple sentences at the end in order to seem like she took at least somewhat of an objective approach to her thinking. And people that are ‘attacking’ her on this forum as you say and are giving into the mob mentality she writes about are only voicing their opinion just as she did when writing the piece, and who knows if they are Greek or not. Bottom line is the article just wasn’t very good, regardless of opinion. If it was to grab attention then good job that’s about all it did. I can think of many legitimate issues that she could have raised with the Greek system and made this a legitimate OpEd but she didn’t mention any of them and came off as a bitter, temperamental, girl who didn’t get a bid.


  6. Leonard Cheah

    Please take down this atrocity of an article, it degrades a great community within San Diego State University. Clearly your current columnist needs more time as an independent writer versus a university published writer. This is extremely offensive to my chapter and grounds for slander as many of men are of Jewish faith.

    Regards,
    Leonard
    ZBT


  7. Justin Sullivan

    I believe the girl that sent that letter out was expelled from the sorority. That shows that it was a mistake to have her in the position she was, and that those in Greek life realized the mistake and took action to fix it. To take it upon yourself to group all of Greek life to one black sheep is also a mistake; one I hope you can also take upon yourself to own up to and fix.


  8. Lauren Swann

    This is a highly OFFENSIVE comparison. Especially when you have 3 Jewish founded greek organizations (ZBT, AEPi, and AEPhi) at SDSU.


  9. luke suder

    looooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooool


  10. Katie Borts

    Daily Aztec,

    As the president of a Jewish-based sorority on campus, I am disgusted and saddened by this article. Not only for the obvious reasons, such as being likened to the horrifying “mob-mentality” of the German Nazi Regime, but for the close minded attitude that article exudes.

    Not only are you using slander to get your point across, much like the recent not-so-eloquent disaffiliated sorority woman in question, but you are proving yourself to be a close minded individual that takes no consideration to anything other than popular opinion. “On a smaller (and relatively less Anti-Semitic) scale, we have collegiate Greek life.” By suggesting that the Greek community has ANY Anti-Semitic sentiment at all is disgusting. I beg you to take a serious look at the community you are offending; there are two Jewish-based chapters on campus, and countless other sorority and fraternity members who are Jewish and of Jewish descent within the Greek system.

    Touching on the complete ignorance behind this article for just a moment: please check your facts before you send anything in for final review. Relying on shady (at best) statistics is a deplorable way to get your message across. We understand now that you believe the Greek community to be nothing but “stereotypical” partyers and serial rapists, but please back up your opinions! Resorting to saying “…fraternity men allegedly perpetrate 70 to 90 percent of college gang rapes…” just begs the reader to question just how important writing this was to the author when she couldn’t even be bothered to research her topic. Using ALLEGEDLY when describing a topic as weighty as rape does not make the cut. Calling the Greek community conformists is rediculous. The author clearly does not take into account that there are almost 40 Greek organizations currently on the SDSU campus and that more than 20 are founded on a multi-cultural basis.

    I believed the Daily Aztec to be a fairly accurate place to look for campus news and opinions before. I see now that I am sadly mistaken; they will run anything, no matter how offensive. I ask for a retraction of this article and a formal apology to be issued to the Greek community, if not for the insensitivity displayed above, but for the slanderous comments written about a campus community and fellow students at San Diego State University.


  11. Ralph Gizmo

    Biggest response I’ve seen from readers from a Daily Aztec article. Keep up the good work!


  12. Tom Laurin

    I realize that the piece lacks balance and insight, that it is an outsider’s point of view, and that the editor could have chopped it, but are we to actually suggest firing an op-ed writer for expressing an opinion? Such a concept led our ancestors to spearhead a movement that began the eternal wave of tired, poor, huddled masses. We must remember Voltaire: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” What precedent do we set when we want heads instead of voices? (Tom Laurin, copy desk, The Daily Aztec [class of 1990's 13-time award-winning newspaper])


    • Kayla

      I don’t think I would suggest firing someone for having an opinion but perhaps firing someone for displaying “substandard” writing skills and making illogical connections would be more appropriate. She is welcome to have her own opinion; however, The Daily Aztec seems to pride itself on being SDSU’s official newspaper, and yet doesn’t care to publish quality journalism. The disgrace of this article is more than just being entirely offensive, but Madison Hopkins is claiming to state “facts” and yet lacks any type of credible evidence or factual information. Those are reasons to fire someone, not for being offensive but for being a terrible writer.


  13. Derek

    I’m sorry, but this article has more than a few grains of truth in it. People in fratermities and sororities tend to lack individualitt. How many times have you seen a frat boy with a tank top, basketball shorts, flip flops and a longboard?


    • Kayla

      So are fashion trends also considered lack of individuality? I would agree that maybe they do lend to outsider views of conformity, but if you look at any sub culture or group of people and you’ll see that they have very similar fashion trends, that doesn’t mean they should be related to Nazi Germany. Unless your fashion sense is completely individualistic and not a product of the lastest fashion trends of whatever societal niche you identify with, I suggest you rethink you statement.


  14. Derek

    I’m sorry, but this article has more than a few grains of truth in it. People in fratermities and sororities tend to lack individuality. How many times have you seen a frat boy with a tank top, basketball shorts, flip flops and a longboard?


  15. Ralph Gizmo

    HILARIOUS how vocal the Greek scene got from this… shows that there is a lot of truth in this article that they can’t hide from


    • Jimmies Rustlin

      Definitely.

      “If you don’t fit in, you’re probably doing the right thing”


    • Scott

      you’re dumb. I and a bunch of people on here aren’t greek, that has nothing to do with it. the article was hack writing garbage, you think someone getting vocal about an author saying that ALLEGEDLY 90 percent of rapes are from fraternities means that there must be truth to it? that’s ridiculous, if someone called you a nazi rapist I think you’d defend yourself a little bit


  16. Rheanna Smith

    If anything, all of your comments and bashing of the author are making me think less (than I already did) of the sororities and fraternities at SDSU. I know most of you have gone through college being praised for all you do, but you’re not royalty and your sense of entitlement for some sort of apology or better yet, the firing of a writer, is laughable.

    The reality is that someone needed to say it, and I’m glad Hopkins did. I’m sick of hearing about your fundraisers. The reality is that fraternities and sororities are notorious for being party zones, usually filled with a lot of disturbing behavior. And for those of you that are about to comment that I clearly am not in a sorority or fraternity and “don’t know”… I have been to plenty of fraternities on this campus and others and visited a sorority. To say I’m unimpressed would be a huge understatement.

    I get you don’t like being compared to Nazis. No one ever said you are Nazis. What the writer did say is your mentality mimiks the groupthink of cult-like regimes such as the Nazis. Drastic comparison? Yes. But now that you all are mobbing this website with your self righteous comments… maybe not quite as drastic as before.

    Get over it. Go drink a beer. And tell your moms to stop commenting.



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