Ever since The Daily Illini published “I Hope They Serve Beer on Frat Row: A Journey Through Rush” on Sept. 7, both Greeks and non-Greeks have displayed their opinions on the controversial column, written by the Jeff Kirshman.
With 159 comments ranging from pure rage to complete agreement, University students and alumni have demonstrated their views on Kirshman’s experience observing campus fraternity life. His story was from his own perspective and was written as a column, While most journalistic articles are required to remain objective and non-biased, columns are an exception to this rule; the author typically states his or her opinion on the matter they are reporting. A disclaimer was posted next to the article, which listed hard, numeric facts regarding how many undergrads are in the Greek system, as well as the process Kirshman went through in gathering his data as a bystander.
The majority of the article was composed of comments Kirshman had heard from random party-goers as well as the scene he surveyed. He did not mention the name of any subject featured in the article, keeping things anonymous. He distinctly illustrated the house scene so well the readers could practically feel the “hot air with a faint smell of vomit.” As a quiet witness with his feet sopping in “puddles of Keystone light,” Kirshman recounted his experience of a single rush night at seven different fraternities.
A large portion of the readers took high offense to the fact that he mentioned the names of the fraternities, thereby establishing associations between the members and the rush acts Kirshman described. The comment thread became so extensive and filled with verbal bashings that one commenter posted that the “thread is more damaging to the Greek system than the story itself,” acting as a referee for the nastiness amongst the commentators.
The entire DI staff was blamed for publishing the piece by one commentator, and Kirshman chose to punish the whole entity as he promised to “never again sign a petition to increase funding for the DI.” As a follow-up, the DI published an editorial and letter to the editor in order to clarify the intention of Kirshman’s column and to settle the controversy.
Bill McGinn, a junior in Engineering, authored the letter published on Sept. 13 stating “the use of fraternity names was unnecessary and inappropriate…done with malice because the column would not have lost any power if the fraternities were not named.” His was yet another opinioned reaction to Kirshman’s name-dropping in his column.
The newspaper’s editorial published on Sept. 11 reiterated “the problems of binge drinking and misogyny are in no way unique to the Greek system,” and that the University’s fraternities do not advocate underage drinking.
This controversy acts as an example of the power of free speech has in today’s society, as well as the influence media has over many of its consumers. The multitude of reactions sparked by Kirshman’s article illustrates the strength of the Greek life presence on campus.