The press’s right to freely publish opinions

Leah Ulatowski, Copy Editor

One Facebook user wrote about my column, “[She’s] an attention seeking, campus editor (sic).”

It is human tendency to desire acceptance, so I don’t delight in backlash. Because our society doesn’t comprehend the freedom of the press, I’ve made the difficult decision that promoting my cause is worth losing a sense of security and belonging in the place where I spend most of my waking hours.

The First Amendment states, “Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.” After discussing the questionable history of the college Greek system, I was met with demands of censorship and retraction where I expected to find thoughtful debate. Others threatened to approach President Eck to discuss repercussions.

Unfortunately, several staff members made similar requests. America has recently slipped from No. 20 to 32 in the Press Freedom Index ranking, and I expected our campus leaders to combat this demise by promoting the exploration of difficult questions. In reality, we cannot make columnists disappear; Google will reveal countless editorials on Greek life that are utterly merciless.

I tried to laugh off the misogynistic comments of “bitch” and “c**t” that were floating around, but my nonchalant approach was met with Facebook statuses claiming, “She did it to be in her terms ‘bitchy columnist’ (sic).”

No, I wanted to incite conversation about a national topic. The Atlantic even ran “The Dark Power of Fraternities” last month. Hazing occurs in other groups, but few organizations are as synonymous with it as the Greek system, and I personally cannot respond to such news with a callous, “So, what?”

Call me a bully, but I stand against those who wasted the lives of Matthew Carrington (2005, California State University), David Bogenberger (2013, Northern Illinois University), Carson Starkey (2008, California Polytechnic State University), Tyler Cross (2006, University of Texas), Donnie Wade Jr. (2009, Prairie View A&M University), Chun Deng (2013, Baruch College) and many more. Some choked on their vomit after deadly drinking games that were part of the initiation process, and others had their brains smashed out by paddles.

I’m defending the victims of Georgia Tech’s Matthew Peterson, who sent a “rape bait guide” to his Phi Kappa Tau brothers while serving as the chapter’s social chair. As reported by UW-Madison’s The Badger Herald, I’m devastated for the undergraduate who awoke in the campus’s Sigma Chi fraternity house to find that she was bleeding profusely from gang rape.

I apologize to anyone who misunderstood and underwent emotional trauma, but I didn’t call Lakeland’s Greeks a hate group. In fact, I made a point of presenting our system as a shining city upon a hill. However, I ventured to question the ethicality of associating with a tradition that has a controversial history, and the “Ku Klux Klan” reference was merely to illustrate that titles carry undertones. I wanted to provoke questions like: does the system’s good outweigh its bad? Could we start a new tradition? What if we axed the pledging process like Sigma Alpha Epsilon did?

While I’ve enjoyed thoughtful discussion with several Greeks, I’ve also endured cheap shots from a few members of the community who I once thought were exemplary. The worst of the “feedback” included racial slurs, and even my mother was attacked online. Additionally, there were allegations that I’m a flunky, though my GPA is 4.0.

One male student messaged that I should “shut up” about campus life because I “don’t go to parties.” In reality, my absence can be attributed to dividing my time equally between campus and hanging out with my brothers who have autism and miss me a lot. I apologize if some saw it as an act of elitism.

One of my favorite Facebook comments read, “It would be interesting to see her call her little newspaper ‘groupies’ in 15 years asking for help during a difficult time and let’s see who the f**k shows up [censorship added]!”

Despite our differences, I would never wish tragedy or friendlessness upon anyone. In the end, my only regret is that I assumed Lakeland College was one of the few campuses prepared to have a civil discussion on this topic. I’ve received quiet messages of agreement from many who are terrified to speak up, and it isn’t hard to understand why.

If you want to discuss only focusing on an organization’s bad side, look at your own claims that The Mirror is a “hate group.” We write countless positive stories about Lakeland College and even about Greek life with little thanks, and our only crime is asking the occasional difficult question. You don’t even have to look past a history of rape and hazing to see the positive things we do—you simply have to turn the page.