A case of bias
The Greek community has been under the microscope lately. After multiple tragic accidents and deaths in past years, the University of Idaho has sharpened its focus on underage drinking in Greek houses. Just a few short weeks ago, Joe Wiederrick passed away hours after reportedly drinking at the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity. After such events, the media have taken an interest in the university’s alleged “drinking culture.” I refer more specifically to Dee Sarton’s report “UI student deaths raise concern over ‘culture of drinking.’” The KTVB anchor traveled from Boise to Moscow to report and “investigate” Wiederrick’s death. Her report included interviews with UI Dean of Students Bruce Pitman, Moscow Police Lt. Dave Lehmitz and six university students.
I am a Greek student. Sarton’s report was unfair for multiple reasons. She includes a quote by a student: “They (Greeks) get away with so much. Every weekend there’s a party, and you always know about it. But the university doesn’t do anything to stop those kids from drinking underage … I think they could enforce it with the law. I think the cops should be called. They could break up parties. It’s not too difficult. I see it every day.”
This makes it sound like underage drinking is confined strictly to Greek houses. Underage drinking also happens in university housing — that’s a fact. There have been many cases of underage drinking and accidents in the dorms to which the media seemingly turn a blind eye. This student has the right to her opinion, but her opinion carries many stereotypes and hasty generalizations. For this reason, Sarton should have omitted this quotation due to its biased nature.
Of the six students she included in the story, zero of them belong to a Greek house. She neglected to interview a Greek student to get their point of view. If Sarton had any interest in giving an unbiased point of view, it would have been beneficial to include the perspective of someone involved in a Greek organization. But she didn’t.
I have two friends who knew Wiederrick. A great deal of sincerity and authenticity would have been added to the article had Sarton interviewed one of these two people, instead of six people completely unrelated to the incident.
It’s the Greek community who is blamed for the alcohol-related incidents. Wiederrick’s death had an enormous impact on the Greek community as a whole.
Another element that comes into play here is one of personal choice and responsibility. I have the utmost sympathy and give my deepest condolences to the Wiederrick family for what happened. Though events were unforeseeable, Wiederrick made the choice to come over and drink at the fraternity. Had Wiederrick been drinking in the dorms, then wandered out at night, would University Housing be under investigation? Would the media care as much? The Greek community is not taking the situation lightly, as numerous upcoming events have been either postponed or cancelled. Before jumping to conclusions and making generalizations, Sarton should have waited for more details to emerge and the toxicology report to be released, or at least done a more thorough investigation herself.
There is a trail of unanswered questions leading to what actually happened that night. Details have been released, but not enough to trace exactly what happened. As a Greek student, I see many implicit stereotypes Sarton uses in her article — whether intentional or unintentional — and the average reader could have a negative perception of Greek life after reading it. Greek students have received an overall better GPA since at least 2006 compared to the all-student average, According to UI’s website. Every Greek house is required to complete a certain number of philanthropy hours and community service events.
Almost half of the students who live on campus belong to a Greek house. I’d be willing to bet that most of these students share my opinion on this report. Putting this negative slant on more than 30 percent of overall students at UI weakens the reputation of this community as a whole. It is surely not appreciated by myself and peers that Sarton would write this article in the manner she did.
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