Over the last several weeks, anonymous social media accounts have been cropping up at college campuses where people are able to make anonymous posts detailing alleged sexual assault or harassment of which they have been victims.
It can be difficult and painful for victims of sexual abuse or harassment to come forward and to the extent that these sites allow victims to share their stories and, perhaps, find some modicum of comfort and closure, they can be productive.
At the same time, we need to be careful about using these sites or stories – painful and often horrifying as they are – as a substitute for an official investigation by proper authorities. Too often, those identified in these posts are being tried and convicted on social and traditional media and, that too, is unfair. Moreover, bypassing official investigations by proper authorities causes a breakdown in criminal justice systems that are best prepared to take on such serious matters.
I have a daughter. I take the issue of sexual harassment and assault very seriously as should all of Alpha Epsilon Pi. As a Jewish fraternity, one of the values of our teachings we hold most important is that all human beings are fashioned B’tselm Elohim, in the image of G-d. Therefore, it is wrong to treat anyone in a way I would not want to be treated myself, no matter their gender, race, sexual orientation or religion. This, obviously, applies to sexual assault and harassment.
Let me be perfectly clear: Alpha Epsilon Pi Fraternity unconditionally opposes, and its conditions of membership absolutely prohibit, any conduct considered as “sexual harassment” or “sexual assault.”
If an AEPi Brother is found guilty of these heinous acts, we will immediately move to expel him and hope that he is prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. There is no room for such behavior in our fraternity. Our mission – developing the future leaders of the world’s Jewish communities – is too important today to have people guilty of these acts to distract us from it.
We are strong believers in justice and fairness. We have to be careful not to fall prey to the cancel culture spurred on by the power and reach of social media to also destroy lives. My friend, Dr. Dawn Wiese, recently wrote on her blog (at http://plaidblog.com/):
Social media allows those who have not historically had a microphone to have a platform from which to address critical issues. It can easily be argued that this is a good thing – a flattening of the curve, so to speak, as to who has the ability to share perspectives. But, it is important to remember: power itself is neutral. Power can be used justly and wisely. Power can also be used unjustly and unwisely for harmful purposes. Depending on the situation, the unjust and unwise use of power can be called a variety of things: intimidation, abuse, bullying, fraud, discrimination, tyranny, and canceling, to name a few.
It’s time that we work as a fraternity to be better. It’s time for our Brothers to step up and intervene when they see a potentially dangerous situation. It’s time to treat everyone – no matter their gender – with respect and dignity.
It’s also time to stop allowing people to use social media as a weapon. It’s time that we reconfirm that everyone has a right to due process.
You know what? It’s past time.