Phony pledge signs cause outrage

Greg Kane

Phony pledge signs recently found on campus?featuring vulgar phrases and a derogatory photo of a woman?angered many Sacramento State students and left a campus fraternity to wonder why someone would try to soil its reputation.

A total of 25 signs, which mocked the ones the fraternity Tau Kappa Epsilon had been using for pledge week, were found staked to the ground across the campus Feb. 23, said TKE President Vartan Vartkessian.

Lou Camera, director of Student Activities, discovered one of the signs outside the University Union Feb. 23, and the rest were collected soon afterward. Those responsible have yet to be identified.

Of the signs found, 20 featured a profane parody of a TKE sign that had read, “The boy who became a man?The man that joined a fraternity?The fraternity that changed a campus.” The fake signs read, “The boy who came on a man?The man who raped a sorority?The fraternity condemned by a campus.” Both featured TKE?s letters, as well as the phrase “Rush Tau Kappa Epsilon, Spring 2001.”

The other five signs showed a photograph of a woman in an evening dress, passed out with a bottle of whiskey in her hand, with the phrase, “You never know when opportunity will open its bloodshot eyes to you again!” These signs also bore TKE?s letters.

Vartkessian said he was concerned about students identifying the signs with TKE and other fraternities, particularly because of the image some people already have of the organizations.”Fraternities here have never had a good name,” Vartkessian said. “You hear ?fraternity? and you have the automatic generalization of, ?they drink beer, they party.? I?ve been trying to erase that.”

Students who came across the signs were outraged, many called the Women?s Resource Center to complain, Vartkessian said. After learning of their existence, he called the WRC to formally apologize, then sat down with Camera and David Braverman, associate vice president of Student Affairs, to clear the fraternity of any wrongdoing.

“The Women?s Center had phone calls all day taking offense to the stakes that were put out,” Vartkessian said, adding that TKE “would never, ever put stakes out degrading women.”

Patricia Grady, WRC coordinator, said people came by all day dropping off signs, and men and women alike called to voice their outrage over them. She said everybody at the Center was disgusted by the content of the signs.

“People were very upset about it, that?s why they brought them in,” Grady said. “This kind of thing can?t be tolerated on our campus. It just can?t.”

Braverman said he was very concerned about the incident, saying that if it was intended to be a prank that “it didn?t come off that way.” He said that though the signs were probably meant to damage TKE?s reputation, their effects could branch out to other fraternities on campus.

“It probably hurts the whole Greek system, not only them,” Braverman said.

Vartkessian said he was shocked when first shown the signs, particularly due to how closely they resembled TKE?s earlier stakes. He said that some think another fraternity may be responsible for the incident, which occurred during a Rush Week that also saw their booth and schedule of events get vandalized, but feels it was probably an outside party.

“My personal feeling is that it was someone outside the Greek community with a vendetta against fraternities,” Vartkessian said. “It would be hard to believe that someone in the Greek community would do that.”

Fraternities have a “good sporting rivalry” on the Sac State campus, but there haven?t been any hostilities between the organizations in recent years, said Heather Dunn Carlton, assistant director of Student Activities, who works closely with the Greek community. Since there are no leads as to who is responsible for the signs, anyone could be to blame.

“We really don?t have a story indicating either way as to the individual or individuals involved,” Dunn Carlton said. “It?s hard to say unless someone comes forward with information.”

This is not the first time fraternity rush signs have been vandalized on the Sac State campus, Dunn Carlton said.

Last semester a similar incident involving fake signs happened to two other organizations, although according to Dunn Carlton those cases were “not as extreme.”

Though no complaints have been filed with either the university or Campus Police, Braverman said there would likely be a penalty for whoever took part if they were discovered.

“I?d imagine that action would be taken,” Braverman said. “I can?t say what that action would be because I don?t know.”

Vartkessian said he thinks the signs were probably put out during Rush Week to hurt TKE?s recruitment of new students. He said that although that doesn?t point to another fraternity being responsible, it does raise questions.

“Absolutely, it hurt us during rush. How does it feel when new students walk onto campus and see these signs?” Vartkessian said. “So it?s hard not to think that another fraternity didn?t do this.”

Vartkessian said the signs were an unfortunate mark on TKE and other fraternities which, despite being active in fund-raisers for various programs to assist, among others, the homeless and children, only seem to draw the attention of the university during negative situations.

“It?s frustrating that when we try to do something, nobody?s listening,” Vartkessian said. “But one bad thing happens and everybody knows about it.”