By Chris Sorochin
“No matter how cynical you become, it’s never enough to keep up.”
I’ve been observing the Stony Brook scene since 1978 and sometimes I stumble across something so excessively ridiculous and petty that I have to check and see if it’s an April Fools Day joke. Such is the case with a flyer posted on a Student Union bulletin board.
Said flyer is duly approved (“unauthorized” postings are not allowed; they tend to create a clutter, or express unacceptable sentiments, as freedom often does) through the end of the semester, May 15. It’s even on thick, glossy paper, like a magazine page.
“Do you want to JEOPARDIZE your academic career?” it bellows in scarlet lettering. Underneath, in a more restrained funeral black, it informs the viewer that “These sororities are NOT RECOGNIZED at Stony Brook University.” And under that proclamation are several triads of Greek letters, all in circles with slashes through them.
A Russian writer, a full century before Yakov Smirnov would cheapen the sentiment, explained the difference between Russian and French societies as follows: In France, everything not expressly forbidden is permitted, while in Russia, everything not expressly permitted is forbidden. Guess where Stony Brook falls in that paradigm?
The door of the WUSB (90.1FM) vinyl library used to be adorned with various band stickers. One fine day, the Union management informed the station that the stickers would have to go, as they violated some building regulation. As is so often the case, no logical reason was given for this regulation. I offered the analysis that, as in militaries and totalitarian societies, uniformity of physical environment was thought to discourage any lapse from orthodoxy in consciousness and behavior. I even cited a previous attempt by the same Union officials to ban students from “chalking” announcements on the sidewalk outside and suggested the building be renamed “the SOVIET Union,” only to be branded a crank and a malcontent.
But I digress. This little announcement about the sororities also failed to offer any reason these organizations were sanctioned. Maybe the University can only approve so many before a state of frat fatigue is reached. Or maybe prospective clubs are expected to cough up some cash in exchange for approval and these had failed to do so.
ersonally, I have never been one for “Greek life” unless it involves souvlaki, ouzo and Aegean beaches and would normally not care too much about people willing to undergo ritual humiliation to belong to a clique, except that the flyer went on to invoke threats against any and all who would belong, or aspire to belong, to one of these klatsches: “Joining unrecognized organizations on this campus is a DIRECT VIOLATION of the Stony Brook University Student Conduct Code!
Well, aren’t all the finer things in life violations of said code? And exactly how much input did students have in their composition?
“Membership and/or seeking membership within these organizations CAN and WILL put your academic career in JEOPARDY.”
What, I wondered, could these sororities possibly be doing to warrant such opprobrium from our beloved administration? Are they holding renegade bake sales featuring cookies produced in illegal dorm room toaster ovens? Or throwing unauthorized mixers at which they, god forbid, consume alcohol? Could it be that they posted rush notices not approved by official bodies?
Maybe they’re even vicious female gangs, subjecting the campus community to carnage, mayhem and general bitchiness? Or femiNazi terrorists looking to overthrow the patriarchy by any means necessary? Covens of Goddess-worshipping Wiccans seeking victims for human sacrifice? The mind simply reels.
This latter-day witch hunt promises prosecution not only for those found participating in the pledging rituals of the accursed sisterhoods, but also for those bearing their unholy runes: “The wearing of Greek Letters of an unrecognized organization may be viewed as evidence of affiliation.” Torquemada, Cotton Mather and Joe McCarthy must be orgasming in their graves over that one.
What is a law-abiding campus citizen to do upon observance of either forbidden sorority activity or its hellish symbols? “If you have been approached by any of these organizations or witness unauthorized intake/pledging activities, please contact…”
You’re supposed to drop a dime, you big rat fink! First given is the number of Kimberly Stokely, Assistant Director for Fraternity & Sorority Life. Okay, so the established sororities don’t want upstarts muscling in on their racket. This is quite understandable.
The second number is that of Gary Mis, of the Office of Judicial Affairs, a.k.a the Kampus Kangaroo Kourt, before which one is hauled for burning candles, harboring kittens, having a guest without, there’s that word again, authorization, or any of the myriad of petty offenses they’ve dreamed up. Mr. Mis has been punishing students for behaving like students for at least the past two decades. I’d hate to think campus social life has become so dreary that he’s run out of keggers to bust up and is now looking to fill his docket with misguided co-eds to star in the Stony Brook version of “Women in Chains,” tasting the leather riding crop of justice, SUNY style.
Finally, it’s suggested that it might be desirable to contact the University Police. Imagine the scenario:
“I’d like to report suspicious sorority activity.”
“What is you location and the nature of the activity?”
“Javits. I just snuck out of my psych lecture. Two girls in the row ahead of me are wearing pins that say Alpha Sigma Sigma. According to my Student Life List of Approved Organizations, that’s not a recognized group.”
“Right you are, Citizen. Thank you for your information. We’ll dispatch a SWAT team to apprehend them immediately.”
Of course, as with other transgressions, this effort may just backfire and it’ll become cool, nay, prestigious, to pledge a forbidden sorority. They could even become exclusive secret societies a la Skull and Bones. Those aspiring to bad girl status all over campus will have Tau Iota Tau tattooed in places not usually visible, or Sigma Epsilon Xi shaved into their pubic hair. It’ll be a major social coup to hook up with one of these damsels, and, inevitably, clandestine fraternities will spring up to provide willing swains. College officials will meet to brainstorm new “zero tolerance” policies to halt the “epidemic” of membership in unapproved clubs. Students will be prohibited from gathering in any group larger than three.
This could be an even bigger teacup tempest than the ban on recreational rollerblading and skateboarding, whose cheery signs greet visitors at the railroad station. In your face, local youth! It could even outdo, for sheer Orwellian idiocy, those large East Berlin-style signs that announce the East Campus Total Smoking Ban to any and all driving into the hospital.
So I say let’s get the ball rolling. I’m going to institute an unauthorized club right here and now. I’m not of the appropriate age or gender to found a sorority, but in honor of my old high school drinking buddy, Debbie McKinney, I’m reviving the Turtle Club, and I’d like you all to join. It’s easy. All you have to do it this: if anyone ever asks, “Are you a Turtle?” you must reply, “You bet your sweet ass I am!”
I’ll leave it to more entrepreneurially-minded individuals to come up with appropriate T-shirts, jackets and other swag, but just imagine the conniptions an open-to-all, uncontrolled , secret organization will create in the heads that wear the crowns. Can the day be far off when we’ll see flyers with pictures of little green amphibians crossed out? Let’s make this happen! Join today! It’s easy! It’s fun! It’s subversive!