Archive for Wednesday, April 25, 1990


April 25, 1990


Editor, Journal-World:

In response to Liz Anne McElhaney's letter of April 17, it is true that an institution cannot control the words, actions, thoughts or opinions of its members, nor can it always bear the responsibility for same. It does, however, bear a responsibility for reacting in a quick, effective, meaningful manner to actions by its members which involve the violation of another person's civil and human rights. When he was accepted as a member of their fraternity, Matthew Willenborg and Sigma Alpha Epsilon became part and parcel of each other, and as long as he remains a member, the fraternity must be willing to shoulder the responsibility for Matt as a representative of their organization. If Matt's actions toward Ann Dean were abhorrent and unacceptable to the fraternity then steps should have been taken quickly and forcefully to sanction Matthew Willenborg in a meaningful way for his behavior.

By the same reasoning, the University of Kansas can certainly not be responsible for the words, actions, thoughts and opinions of each of its members. It is after all a place where diversity is and should be accepted and appreciated for what we can learn from it. But in its turn, the university becomes responsible for the actions of its members when those actions violate another's rights. Ann Dean's rights were violated. SAE did not respond effectively. For this lapse, the fraternity should be sanctioned by the university. As a representative of KU, the SAE fraternity, through its irresponsible and ineffective response to the situation tarnishes KU's reputation. The university must take a stand.

Has the incident been blown out of proportion? Probably. But attention must be drawn to this incident and others like it if things are ever to change. It was not the first occasion of harassment of a pizza delivery driver at the SAE house. And it was probably not the first time Ann Dean was insulted because of the color of her skin. Violence against women occurs with alarming frequency and is largely ignored. The incident involving Matt Willenborg and Ann Dean is an individual event, but others like it occur every day here and elsewhere across the country. That they occur frequently does not make them acceptable, nor does it excuse the parties involved. If Matthew Willenborg and SAE must be made examples of in order to deter others from similar despicable actions in the future, so be it.

Maria Butler,

2137 Naismith Dr.

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