The Phi Kappa Psi college fraternity has been around since 1852. Their motto is “United by friendship, sustained by honor, and led by truth, we live and we flourish.” The fraternity has 101 chapters and has initiated 119,000 members over the past 163 years. In November, the “honor” part of the fraternity’s motto was called into serious question by Sabrina Erdely, writing for The Rolling Stones magazine. She uncovered the story of “Jackie,” a University of Virginia freshman who was raped at the frat house by seven members of the fraternity.
Erdely was the only journalist to expose the horror of what happened that terrible night at Psi Kappy Psi. Her work and bravery are deserving of a Pulitzer. Except for one thing. It seems “Jackie” made the whole thing up, and Erdely was too lazy to interview any of the accused. When the truth came out, it was Rolling Stones that was exposed. Neither the writer nor the editor bothered to question any of the accused or get a single iota of evidence. “Clearly our fraternity and its members have been defamed, but more importantly we fear this entire episode may prompt some victims to remain in the shadows, fearful to confront their attackers.” For their part, the leaders of Rolling Stones have not dismissed the writer or editor behind the false accusations. The first amendment to the Constitution says that “Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.”
But this leaves out one very important word: responsibility. What is the lesson from this incident? Read the words of that great philosopher, Bob Dylan. “A hero is someone who understands the responsibility that comes with his freedom.” I admit I don’t know much about Phi Kappa Psi. But I do know this. In order for a freedom to be enjoyed, it must be accompanied by responsibility.