Effects of the Media – Fraternity Scandals
March 28, 2017
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The personal and societal impact the media and journalism has on scandals and the news is increasing. Journalism can positively or negatively shape a situation and deeply affect the outcome. Colleges nationwide face this problem but the release of an editorial and exposure from the media to this specific scandal is what made it important. The more a public embarrassment, specifically in colleges, that is spread and represented in journalism, the more publicity it receives and affects the reputation of the school.
In 2012, a hazing scandal at Dartmouth College was exposed to the public through an editorial. Andrew Lohse, former member of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity at the school, published a Rolling Stone article on the dangerous hazing and drinking habits taking place. The media coverage of this scandal impacted the school profusely. One of the results included an increase in open protests from students and teachers against the binge drinking, intense initiations, and sexual assault occurring in their school. Although this was a positive outcome of the incident, as the article from Lohse gained more publicity the effects weren’t always as beneficial. Potential Dartmouth applicants rapidly started to lose interest and the number dropped significantly. Within 2 years of the scandal release, applications to Dartmouth received a 14% drop. The decrease was known to be directly associated with the ongoing harassment issues being open to public awareness. Coverage by the media “made all the difference when it came to how many people applied to schools,” (Kingkade). Not only did the media impact this scandal on a large scale, but also effected Andrew Lohse and others who were offended personally. Lohse broke the sacred fraternity code of silence when he revealed in the student paper, The Dartmouth, “I was a member of a fraternity that asked pledges, in order to become a brother, to: swim in a kiddie pool of vomit, urine, fecal matter, semen and rotten food products; eat omelets made of vomit; chug cups of vinegar, which in one case caused a pledge to vomit blood; drink beer poured down fellow pledges’ ass cracks… among other abuses.” This betrayal to his former fraternity led to damaged relationships and harsh backlash from current fraternity boys and alumni. Insulting fraternities, which have been significant at Dartmouth for around 150 years, is like offending the school itself. This insult became very frowned upon because of how public it became through media and the amount of people who were informed of the exposure. To really prove the impact of the media on these types of scandals, two others were researched in USC and UC Berkeley where women claimed their sexual assault scandals were not handled appropriately. These scandals did not get to the public like the Lohse scandal, and as a result had an increase in applications in the following years instead of a drop, like Dartmouth, after their scandal. Although many schools have had similar situations and scandals take place, Dartmouth’s was significant for the amount of publicity and media representation it received.
The effect of the media continues to develop and become more impactful as society and technology grow. Words and opinions spread, either for better or worse, through journalism and helps form the outcome and results of the scandal. The article by Andrew Lohse about Dartmouth’s scandal, turned out to have a negative consequence on the reputation of the college and Lohse himself. The more coverage in the media a scandal gets, the more opinions spread.