June 9, 2003
Campus outcry follows MTV shoot
By Jennifer McNulty
The filming this spring of UCSCs Delta Omega Chi (DOC) fraternity
by MTV for its hit reality show, "Fraternity Life," has prompted
discussions across campus about the value of this type of national television
coverage, the role of Greek organizations at UCSC, and expectations
regarding student conduct.
This is one of two houses MTV has provided for the duration
of filming. Photo: Chris Myers
The fraternity signed a contract with MTV this spring and is scheduled
to be the fourth Greek organization profiled on MTVs "Fraternity
Life" and "Sorority Life" series; the DOC episodes are
expected to begin airing in September.
The fraternitys decision to sign on with the network was outside
the universitys purview, and the campuss formal involvement
in the project has been limited to negotiating contracts for on-campus
filming. Even so, supporters and detractors have weighed in about the
wisdom of the endeavor from the earliest stages of discussion, according
to campus officials.
"Although most organizations appreciate free publicity, not everyone
at UC Santa Cruz thinks it's a great idea to be featured on this particular
MTV program," said Ronald P. Suduiko, vice chancellor of University
Relations, whose division oversees commercial film contracts on campus.
Opponents of the filming became more vocal following last weeks
admission by two DOC members that they stole a rare koi fish from Porter
College, and recent allegations of sexual harassment against the fraternity.
Public outcry surged last week following news reports of the fish incident.
Campus officials consulted widely before allowing the network to film
on campus. In April, they met with Santa Cruz city, county, and business
representatives to discuss the pros and cons of having MTV film in the
A representative of the Santa Cruz County Conference and Visitors
Council estimated that having MTV profile a UCSC fraternity could generate
up to $1 million in revenue for the region, and a representative of
Santa Cruz County was enthusiastic about the project and optimistic
that the fraternity members would make their town proud, said Elizabeth
Irwin, associate vice chancellor for communications, who represented
UCSC at the meeting.
The campus subsequently signed agreements allowing the network to film
fraternity activities on campus on two separate dates. Campus officials
had second thoughts after observing behavior by DOC members during filming.
Their concern intensified when members of the fraternity came under
police investigation in the disappearance of the rare mature Hikari
Ogon Japanese koi from the fishpond at Porter College. UCSC police turned
over the case to the district attorney.
The theft was also referred to the UCSC Office of Student Judicial
Affairs for adjudication, which could result in disciplinary sanctions
for the organization as well as individual members, according to Doug
Zuidema, director for Student Judicial Affairs. DOC was also reprimanded
by Zuidemas office for allegations of sexual harassment that occurred
during spring quarter.
"I support Greek life, but I dont support bad behavior.
They are not living up to the standards of fraternities and sororities
on this campus, nor our principles of community," said Zuidema,
adding that his office will follow up with an investigation and appropriate
disciplinary action if MTV airs any footage capturing violations of
law or campus rules, including underage drinking.
MTV selected DOC after fraternity member Casey Loop, a senior majoring
in economics, approached the network in March and invited producers
to come "check us out," said Loop.
"We have something pretty special here, and I really thought the
first show [of "Fraternity Life"] did an injustice to Greek
life and to fraternity life," said Loop, who sent e-mail to MTV
producers at 1 a.m. "The very next day, they called us and sent
questionnaires. I really felt we could make the show much more entertaining,
much more exciting."
For the duration of filming, MTV has provided fraternity members with
two houses, one of which overlooks the Santa Cruz Yacht Harbor, two
silver Range Rovers, and individual monthly cash allowances. The fraternity
is receiving an undisclosed payment, as well. DOC has 28 active members,
according to Loop. Six pledges are living at the house by the harbor.
Citing contractual agreements with the shows producers, several
DOC members declined to describe activities that have been filmed.
Current and alumni members of DOC were enthusiastic about the opportunity
to spotlight the fraternity on national television, said DOC president
Evan Beaudu, a junior from Folsom who is majoring in film and psychology.
"The atmosphere around campus and in Santa Cruz is not very conducive
to Greek life," said Beaudu. "This is an opportunity to show
we have a really good time, and we build lasting relationships."
Asked if the filming provides an opportunity to counter "animal
house" stereotypes and build campus support for Greek organizations,
Beaudu noted that "MTV is going to portray us how they want to--it
might not be accurate."
"No matter what we do, good or bad, MTV is going to focus a lot
on the more interesting, exciting aspects, like partying, and the crazy
drinking associated with fraternities, anyway," he said.
Jay Hosack, the UCSC volleyball coach and a volunteer adviser to Greek
organizations at UCSC, met with DOC members before they signed the contract
"I told them that this is an opportunity for them to portray their
organization on a national level," said Hosack, a 2002 UCSC graduate
and alumni member of Theta Chi, UCSCs first Greek fraternity.
"I did the best I could talking directly to them, and then I talked
with their alumni."
Like the other Greek organizations featured in MTVs series, DOC
is a local organization that exists only at UCSC. Unlike national and
international Greek organizations, locals have no governing body, noted
Hosack. "MTV only chooses locals because nationals have governing
bodies," he said. "Locals dont have anybody to say no."
Although the media spotlight provides an opportunity to present the
benefits of Greek life, which include social outlets, professional networking
opportunities, and an enhanced sense of school pride, Hosack conceded
his own surprise that MTV would choose UCSC. "That was the first
reaction--why here? The Greek system isnt even established here,"
Indeed, Greek fraternities and sororities received a chilly welcome
at UCSC, where the 1989 founding of Theta Chi prompted the creation
of an opposition organization called Students Against Greek Establishments
(SAGE). The group launched a letter-writing campaign and sent more than
2,500 letters of opposition to Theta Chis national headquarters,
Between 400 and 500 UCSC students are currently members of Greek organizations.
Return to Front Page