Widgets Magazine

OPINIONS

An open letter to Ms. Bloch-Horowitz from an SAE

Dear Ms. Bloch-Horowitz:

This morning, a dear friend and fraternity brother sent me a link to your Stanford Daily op-ed.

Let me first compliment you for your courage in writing it and for the skill with which it was written. Dean Lim obviously earned her pay in admitting you; you are a credit to the University. I find the balance and perspective you have shown in the face of what has happened to be quite remarkable.

I am an alumnus of Stanford and a brother of SAE. I served as rush chairman my senior year long ago. We have, apparently, walked the same hallways of and attended parties at 1047 Campus Drive.

As an SAE, I am angry at and embarrassed by the speech directed at you and women in general by my active brothers in SAE. To the extent I can speak for the house — across all the time and space — please accept my deepest apologies. I want you to know that you were right to walk out of that Roman Bath party. I’d like to think that, had I been there, I would have been as courageous and principled as you were and walked out with you.

But, sad to say, I’m not sure I would have had your courage in 1980. So I also feel the need to apologize to you — personally — for not doing more 35 years ago to inculcate in Cal Alpha a permanent, open and strong respect for women. I wonder now, if we SAE alums had thought more and acted better, had cleaved closer to our guiding poem “The True Gentleman,” you and others might have been spared some suffering. For that I am truly sorry.

What I am sure of are instances of sexually offensive, misogynist speech and conduct at SAE on my own part and others’ while at Stanford SAE. For that, despite all the possible apologia, I could not be more sorry. Young Stanford men should know better, even without oaths to be True Gentlemen. Mea culpa.

Let me end by offering a ray of hope in the form of two chapters in Stanford SAE’s history that may give a little more reason for optimism. First, late in my tenure, the SAE house was wracked by a sudden scandal:  It was discovered that we had been infiltrated by gays (never mind that there’d always been gay SAEs). Oh, what angst, what sturm! What must be done? Had social media existed then, I can only imagine the conflagration — or worse — that would have raged. Ultimately, what was “done” was … nothing. And in our doing-of-nothing, the homophobes passed out of the house, fabulous friendships were forged and good people learned to be better, accepting citizens. Second, also on my watch — and you might wish to sit to receive this news — Stanford SAE voted on opening its membership to women. The proposal lost by only a few votes, and I believe it would have carried but for fears the house would lose its national charter.

The lessons this history teaches are that houses are imperfect and divided, and that they do change. I hope that you and the Stanford community — including the active SAE brethren — will take these to heart. If I can be of any help to you, the University or SAE in turning this sad episode in a positive direction, I volunteer.

William. R. Zoberst ‘80

Contact William R. Zoberst at wm.zoberst ‘at’ stanfordalumni.org.

  • Stanford Woman

    As an undergraduate Stanford woman, this made me smile. Thank you for writing.