ISIS or Frat Boys: The Case of Youngstown State University

ysu02

(Photo Credit, Emily Wire, Youngstown OH)

Youngstown State University students at the college’s campus in Youngstown, Ohio went to class Monday morning to find their collegiate signpost, “The Rock,” covered in pro-D’aesh propaganda, featuring slogans such as “France Deserves Destruction,” “YSU Supports ISIS” and “We’re Coming.”

Full disclosure: I go to this university. My wife and partner recently graduated from this university. I was born in a hospital that is roughly two miles away from this university, and I grew up (and currently live) in a house four miles away from this university on the South Side of Youngstown. So, perhaps, I am choosing to write an opinion piece on this issue rather than hard news, simply because I am so close to it. Bear with me.

First, “The Rock.” This is one of those college traditions. We live in a glacial area, and YSU is an engineering and geology school primarily; this was a chunk of erratic rock dredged up somewhere in the Mahoning Valley and deposited on campus, and generations of YSU students have been painting it ever since. It is painted for sports rivalries, it is painted for big campus events, it is painted for student union elections and homecoming elections and yes, it is painted by various student groups for holidays and activist purposes. I anecdotally was told by one professor that the thing is roughly twice the size it once was due to the layers of paint, and once I took a pocket knife into this monument and I can tell you, the paint runs deep. So, that’s the “Rock” of YSU.

Monday morning, students came to campus to find “The Rock” painted in the colors of the French flag and covered in pro-ISIS propaganda. This came after a bomb threat to the university the previous Friday, so tensions were running high indeed. Immediately, local news sources swarmed the area, and the story went on to outlets such as Fox News. As I write, I’m sure the vultures are gathering around, looking to make a story out of this… Hell, I am myself.

Perhaps the best response to this I saw on social media, among locals, was that this was likely done by some kids looking to get out of class. The Thanksgiving break and it’s classic workload is looming, and students are tired of being in class. This was, almost certainly, a frat boy “prank,” some misguided youths looking to get a rise out of people… and they have, certainly. Here’s a gem of a comment from a user of the website of the local paper of record, the Vindicator, a depository of people who just barely made it through their journalism classes:

“Here’s an idea; paint the rock over and station sharpshooters on top of Kilcawley. Then, when the heathen brown-skinned ragheads come back, we simply shoot ’em”

“Kilcawley” being the campus building directly next to the rock in question. Lovely. Here’s another:

Covering over the pro-ISIS rhetoric with WHITE paint. How very appropriate!!!”

I should note that my hometown isn’t filled with white supremacists. Really,we are a pluralistic community. YSU is a multi-cultural campus with many people of color, including a large Muslim student population. I do fear that some of the more reactionary members of our community – who are, as they ever are, very vocal – will misguidedly blame our Muslim friends for this idiocy, but we will see what becomes of that in the coming days. Take another random comment from a local:

Ummm…I thought Hussein said that “ISIS” was “contained?” Apparently he meant that the campus at YSU “contained” ISIS terrorists! And of course he wants to take in Syrian reinforcements…oops, I mean refugees! C’mon man….these muslim terrorists are obviously here, among us, and the guy who claims to be the C.I.C. wants to bring in more?”

“Hussein,” here, clearly a reference to the middle name of President Obama, a man known mostly for winning a Nobel Peace Prize and dropping bombs on Muslim children. How this man could possibly be a coordinator of some Muslim invasion is beyond the comprehension of any sane person, but the comment does serve to stoke my concern for my Muslim neighbors and friends in this current climate.

The university did indeed begin releasing text alerts about this issue, starting at 11:14 am EST. I know, I got one. I won’t go forth and list a great many of these, but here is the latest official release from the university, created for the press:

“Messages were found painted on the rock on the Youngstown State University campus core on Monday, Nov. 23, that were found to be of concern. YSU Police are investigating the situation. The FBI was contacted as a precautionary measure. No threats have been validated at this time. Police are continuing to look into the matter. There is no credible threat to the campus at this time.”

I have indeed heard that the local FBI were out in force today, and that they are investigating the matter. They certainly are going to be pulling surveillance tapes of the campus, and I imagine that even as I type this, there is some frat boy getting shoved to the floor, his beer bong spilling all over the shag carpet of the half-falling down house on the North Side of town that his parents are paying his share of the rent for.
Campus maintenance later sprayed the “Rock” white, and a group of students banded together to paint an American flag and various patriotic slogans on it. A number of Muslim and Arab students were present as well, with one, Mohamed Mishmish, writing “peace” in Arabic and English on the rock.

YSU01.jpg(Photo Credit – Joe Bethuy, Youngstown OH)

Several local student veterans took their pictures with patriotic signs in front of this display, and kudos to them – honestly. We have a great veteran group on campus and I greatly respect their ordeal and service. And I admire the sentiment, though a French flag would perhaps have been more appropriate, given the context. But we shouldn’t lose sight of one thing, and that is this: this was some group of assholes, trying to take advantage of a horrible event for their own ends, in this case, getting out of class.

Sounds pretty similar to world governments, taking advantage of a terrible tragedy, for their own ends… doesn’t it?

17 thoughts on “ISIS or Frat Boys: The Case of Youngstown State University

  1. Joseph Yuhasz

    Some information that everyone seems to be forgetting that you should possibly add. Monday November 16th Pi Sigma Alpha the YSU political honor society painted the rock with the French flag colors and then added the peace symbol with the effiel town and then wrote #pete4paris. That was the name of our fundraiser. we raised money to donate to the

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Joseph Yuhasz

    Monday November 16th Pi Sigma Alpha painted the rock with the French flag colors, the peace symbol with the effiel tower, and the world #pete4paris. That was the name of our fundraiser. We held a benefit dinner on November 21st to raise money for the victims and families of victims in the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and around the world. We passed out 400 fliers created a go fund me account and shared it on social media. The rock and the fun raiser revived very minimal attention but it was painted with our fundraiser theme all week until yesterday when this whole issue started

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Chris

    Please fact check before you write. Why would you write a headline bashing “frat boys” when there is do much good that they do around the university and community. I am a graduate from YSU, and an alumni from one of the fraternities on campus. Your blatant disregard for fact checking and blindly blaming “frat boys” is distasteful (I feel you are just looking for those “clicks” every blogger dreams about), and shows that you too are lacking some journalistic skill, not only the Vindy. Before you decide to blame a group, perhaps you should do some research. Are you aware of ant philanthropy events the Greek System participates in/facilitates? I prefer not to “bash” someone over the Internet, especially when on a website that is a blog, and not an actual news outlet (not sure why you tagged this story “anti-capitalism”, but figured I’d point out just one more of the flaws in your article since the need to substantiate anything went out the window). I’m not a social justice warrior by any means, so please don’t take this message that way. The whole Greek Community deserves an apology from you for writing what amounts to a “I’m better than you. And I probably wasn’t allowed into a fraternity at some point in my life…”

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  4. Travis B.

    Once again, writers like you perpetuate stereotypes, while talking about stereotypes.

    How about you re-title the article “ISIS or idiots”
    Have you done your research on the value that YSU Greek Life adds to YSU, the Mahoning Valley, and to this country?
    Why specifically do you call out ‘frat boys’? Did you have some run in one time with one? Well, guess what, you perpetuating that stereotype, makes you no better than the people perpetuating the ones against anyone.

    How about we call these people out by what they are? Idiots. Terrorizers. Low life. The names are endless.
    And until you know for 100% sure who this person is, you shouldn’t be pointing fingers at people if you have no proof.

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  5. Brittany T

    Who are you to call some one a “frat boy”. Look how many presidents belonged to fraternities. Do you call your country a …

    Let’s get to the real issue. Someone, we don’t know who, painted something very wrong. Whether it was to get a rise out of people or they really believed in the propaganda they painted, they did something that could cause panic and make people think that campus was an unsafe environment. That person should face whatever is thrown at them.

    For a “reporter”, “journalist”, “writer”… What makes you think it could be, as you would call them “frat boys”? Why couldn’t it be the geology department( I would call them the rock or dirt people but then I would be acting as ignorant as you)?

    People like you are the main reason why media outlets are a joke in modern times. Instead of writing about diverse students getting together and the stories behind each one who met and repainted the rock, you post propaganda about a group of student that really have no part of this. Could one of them have done it? Sure. Could a nursing student have done it? Maybe. Anyone could have.

    Let me school you on the Greek system. You have to hold a certain gpa to be in. Much to people’s beliefs it’s not aall about parties, boobs, and beer… But there is a whole other side. Philanthropy, grades, integrity… But you’re not posting about that.

    You see I was a part of the Greek system at YSU for four years. I also served in the United States Air Force and don’t take lightly to things like this so close to my home. I don’t appreciate you degrading the Greeks, I don’t appreciate you degrading their character. I also know first hand about the fear of an attack or the retaliation this country is holding due to this. This isn’t a joke.

    And one more thing… You’ re not a journalist. You are a joke with a laptop typing about something you know nothing about. You threw out the term “frat boys” to get people talking and to point the finger somewhere else. Get a new job. You are not doing yours with integrity. Maybe you should have joined the Greek system… Or the military. Both teach it to you.

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  6. Brittany T

    What makes you think it was “frat boys”(as you like to call them)?

    Let me school you on some things, since obviously the time you have spent at YSU didn’t work.

    What makes you think it was “frat boys”? Could it have been? Sure. Could it have been the geology department(I would call them the rock or dirt peopel, but I’m not as ignorant as you)? Sure. could it have been a nursing student? Maybe. So what makes you point the finger at the Greek community.

    Let me explain some things to you.
    1. I was part of the Greek community for 4 years at YSU. You have to keep a certain gpa, fulfill so many philanthropy hours, and participate in community events. Did you know that? Probably not.
    2. I also served in the United States Air Force. So I don’t take lightly to events like this happening so close to home and family. This isn’t a joke. It’s real life. Have you ever sat in a room while someone told you “hey, be ready, we could be going any time”. To have to call your parents and say “I have no idea what’s going to happen, I just have to be ready, I love you”. Nope guessing you haven’t had to do that either.

    Integrity. It’s something your not doing as a reporter. Integrity is doing the right thing even when no one is looking. Right now everyone is looking at your ignorant article… And not because it’s a good read. But because the boy( you are defiantly not a man) who wrote it, wrote it with zero integrity. You however point the finger at group of young men who live everyday to up hold the integrity of their organization, with out probable cause. You could have written about the students who went out to reprint the rock and the diverse group who came together that day. …Maybe you should have joking the Greek system or better yet served our country… It sounds like you could use a lesson on integrity.

    I hope in the years to come you learn a thing or two there. I owe my life to Youngstown State. It made me who I am. (Thanks Dr. Pallante, Dr. York, and Dr. Barnes) I hope you learn to write, not gossip.

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  7. I’m going to respond here with my public statement from social media. I’m more then happy to discuss these issues with any and all privately or on another public forum.

    “So, apparently I need to issue an apology…

    My recent piece on the YSU rock incident, linked below, has caused a bunch of trouble, as I knew it would. Many people took issue with the fact that apparently blamed “Greek culture” (whatever the hell that even means) and frats for this stunt. Well, let me tell you this: ISIS, or D’aesh, isn’t in Youngstown planning some attack. Sorry, they just aren’t. We had a bomb threat at YSU last week; these incidents are just kids trying to get out of class.

    I fully realize that fraternities and sororities do great philanthropic work, and I’m not taking that away from you. I realize that many people in these organizations excel academically. That’s great. Do we know for sure who did this to the rock? No.

    I do, however, find it amusing that the moment I criticize a privileged group, all hell breaks loose. Maybe we can direct some of that righteous energy towards protecting the powerless. Let’s get mad about racial discrimination, let’s get mad about the plight of refugees around the world, lets get mad about climate change and corruption in politics and the fascists who love Donald Trump and lets get mad as hell about things that matter.

    Your privilege? Fuck your privilege. I’m coming to the end here and I don’t give much a damn about apologizing – and I won’t. The piece isn’t my best, it isn’t that well written, I threw it together quickly and I’m not overly proud of it for those reasons. But if it starts this conversation, great. And if you’re proud of your “Greek culture,” great. Go and do great things in the world, and while you are at it, fix the problems of racism, rape culture, and hazing that plague your community that the rest of us are forced to watch unfold.

    Otherwise, let’s pull this thing together and stand up for the powerless. All else is dross and trash.”

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    1. Chris

      Let me get this straight…

      I agree that ISIS most likely is not on campus, but you still have not stated WHY you singled out fraternities to blame!

      You could have singled out the video gamer that can’t tell the difference between real life and Call of Duty.

      You could have singled out the Internet hardo that spends all of his free time on the Internet trolling people because he has no friends.

      You could have singled out a student that was having a hard time with others making his life miserable.

      I could go on an on about the different demographics you could have singled out. Perhaps you should try looking at it from different angles, then write your piece.

      As far as the privelige goes, what ARE you talking about?! I had to work through college, while attending class full time, while attending all of my fraternity events. I graduated with student loans, that were paid off by ME. I had to go out and find a job (not blog) with my degree.

      To answer your question about Greek Culture…
      We spend time with so many others in the Greek community that we may have developed our own culture. Almost every night is filled with some event we have to attend, whether a philanthropy, school sanctioned, Greek sanctioned or for the community.

      I’m going to be honest here, and you might not like it, but I live in the real world. Your article comes off as nothing more than a trolling “click bait” piece. I can only assume you were turned away from a fraternity at some point, either when attempting to pledge or from a party. From what I’ve read, you couldn’t handle the responsibility of being a fraternity man.

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  8. Brittany

    So now your bitching about Greeks being privileged? Throwing out rape and racism isn’t helping your case. It’s deflection. Let me teach you another lesson… racism is taught. I wasn’t taught to hate. From my parents to teachers not one said blacks are bad or whites are racist. You want to fight racism. Teach the people spreading hate… Hey wait! That would be a great topic to write on. Start practicing, we all know you need it.

    First and foremost “go fix the world” remark.
    I have a college degree, served in our armed forces, paid off student loans(so ya I wasn’t privileged , bought a house… And oh yeah I’m an advisor for students at a university. So ya… I’m fixing the world. What are you doing? Blaming privilege? why? What does that accomplish? Why are they privileged? What makes them so better than evveyone else…. Well ? Nothing. Greeks aren’t privileged. Again…. Obviously you didn’t learn from the posts before … They are a group of people on campus being a part of something greater than themselves. But you can call that privileged.

    I don’t know who you are. Nor do I care. But you told me to fix the world. So I’m starting with you.

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  9. Don

    Frat is a really disrespectful term that carries a negative connotation. Notice no one who was in a fraternity or sorority used that term. Just the media or those who weren’t involved in Greek Life.

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  10. JT

    Wow. Blaming the rock painting on fraternities because you simply don’t like them. Way to slip your beliefs into a totally unrelated issue soley to cause controversy and get clicks. You’ve got a solid career ahead of you in ethical journalism. That was sarcasm, you no good wanker.

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  11. Joseph

    Take those racist comments you quoted, substitute ‘frat boy’ for Muslim, and you have your article.

    Maybe grow up a little, you’re supposed to be reporting on something not deriding a group you dislike…or maybe you are, that could be the entire point.

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  12. Ben

    It looks like everyone else managed to call you out already on the several inaccuracies in your write-up so I will keep it simple. I truly hope that you continue to fail as a writer.

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  13. DaB0ss777

    Hey dickhead, why is the focus on racism and rape in fraternities? What about racism and rape in youngstown? What about racism and rape in this community? It happens everywhere. U just only focus on greek life to look bad. We are no worse than anyone else. And just a heads up, ysu has a strict anti-hazing policy that we follow. One last thing, my fraternity is having a dinner where we take money from our pockets and buy food and supplies for the event. Every single dollar raised is going to a refuge charity. What have u actually done to help the situation? So think about that, and go fuck yourself

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