Letter to the Editor: ‘Jail-n-Bail’ cancelation a disservice to children in need

Ryan Fazio

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Northwestern’s grievance industry jumped the shark this week when it strong-armed two Greek organizations into canceling “Jail-n-Bail,” a fundraiser to improve literacy among low-income children. In a letter to The Daily, as well as on Facebook, NU’s most radical students excoriated the philanthropy for offending racial and class sensibilities by raising money through a jovial prisoner simulation where students free their “captured” friends by paying a “ransom” that benefits charity.

No matter the byzantine rationale, there is no evidence to suggest this is a derogatory event, and just because some insist that they can uniquely perceive a prejudice, does not make it so. If it were pernicious, the NU radicals better next set their sights on the perfidious schoolchildren of Oakton Elementary School playing “Cops and Robbers” at recess.

Of course, bigotry exists in America and should be attacked in its manifestations. Simultaneously, it is no longer as major an arbiter of outcomes in society as it was 50 years ago. The main ceiling to upward mobility today is the degeneration of cultural and economic institutions in low-income communities. For instance, Americans – regardless of background – who finish high school, work full time and wait to have children until they are married and 21 or older have a 72 percent chance of joining the middle class and only a 2 percent chance of being poor. The central challenge of our time is not racism, but that our schools, families and local economies have withered for decades.

There is a burgeoning consensus across the political spectrum about the importance of promoting marriage and reforming education through school choice. And coincidentally, there is also growing agreement on the need to reform the criminal justice system in America. Republican and Democrat executives and legislators are beginning to recognize that locking people up for non-violent drug offenses is offensive to justice. Concerned students should help build this consensus, rather than tear others down for immaterial matters.

Even worse, the letter of protest treats the charitable mission of the event as an afterthought. In purporting to advocate for one conceptual underdog, the writer does a disservice to real children immediately in need, because his advocacy resulted in funds that will no longer be raised and donated to teach them how to read. Kappa Kappa Gamma and Zeta Beta Tau could hypothetically organize a different event from scratch, but the whole melodrama means that time and resources are permanently sunk that could have otherwise gone to improve literacy. A new philanthropy will also probably lack the success of “Jail-n-Bail,” which had a good track record and brand familiarity.

Lastly, Kappa and ZBT should be ashamed of themselves for cowering to the left-wing radicals and failing to stand up for their philanthropy. Whether they were advancing it with full hearts or to score points with the Panhellenic Association and the Interfraternity Council, their cause was a noble one that deserved to be defended. Left-wing bullying of moderate students has become the norm at NU, stifling free thought and campus unity, only because the moderate students are too often afraid to defend their moral high ground. They should not be: Both reality and the broad swath of the student body are on their side.

Tragically, all that happened this week is that ambitious campus radicals made low-income children worse off in pursuit of their own political ends. It is hard to imagine a more improper use of their influential – dare I say privileged – position on campus.

Ryan Fazio (Weinberg ’12)


Editor’s note: Ryan Fazio is a former Daily columnist.