A Convincing Piece on Fraternities

I never even considered joining a fraternity at any point in my college life. This piece convinces me that I may have made a mistake.
Reform is not possible because the old-line, historically white social fraternities have been synonymous with risk-taking and defiance from their very inception. They are a brotherhood born in mutiny and forged in the fire of rebellion. These fraternities have drink, danger and debauchery in their blood — right alongside secrecy and self-protection.

They cannot reform.
That sounds awesome. I thought they were just a bunch of loud-mouthed rich boys.


Cass said...

Drink, danger, and debauchery are "awesome"? Secrecy and self-protection, too?

The world is changing awfully fast for me.

Grim said...

If you were to ask any young man of the appropriate age to describe an "awesome" experience, it would probably involve drink, danger, and at least a tinge of debauchery. That probably hasn't changed in all human history. :)

Seriously, the piece is intended to convince me that these things are awful and should be shut down. I was prepared, coming into it, to believe these things are pointless and would be no loss if they were shut down. By the end of the piece, though, I can suddenly see why people are so attached to them. They probably really are for loud-mouthed rich boys, but they clearly do address a deeply-felt human (at least young male human) need.

Cassandra said...

If you were to ask any young man of the appropriate age to describe an "awesome" experience, it would probably involve drink, danger, and at least a tinge of debauchery.

That is probably true of most young women as well, but most people are perfectly capable of doing those things without joining a frat. It's called "being a teenager" :p

What's different about frats is that they mix large numbers of young men (who usually outnumber any young women in the same house) with large amounts of alcohol and another perfectly normal human instinct (peer pressue/wanting to belong/be accepted) that doesn't mix well with binge drinking or being around the opposite sex. Especially when you consider how easy it is to cow most young men into doing things they later regret by implying that if they have any sense of decency, they're not "real men".

The spousal unit's frat was kicked off campus for drugs after he left. And though I thought it was sad that some people ruined it for everyone else, I had to problem with the school's decision.

I don't hate frats and don't want them outlawed, but having personally witnessed the combination of these factors, I don't think they're "awesome" at all. I think some frats - the ones that actually have some standards - can be good for young men. My nephew was involved with one like that.

FWIW, I don't think much of sororities, either. I remember my mother in law talking about joining a sorority as a young woman, and try as I might, I couldn't see the attraction. Didn't join one in college, either.

People who want to shut down institutions every time someone screws up are not thinking. There's a real case, though, (IMO) for asking frats and sororities to be better supervised if they're on campus. If they're off campus, then I suppose all the school can do is refuse to recognize them.

Grim said...

I think that where human nature inclines us to dangerous or harmful things, it's especially helpful to have an institution to channel the satisfaction of those things. I was never even a little inclined to join a frat. My father was in a frat, though -- an agriculture-oriented one -- during his time in college. But that was mostly because he hated living in the dorms, and in those days only married students were allowed to live anywhere except the dorms or a fraternity.

So that probably colors my coming-into-the-piece sense that frats may have no real purpose anymore: nobody makes kids live in the dorm if they don't want to do now. But now that I've read her strenuous objections, I think perhaps this is better than leaving this subset of kids to go out and satisfy these dangers in public. The walls of the frat house may contain much that is best contained, and even if the supervision is highly dubious it is better than going through that phase without comrades who will provide some overwatch for your youthful passages through drink and danger.

E Hines said...

If you were to ask any young man of the appropriate age to describe an "awesome" experience, it would probably involve drink, danger, and at least a tinge of debauchery.

Not so much alcohol in my class' case, although we did enjoy it. Our awesome experiences were epitomized by two things: one was the ongoing activity of bulldogging, from motorcycle back, the freight train that ran through campus; we wanted to be sober for the try. Never could get that sucker throwed over, though. The other was an event: we, as entering Freshmen, out-hazed our hazers to the point that hazing stopped for several years.

Our debauchery didn't need any sort of fraternity, either; we had neither frats nor sororities, and our school was early in the trend toward coed dorms. That lack, in fact, was an attraction of my school. I'd observed the frats at the U of Chicago that my brothers joined, and at the ripe old age of 12 found them idiotic and childish.

Now they're dangerous, even of the incidents still appear anecdotal rather than typical: the costs of those incidents has become too great.

Eric Hines

Ymar Sakar said...

The testaments had some funny tricks they played on people who used alcohol and kept on accepting it from their enemies, which they didn't figure out until later.