May
6th 2011
Should colleges ban fraternities?

Posted under: American history, childhood, class, Gender, GLBTQ, Intersectionality, race, students

Sorry, boys!

That’s the question under discussion today at the New York Times’ feature, “Room for Debate,” starring Historiann BFF Nicholas L. Syrett of the University of Northern Colorado, author of The Company He Keeps:  A History of White College Fraternities (Chapel Hill:  University of North Carolina Press, 2009).  Nick gets the debate started with a strong opinion grounded in his research on the history of frats:

The chicken-or-egg question is this: do fraternities promote misogyny in members or do freshmen with retrograde gender politics seek out fraternity membership? The answer is both. We all join organizations whose values already match our own. But by promoting one version of masculinity – hard drinking and sexually aggressive – fraternities pressure men to change in order to earn membership and status within them.

Either way, if colleges support organizations promoting these attitudes, they tacitly condone them as well, encouraging men to believe there is a place for such beliefs on campus. The colleges themselves are thus culpable, which is precisely the point of the suit lodged against Yale.

I found most of the other debaters’ comments to be surprisingly wishy-washy, even those who agree with Syrett that fraternities are notorious sites of anti-intellectualism, alcohol abuse, and sexual assault.  Many make claims along the lines of “well, fraternities reflect the larger culture, so whattayagonnado?”  Just because the abolition of fraternities won’t end all forms of alcohol abuse, homophobia, rape, misogyny, or racism doesn’t mean that inaction is an acceptable course.

Dropping trou and $hitting just anywhere is a perfectly natural behavior, but universities don’t permit that on their campuses, let alone welcome entire houses full of outdoor-$hitters onto their campuses, nor do they permit them to play a large role in the social life of these universities.  Why then are fraternities endlessly tolerated when they are for the most part diametrically opposed to the values of learning, equal opportunity, and inclusion that are professed by most modern universities?

41 Comments »

41 Responses to “Should colleges ban fraternities?”

  1. quixote on 06 May 2011 at 10:46 am #

    “Professed” probably nails it.

    There was some fraternity years ago in New Orleans who thought burning crosses on their front lawn would be funny. That fraternity, if I remember right, lost its right to operate on campus.

    Rape, on the other hand, terrorizes nobody, doesn’t limit anyone’s options, and is all in good fun.

  2. GayProf on 06 May 2011 at 10:47 am #

    Yay for Nick!

  3. Ruth on 06 May 2011 at 11:05 am #

    For the same reasons that universities fund big-time football programs that cost a huge amount per athlete, rather than putting the money into sports that cost less per athlete and have much higher graduation rates (and where the athletes are also interested in getting an education, rather than just preparing for the pro draft), or into academics: they think it will help them recruit students, and they think it will help them raise money from alumni.

  4. LadyProf on 06 May 2011 at 11:07 am #

    This one’s a no-brainer: of course! I see nothing in the NYT dialogue to support the continuing existence and support of these danger zones.

    A couple of years ago I discussed the subject with a gay male student of mine who while an undergrad had served as vice president of his fraternity. He argued that over time, with increasing numbers of students arriving at college already out of the closet, toxic masculinity inside the frathouses would dwindle. I’m sure that’s true … but the timeline is too damn slow for my taste.

  5. Retrochef on 06 May 2011 at 12:32 pm #

    I’ve known some very kind, generous, non-misogynist, responsible men who were fraternity brothers in college. I’ve known a lot more who weren’t. (I had an internship one summer, six students from my school who were all bored in suburban Ohio; me, and five frat boys. One was pretty nice; the rest were raging alcoholics, and were constantly coming into work with hangovers and even drunk on some special occasions.)

    My big gripe with frats isn’t just the WOOOOO PARTY atmosphere they encourage, it’s that they are repositories of years of homework and tests for brothers to “study from” (translation: “cheat with”). Even in classes where professors studiously update the exams every semester, this is an unfair advantage — particularly in majority-male disciplines like mechanical engineering.

    Dropping trou and $hitting just anywhere is a perfectly natural behavior, but universities don’t permit that on their campuses, let alone welcome entire houses full of outdoor-$hitters onto their campuses, nor do they permit them to play a large role in the social life of these universities.

    I’ve known of a lot of frat boys at a lot of universities who do this… ok, I’ll be fair, mostly it was public urination.

  6. Dr. Crazy on 06 May 2011 at 12:35 pm #

    First, let me note that I was not a member of a sorority in college, have absolutely no affiliation with the Greek system, etc.

    I did know a number of guys in fraternities in college (though our campus was not a terribly “Greek” campus, in the way that some are) and I’ve had students in fraternities at my current institution (also a campus in which affiliation with Greek organizations is marginal at best). I am not saying that the problems that you note, or that Nick notes, aren’t real problems at many institutions, and that the Greek system doesn’t provide an alibi for those problems. But. In my experience (n=1), fraternities (and sororities) are very service-oriented, emphasize academic excellence, and promote involvement in other campus activities, like student government, academic honor societies, and other positive activities that can benefit the campus community as a whole.

    I suppose I resist stereotyping any group of students (fraternity/sorority members, student athletes, English majors, whatever) as being “all one thing” – i.e., fraternity members are racist, homophobic rapists, or student athletes are illiterate cheaters, or English majors are pompous, arrogant twits who dress in black and listen to emo music, or whatever. This is not to say that we shouldn’t hold organizations accountable for bad behavior, or that we shouldn’t hold individual students accountable for bad behavior. Just to say that demonizing a whole category of the student population seems reductive to me, and not necessarily fair across all campuses and in all contexts.

    All of that said? I don’t actually get the allure of fraternities and sororities, and I never had any desire to be in one, and I can’t claim to understand what attracts students to those organizations. But then I also don’t get the allure of social clubs for non-student adults, either.

  7. Historiann on 06 May 2011 at 12:43 pm #

    I’ve got no beef with sororities. They’re not my bag, but I’ve never heard of sororities commiting the kinds of crimes that fraternities frequently commit. Some of them put too much emphasis on women’s appearance and bodies, but I’ve never heard of serious, systematic abuse of each other or of other campus community members. There are exceptions, I’m sure, but they should be dealt with on a case-by-case basis, as should the fraternities we’re discussing here.

    But, I think we all know which houses are the problems on most campuses, and they’re not the sororities.

    If service and academic excellence are core missions of fraternities, then they can continue on with those parts of their fraternity experience. To me, it seems like most fraternity “service” serves as a fig leaf they use to deflect attention to the less useful aspects of their existence.

  8. Dr. Crazy on 06 May 2011 at 12:51 pm #

    H’Ann, I’m sure you’re right about fraternities at many institutions. My experience is in no way universal – and I’m sure it definitely reflects the fact that my undergrad institution was distinctly hippie-ish in its culture (and really the kind of behavior you criticize in your post tended to happen in non-Greek-affiliated off-campus houses/apartment complexes that were – and apparently remain – notorious for such things) and the institution at which I teach is a primarily commuter, non-residential campus without Division I sports and with a high percentage of students who are working full time and living at home while going to school. Those factors, I think, definitely change the role that Greek organizations play.

  9. Widgeon on 06 May 2011 at 1:29 pm #

    A student (male) was stabbed and killed by another student at a fraternity party this year at my institution. Whatever doubts I had about shutting them down ended that day. Everyone was very drunk, and they were having a “gangsta’ theme party.”. There were no repercussions for the frat., just endless sorrow for all who knew the student. Frats are dangerous places for male, as well as female, students. I’ve had enough.

  10. koshem Bos on 06 May 2011 at 2:06 pm #

    A free society implies freedom to be stupid, racist, misogynistic, homophobic and thoroughly despicable. Freedom of association allows unions, but, sadly, the KKK and fraternities and sororities. As long as laws don’t follow this fascinating list, we are fine.

  11. cgeye on 06 May 2011 at 2:09 pm #

    And it should be added, the banning of ANY fraternity-like organizations, or else the problem will be shunted to even more exclusive “eating clubs”, or Greek orgs who operate underground, affiliated with branches at other colleges.

    The behavior is the problem, and the threat of dissolution should be the spur for such behavior to end. Then again, I expect a pony for my birthday, and sparkles on my cake….

  12. Historiann on 06 May 2011 at 2:12 pm #

    But, koshem Bos: students voluntarily surrender all kinds of liberties for the privilege of association with a university or college. Some colleges require adherence to a particular faith, or temperance, or observance of an honor code, for example (or all 3!) Colleges and universities are certainly permitted to dictate the terms of student conduct in order to remain a student in good standing. There is no constitutional right to a college education–and universities have jealously guarded the prerogative of being very selective about their students and alums.

    The question isn’t “should fraternities be banned throughout the United States?” It’s “Should colleges ban fraternities?”–with the emphasis on the associations colleges and unis have with these dubious criminal enterprises.

    Widgeon: at my former uni about 10 years ago, a student died in a fire in a fraternity house that was started by drunk students throwing lighted wads of toilet paper at each other. (Shades of the “tragic gasoline fight accident” from Zoolander, I guess.) It was astonishing to me that the fraternity was permitted to remain on campus, and that the university just looked at it as another terrible, terrible accident, there was nothing we could have done, etc. (They had a big Mass so everyone could gather to pray and cry and pray, but no earthly action that might have saved future lives was ever considered.)

    Fraternities would be free to reconstitute themselves as clubs or associations that aren’t affiliated with college students, just as colleges and universities are free to ban members of those associations from their campus.

  13. cgeye on 06 May 2011 at 2:15 pm #

    And this comment is interesting, considering the writers of ANIMAL HOUSE came from the eating club culture, not frats:

    http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2011/05/05/frat-guys-gone-wild-whats-the-solution/colleges-condone-fraternities-sexist-behavior?permid=8&offset=1#comment8

    “8. EconProf Florida May 6th, 2011 3:24 am

    By the 70s, frats were on their way out, anachronistic symbols of the pre-Boomer generations of class and exclusion. Then the movie Animal House changed fraternity stature forever!

    Ironically, this movie was a statement against Greeks, as epitomized by social stratification, initiation rituals, and links to college administration and every town and gown traditions. The movie was set way back in 1962 before the first Boomers hit campus. In fact, only a powerless status led to the hilarious desperate and nihilistic actions by Delta House members.

    Yet this movie changed everything on campuses. Frats came roaring back at Cornell, Duke, and Northwestern as symbols of what college was all about. Every low-budget movie about college since then has focused on Delta-type toga-party cultures as the hippest reason for attending college. Alcohol, the symbol of the dull 50s generation, came roaring back at colleges. Intellect and studying was mocked as something for socially-inept nerds and dweebs (expressions revived from an earlier age). And U.S. higher education commenced its long downward slide into the abyss.

    Today, as the “missing men” turn college demographics into 60% women, even top universities feel forced to sell parties, sports, and frats to attract applications from the shrinking pool of college-bound males. The final irony is how Title IX enforcement penalizes colleges with soaring women numbers, forcing resources so that women can waste as much time not learning as their male counterparts — so that the only students required to attend our virtually empty large lecture hall classes today are the scholarship athletes (along with their tutors, of course).”

  14. cgeye on 06 May 2011 at 2:16 pm #

    … and, for the test-cheating files alone, Greek organizations could be liable under RICO, considering how they cheat in state-run academic institutions….

  15. ej on 06 May 2011 at 3:28 pm #

    I think the point Syrett makes is getting lost in the discussion here. His argument is not that frats should banned (though that is the question posed by the NYT) but rather whether or not universities are responsible for the actions of individual frats. The two are different issues. H’Ann’s example of the tragedy at Baa Ram U speaks to this as well. Too often, universities dismiss such incidents as isolated tragedies, rather than symptoms of the culture. But should universities play a larger role in regulating their actions? Or at least enforcing the regulations currently in place?

  16. Historiann on 06 May 2011 at 3:41 pm #

    (The house fire I describe above was at my former uni, not my current one.)

  17. Nick Syrett on 06 May 2011 at 4:00 pm #

    ej and Historiann have it: I don’t actually think they ALL should be banned, and didn’t advocate for that in the NYTimes piece. But I do think that any time any of them misbehave, then that’s it: they’re out and they shouldn’t be allowed to come back. I think the larger point (as H’ann explains) is that colleges are not the United States writ large; they’re separate institutions that get to make their own rules. And if they want to encourage responsible use of alcohol and a campus climate that respects women, then they have every right to ban organizations that don’t jibe with those values.

    While I am not in favor of any organization that picks its membership based on some sort of nebulous criteria (that often comes down to money and good looks and connections), so long as they don’t actually do anything wrong or harm anyone, it’s not the end of the world. Once they do, however…

    Thanks for posting on this, Historiann!

  18. Historiann on 06 May 2011 at 4:04 pm #

    Sure, Nick. I hope you sell a lot of books today!

  19. Dr. Crazy on 06 May 2011 at 4:21 pm #

    “. But I do think that any time any of them misbehave, then that’s it: they’re out and they shouldn’t be allowed to come back.”

    I don’t disagree with this at all.

    I suppose the question is, is a fraternity misbehaving if one of its members misbehaves? Maybe so. I’m not entirely sure about that, though. (I bristle at the whole guilt by association thing, perhaps because I hate the idea of being considered a slacker because so many of my colleagues slack? Because I was a student who hated group work because I hated the idea of being penalized because a person in the group didn’t pull his weight? Because I am a jerk who wouldn’t belong to any club that would want me as a member?)

    All of this is not to discount what you write, Nick – more to illustrate why reform doesn’t happen :)

  20. rustonite on 06 May 2011 at 5:32 pm #

    I’m going to comment, because I am Greek. This is a bit of a ramble, because it’s Friday and I’m too tired to organize my thoughts.

    What good fraternity chapters do is give 18-22 year old men what they want (beer and wiminz) while making them get what they need (good grades and charity work). When a chapter’s alumni are doing their job, the little monsters don’t even realize they’re being edified- community service and hard work become as automatic as shotgunning beers. When a chapter’s alumni aren’t doing their job, things very quickly degenerate into The Lord of the Flies.

    Generally speaking, the national organizations do a very good job of policing their chapters. My fraternity has to clean house on about 1% of chapters in any given year- go in, throw out the bad eggs (sometimes that means the entire chapter), and recruit new blood. Sometimes it’s because there’s a specific incident, but more often it’s because a bad culture has developed at the chapter. The review process is more or less automatic, based on warning signs that are detectable from a distance (not paying their bills, new member classes that are smaller than 1/3 the chapter size, initiating fewer than 80% of pledges).

    I’m a bit on the fence as far as university involvement. I think it very much depends on the campus culture, which varies widely. Some schools have had good success with a Greek system that is totally independent from the university (Colorado is the best example), but in other places that would be unthinkable. This is a not a one size fits all situation.

    The idea that fraternities are bastions of privilege is a bit outdated. At Ivies, tony SLACs and public flagships, networking is still a big deal, but for 80% of Greeks, there are no networking benefits to membership. Typically, Greeks only help out guys who were members of their chapter, not members of their fraternity. The Alpha Betas at Woebegone State do not get much help from the alums at North Central- in fact, they may be actively hostile to each other.

    Misogyny is something that’s on the decline. The chapters of my fraternity that I’m familiar with, outside the Deep South, which is its own little world, are actually very gay positive. In the last decade, frat guys have discovered that gay men typically have lots of hot female friends whom they’re not trying to sleep with, and that has changed a lot of minds. Fraternity members also tend to have a libertarian streak, so they’re not much interested in who’s in whose bed. Again, this only applies outside the South- the fraternities at Bama remain just as bigoted as ever.

    I’m a weird academic, in that I absolutely hated school. I got through my homework as fast as possible, so I could get back to drinking and fornicating. Fraternity membership was what got me through, because if I wanted the fun, I had to get good grades. And the leadership experience was extremely valuable- there aren’t many other places were a 20 year old can be in charge of an organization with a $100,000 annual budget.

    The reason I think academics don’t generally get fraternities (or college sports, or a lot of other things that go on at college) is because the sort of person who grows up to be a professor is someone who liked going to class, reading, writing papers, etc. For normal people, those are the crap you have to put up with to get your degree. Some of it is interesting, some of it might even be fun, but most of it is just work. Normal people do not have fond memories of classes- they have fond memories of cheering at a football game and then going to a party and feeling up Jenny Meyers.

    It may be that it would be better if sports and fraternities were separate from schools, but that’s not the way the institutions have developed. They’re deeply intertwined, and pulling them apart would be a catastrophic change on all sides. If faculty are concerned about Greek life, the best thing they could do is get involved. When you see your students wearing letters, ask about it. Go to a Greek charity event. Volunteer to be an adviser- you don’t have to be a man to do that, my chapter’s faculty adviser was a woman. I think that one of the reasons we see tragic excesses in a lot of areas of college life is because the (admittedly already overworked) faculty assume that someone else ought to be taking care of those things. If you’ve got tenure, then you’re a lifetime stakeholder in the university, and not just in the academic bits of it.

    Oof, that turned out to be long. Sorry to steal so much space, HA, I guess I had more to say than I thought.

  21. Tenured Radical on 06 May 2011 at 6:05 pm #

    Yes, they should. And sororities could go too.

  22. ix on 06 May 2011 at 6:25 pm #

    Mixed feelings about fraternities…well, no, not exactly about them–I can’t stand them–but about their presence on campus. On the one hand, my undergraduate SLAC eliminated them over 40 years ago, and has done just fine since. Eliminating them did NOT get rid of stupid, sexist, violent, homophobic behavior, but I’d like to think it cut down on it a bit. After I went to SLAC, though, I went to big state university for grad school, and discovered how little community or structure was given to most students’ lives. Undergrads lived in big anonymous dorms and were largely ignored by faculty. That’s when I really got the value of smaller living communities for students. So I would not lose sleep if private universities eliminated frats (not sure public ones can for First Amendment reasons), but if they do so they should also develop learning-living communities for their students so they are not simply left adrift.

  23. Western Dave on 06 May 2011 at 6:57 pm #

    Like ix, my college experience was pretty much fratless (we had three, you couldn’t live there, not sure what they did they mostly stayed out of trouble). When I got to a big state Uni for grad school, I was prepared to hate frats and there were a number worth hating. But because of the housing situation, there were a lot more frats than initially appeared (ten or so sororities and frat houses on the main drag). There were all these 10-15 person frats that were based on science interest or service stuff and a lot of those kids were the ones who packed my office hours with paper drafts and questions about the reading. Those frats seemed not to have houses (at least not big ones) but often a floor in an apartment building. It was primarily a way to live with friends, and have some guaranteed housing with predictable costs for three years. These were the kids who spent their spring break on mission trips, their weekends tutoring kids in Detroit, etc. etc.. I do think colleges need to do more to flat out ban the bad actors and encourage the good ones.

  24. widgeon on 06 May 2011 at 7:14 pm #

    Bad actors–does that include all-white frats that hold gangsta parties? I feel like throwing this out to the good folks at: http://www.wearerespectablenegroes.blogspot.com/
    There are some serious racial politics going on in the frat world. Lots of metaphorical and real minstrelsy.

  25. m Andrea on 06 May 2011 at 7:23 pm #

    Rustonite, please read the following sentence and define precisely to what group “normal people” referr:

    Normal people do not have fond memories of classes- they have fond memories of cheering at a football game and then going to a party and feeling up Jenny Meyers.

    Er. The vast majority of women do not want to “feel up” Jenny Meyers, so it’s safe to assume that in your world “people” is only referring to men. And anytime a dood does that, he is downgraded from an egalatarian man with an opinion worth taking seriously, to one who is not. For thousands of years — literally for that long — non-egalitarian men have been telling women that “misogyny is declining”. And yet the gang rapes continue regularly as clockwork…

  26. quixote on 06 May 2011 at 8:32 pm #

    rustonite, I’m guessing your comment was well-intended, and on one level I was interested to see your view.

    On another level, I’m going, WHAAAAAT?! Are you serious? Or maybe, more precisely, are you listening to yourself? I’ll pull out the lines that deal with women:

    Misogyny is something that’s on the decline. The chapters of my fraternity that I’m familiar with, outside the Deep South, which is its own little world, are actually very gay positive. In the last decade, frat guys have discovered that gay men typically have lots of hot female friends whom they’re not trying to sleep with, and that has changed a lot of minds.

    You do realize that is all about guys, right? Gay guys, but *guys*. Misogyny does NOT equal homophobia. A large part of misogyny is seeing women as walking vaginas.

    Then there was the bit about “Jenny Meyers,” which is again about a walking vagina.

    And then the fact that one of the advisers was a woman. No mention of anything at all about her. I’m left with the sense that since she wasn’t a sex target, there was nothing to her.

    I have to say that for me, you’ve proved the case that universities have to stop aiding and abetting organizations that erase women from humanity. If even a thoughtful member of the frat community can take so much blatant sexism for granted, to the extent of not even seeing it, it’s time for social institutions to start standing up and saying, “This is not all right.”

  27. Western Dave on 06 May 2011 at 9:01 pm #

    Yes widgeon, that includes minstrelsy too. BTW, most of the students that belonged to those small frats were either students of color from Detroit or white students from rural de-industrialized Michigan (the UP) (again unrepresentative sample). They primarily joined these frats for cheap housing. There were a couple of God Squad frats, too. They were the ones that tended to be inter-racial. Of course, these smaller organizations could exist outside the fraternity structure, as Historiann and others above point out. (I might be wrong, but when I talked to one of the kids about why he was in a frat, he said that frats were exempt from certain rules about non-related cohabitation so you could share rooms and keep costs down – but this might have been urban myth – but it was definitely cheaper to live in a frat than in an off campus apartment or house – that was a common theme). But do we want our colleges taking on even more responsibilities that are money sucks? I think vigorous regulation and a one strike your out rule would work best on the campuses with which I am familiar (again, your results may vary).

  28. Susan on 06 May 2011 at 9:33 pm #

    I remember a conversation with someone who was a dean at my grad school — a low-tier ivy — who said that when they investigated the fraternities, he discovered that this was where many of the guys who had been recruited as athletes, were working class etc felt at home: among men, yes, but not surrounded by rich kids with strange cultural expectations either. So my guess is that this can be a complicated story.

    Our fraternities and sororities are not residential, but do lots of charity and social things. I did get a kick out of it last week, though, when on Saturday night I saw a couple of my male students in jackets and TIES — it was the fraternity spring formal at a local restaurant.

  29. truffula on 06 May 2011 at 9:57 pm #

    Funny thing, rustonite, I do have fond memories of college classes. My memories of being felt up by drunk (and sober) a$$holes? Not fond.

  30. Emily on 07 May 2011 at 4:49 am #

    It’s worth noting that Princeton, which has denied recognition to Greek organizations for some years now, has just decided to ban students from rushing until sophomore year (on penalty of suspension), the idea being that students will then make friends before rushing, instead of letting the Greek organizations determine their social affiliations: http://www.princeton.edu/main/news/archive/S30/43/00Q65/index.xml?section=topstories This was likely in part in reaction to a couple high-profile cases of dangerous hazing in the campus fraternities that emerged last year.

    It remains to be seen whether this will just drive Greek life (what little there is of it) further underground, or whether the fraternities and sororities will continue to serve as pipelines to a couple of the most selective of the eating clubs. (But, per cgeye’s first comment, I would note that the Greek organizations at Princeton are generally speaking much more socially exclusionary than the eating clubs, to which a far larger and more diverse contingent of the undergraduates belong.)

  31. Katherine on 07 May 2011 at 6:07 am #

    I read somewhere, can’t remember where (Tenured Radical maybe) about violence in sororities and women’s sports team–it takes a different form, but violence by women in general takes a different form. So the fact that sororities aren’t associated with gang rape, does not mean they don’t have their own forms of violence, and shouldn’t be held responsible for the bullying that goes on there.
    Another point is that guns kill enormous numbers of people in the US on a daily basis, and we won’t even consider getting rid of them, I think the fraternity violence issue is related.
    Keeping fraternities because some do charity or provide affordable housing is like saying guns are okay be sometimes the intended victim can defend him/herself. It ignores the culture that pervades gun ownership/fraternities.

  32. Historiann on 07 May 2011 at 6:14 am #

    “Another point is that guns kill enormous numbers of people in the US on a daily basis, and we won’t even consider getting rid of them, I think the fraternity violence issue is related.
    Keeping fraternities because some do charity or provide affordable housing is like saying guns are okay be sometimes the intended victim can defend him/herself. It ignores the culture that pervades gun ownership/fraternities.”

    Yes. Because the de-recognition or abolition of fraternities would impinge on male privilege, we can’t even consider it. Nevermind that women are now the majority of students nationally pursuing both undergraduate and graduate degrees–the interests of the minority are a trifling matter against the interests of patriarchal equilibrium.

  33. Perpetua on 07 May 2011 at 6:46 am #

    OT of fraternities, but on topic re: women and sexual assault on university campuses – I just came across this at the Washington Post:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/univ-of-virginias-proposed-rules-would-lower-standard-for-sexual-misconduct/2011/05/05/AFwQVt1F_story.html

    I don’t know what these policy changes will mean on the ground, but it’s something. At the end of the article, a sexual assault victims’ rights advocate makes a sharp point that it took the (public-relations disaster) of a young woman’s death to provoke these new policies.

  34. Saturday Links « Gerry Canavan on 07 May 2011 at 8:02 am #

    [...] Unpopular opinions, number one: Yes, colleges should absolutely ban fraternities. I feel certain that at many schools donor flight is the only thing keeping the frats [...]

  35. Hobbes on 07 May 2011 at 12:20 pm #

    Let’s ban the US Government instead. They subsidize the growers that produce the grain that makes the alcohol and fuels the humans that join fraternities. They make billions off alcohol taxes. They subsidize public educational institutions where this behavior happens. And the military arm of our government (I’ve heard) has done damage to people and cities that make fraternity parties seem like child’s play—just sayin.

  36. Comrade PhysioProf on 07 May 2011 at 2:54 pm #

    My college fraternity was neither homophobic, misogynist, nor violent, although we were exceedingly handsome and drunk.

  37. Shakti on 09 May 2011 at 9:52 am #

    I went to a college in a small Ohio town that had more bars and churches than coffeehouses. The college was the most interesting place in town.

    Frankly, I don’t think fraternities in general are all that great. Historically white fraternities tend to be bastions of suck. (I don’t really include HBF or academic frats in this.) The volunteerism tends to be a more of an eyewash so they have a reason to exist other than beer pong. The frats tended to do things like yell sexist slogans at Take Back the Night Marchers, bully gay people on campus and deceptively spike the punch. (You thought that was water? Oops.) My school had those stupid whistles they gave every freshwoman, but never really cared about making places safer. Frat socials attracted guys who thought nothing of making running commentaries on how great it would be to get Mexicans for knife-fights while eating Mexican restaurants. They didn’t even throw the best parties (that was the small living units), which is maybe the one thing they’re supposed to be good at.

    Since I’m female, joining fraternities was never an option. I opted not to join or rush a sorority, because 1)I would have had to pay fees and still live in campus housing and 2)the supposed alumna connections seemed to be so much hot air and 3)I simply wasn’t interested in being part of the “Fraternities-Ladies Auxiliary” or 4)the rampant body policing. The coolest people I met mostly ex-sorority members or not ever members of sororities.

    I have two friends who went to a very heavy Greek dominated university in an even tinier town and I can’t say that either of them felt like they benefited job-wise from joining. Of course, the fact they were both full scholarship students who were non-white may have had something to do with it. My friend feels awkward socializing without beer (and he’s in his late 20s and his family has a history of alcoholism), and his sister dieted herself down to a size 0 — and she’s 5’7″.

  38. KC on 09 May 2011 at 3:02 pm #

    For reasons that remain inexplicable to me many years later, I joined a fraternity while I was in college. It must have been the most boring fraternity that ever existed on the planet earth, because we never did anything really, and we didn’t even have a house. I was the Academics Officer of the fraternity and so tried to uphold some modicum of academic standards with the fraternity, but yeah, it was pretty much a joke.

    Oh, now I remember why I joined: sports. I wanted to play in the fraternity sports league. Which is a dumb reason to join a secret society when you think about it, but hey, I was like 19 years old at the time and didn’t always think all my decisions through.

    Anyway, was my fraternity misogynist? Yeah, probably, although we weren’t as bad as the other fraternities. (There was one on campus that would hang a pair of shoes in a tree every time two of the brothers allegedly had sex with the same woman.) Were we racist? Not at all, but a lot of other fraternities were.

    In retrospect, I really regret joining a fraternity, because, sports aside, it just wasn’t my scene. I wanted to be an intellectual and a non-conformist, and I was in many respects, which made me a really terrible fraternity member. As I realized the connotation of being in a fraternity, over time I ended up disguising my membership from any people that I thought might lose respect for me, so in other words, any people who were intelligent and independent.

    Oh well. I guess I would support the banning of fraternities because then at least people who should know better won’t make the mistake of joining them!

  39. J Hall on 10 May 2011 at 3:58 am #

    On the topic of sororities not behaving badly (which was mentioned WAY early in the thread) I am reminded of the series of Deadspin columns on Miami University’s Pi Beta Phi – http://deadspin.com/#!5534166

  40. multanemo on 10 May 2011 at 12:28 pm #

    Only if they ban sororities too.

  41. RonF on 16 May 2011 at 3:12 pm #

    I belonged to a fraternity back in the early ’70′s at my undergraduate school. There was some partying, definitely. There was also quite a bit of studying and no violence against women, organized or otherwise. There was no anti-academic attitudes there, and there was (and still is, if the newsletter I get is to be believed) quite a bit of service work. Perhaps MIT is not the most typical school, but my guess is that the vast majority of schools tend towards this model.

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