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May 7, 2011 8:31 AM   Subscribe

Should Colleges Ban Fraternities? A New York Times roundtable that takes the Yale Title IX complaint and related cases as its starting point. Via Historiann, whose anti-frat attitudes are much more pointed than any of the New York Times commenters.
posted by gerryblog (112 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
A better link for the Yale Title IX would probably have been this one, which goes into more detail about the incident:
On the evening of Oct. 13, 2010, members of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity at Yale University marched across campus chanting, "No means yes! Yes means anal! No means yes! Yes means anal!" A video of the chanting men was posted online and quickly went viral, spurring an uproar on Yale's campus and nationwide.
posted by gerryblog at 8:32 AM on May 7, 2011


Shouldn't the question be "Should colleges ban assholes"?
posted by Solomon at 8:33 AM on May 7, 2011 [32 favorites]


My university (York University, in Toronto) did. The grounds were that all clubs should accept all applicants, regardless of gender, race or coolness. Only associations for majors could restrict their membership to people in that major.
posted by jb at 8:34 AM on May 7, 2011 [6 favorites]


frats are dumb
posted by nathancaswell at 8:36 AM on May 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


The major issue seems to be this, as summarized by Elizabeth Armstrong: Despite these negative influences universities may be hesitant to rein in fraternity party life, as doing so could jeopardize tuition dollars from students interested in Greek life, as well as funds from well-heeled university alumni. Fear of donor flight would keep most U.S. universities from taking systematic action against fraternities.
posted by gerryblog at 8:37 AM on May 7, 2011 [8 favorites]


UWO, where I did my masters, has frats. One day during rush week (or whatever it's called) I had half an hour to kill before a class and wound up sitting at a table near several of the recruitment displays. Each one prominently featured words like "BROTHERHOOD," "HONOUR," "TRUTH," etc., but whenever someone approached a booth the man-to-man sales pitch was all about how members of _______ PARTY AND GET LAID.*

Not that there's anything wrong with either of those things, but the pretense that frats are about anything else (and future networking) kind of bugs me. In my third year of university I lived in a house with six other guys - most of whom I'm still friends with - where beer and the pursuit of sex were the primary concerns (academics were a distant fourth or fifth)...we just didn't pretend that we were some kind of ancient society devoted to loftier ideals.

* Not long after that, one frat got suspended for throwing a dead sheep onto the porch of another. Way to conform to stereotypes, guys!
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:53 AM on May 7, 2011 [8 favorites]


No. Next question.
posted by eugenen at 8:55 AM on May 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


And sororities don't get equal treatment? They should be banned too. They're just as culpable for the damages they do to young women.
posted by charlie don't surf at 8:56 AM on May 7, 2011 [6 favorites]


Shouldn't the question be "Should colleges ban assholes"?

I think a lot of crazy talk and groupthink and questionable behavior in fraternities makes assholes out of a lot of people who otherwise wouln't be.
posted by CrazyLemonade at 8:58 AM on May 7, 2011 [12 favorites]


Interesting discussion, I suppose. But so long as the colleges are looking at the prospect of donor money being taken off the table, it'll never be anything more than discussion, just like discussion of reining in or reforming college athletics. No college will ever get tough on either unless inaction will cost them much more money than taking action.
posted by tyllwin at 9:01 AM on May 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


The trick is to go to a school that's so nerdy, the frat and sorority kids are looked at as the lame weirdos.
posted by phunniemee at 9:02 AM on May 7, 2011 [21 favorites]


They were banned at the university I went to. They always seemed like a quaint thing from the movies to me.
posted by stp123 at 9:02 AM on May 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


More on the Yale incident; scroll down for (mostly audio-only) video of the chanting, plus linked article. Salon interviewed an anonymous DKE brother.
posted by rtha at 9:03 AM on May 7, 2011


Oh holy crap. A minor TA from my university puts forth the argument that frats shouldn't be singled out for offensive behavior, since "everybody does it." And this is from a party school with a notorious record of defending football and basketball players from the consequences of their violent crimes like rape.

I think I'll take a little time to make sure her editorial is distributed amongst the Women's Studies department.
posted by charlie don't surf at 9:03 AM on May 7, 2011 [7 favorites]


Yes. With a time machine where available.
posted by DU at 9:05 AM on May 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


I went to a school without fraternities or sororities. There were still elitist cliques, assholes, and rapists, though!
posted by pickypicky at 9:07 AM on May 7, 2011


Collective punishment is the best kind of punishment.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:10 AM on May 7, 2011


Fraternities were convenient places to buy drugs. But it never crossed my mind to join one. I can make friends; I don't need to buy them. Young men have enough of a pack mentality as it is, no need to institutionalize it.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 9:11 AM on May 7, 2011 [8 favorites]


Collective punishment is the best kind of punishment.

If the Salon article is accurate, it was an official pledging event with 1/6 of the current member participating and presumably the entire pledge class. I don't know about banning *all* frats from Yale, but what would DKE have to do to deserve to lose its charter?

Would it help if I told you it was Bush's former fraternity?
posted by gerryblog at 9:14 AM on May 7, 2011 [4 favorites]


Shouldn't the question be "Should colleges ban assholes"?

The question should be "should life ban assholes?". But I can't think of a good way to implement this.

Also, if colleges banned assholes, they'd have to spend less money on toilet paper. This is how we will solve the current budget crisis in higher education.
posted by madcaptenor at 9:19 AM on May 7, 2011


I was actually in a sorority. The next year, the national group pulled our charter. Mostly because we were all geek girls who cared more about our GPAs then recruiting new members and so lost out to the OMIGOD PARTY-focused sororities.

Here's the thing about Greek organizations; they're giant money sucks. In other words, scams. You pay to get in, you pay dues every month, you are required to donate your time to endless activities, you are required to purchase some amount of overpriced licensed Greek crap, you are required to recruit constantly. Yes you can party, but the rest of the time, you are expected to sell membership in your chapter to all the new frosh suckers so that sweet sweet dues revenue stream keeps flowing to the National org.

Or like us, your chapter will get shut down despite an 80-year history on our campus and excellent academic performance.

We got a little revenge; we were supposed to send the balance of our paid dues to the nationals when we closed down. But our financial officer was also a brilliant math major with a flair for creative accounting, so a massive party happened instead.
posted by emjaybee at 9:20 AM on May 7, 2011 [67 favorites]


phunniemee: The trick is to go to a school that's so nerdy, the frat and sorority kids are looked at as the lame weirdos.

Does this school actually exist? I did my undergrad at a school that a lot of people would think is like this, but isn't.
posted by madcaptenor at 9:21 AM on May 7, 2011


I was actually in a sorority. The next year, the national group pulled our charter.

This happened to a sorority at my university too. (Perhaps we were classmates?) In my school's case the charter wasn't actually pulled; rather, all current members were promoted to "alumni status" (regardless of whether they had graduated) and were told they couldn't rejoin.
posted by gerryblog at 9:25 AM on May 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wow, the fraternity brother in the Salon article could just quit school right now and get a job as a spin doctor; he's a master at the craft.

He says all the right things: we felt disappointed and embarrassed, apologized right away, we're working with women's institutions on campus, etc. He maintains that fraternities are bastions of diversity and that no one should judge them by this one incident (which is a good argument).

But I couldn't keep a straight face when he alleged that, "Also, I think many people are disappointed by the unfair privilege they see some fraternity brothers receiving. While this trend may have been true of a previous generation, it is certainly not the case today. I can only speak for brothers at Yale, but no one here received any special job or treatment because they are a member of DKE, and no one joined this fraternity out of professional ambition."

Really? There's NO advantage to being a frat brother? Not one of the men in this diverse organization joined the fraternity with professional networking opportunities in mind? Makes me wonder why they DID join the fraternity. Someone citing professional ambition would be a relief to me, actually, because the general impression for why these guys are joining fraternities, no matter how much this young man tries to spin this otherwise, is "to party."
posted by misha at 9:25 AM on May 7, 2011 [7 favorites]


The trick is to go to a school that's so nerdy, the frat and sorority kids are looked at as the lame weirdos.

Or a school so nerdy that the frat and sorority kids actually are nerds, themselves. I wound up joining one at my school, along with a bunch of other nerds who would probably never have considered it anywhere else, and the hooliganism was, if not entirely absent, at least somewhat moderate.
posted by Dixon Ticonderoga at 9:26 AM on May 7, 2011


phunniemee: The trick is to go to a school that's so nerdy, the frat and sorority kids are looked at as the lame weirdos.

Does this school actually exist? I did my undergrad at a school that a lot of people would think is like this, but isn't.


Adams College since about 1984, I believe.

/Tri-Lambs forever
posted by codswallop at 9:27 AM on May 7, 2011 [5 favorites]


The dorm I lived in for 3 years at college is probably considered frattish amognst a lot of people. The administration is interested in the fact that students identify as much with dorms as they do with the college.

The bar we built there that lived in that courtyard for the past 12 years is probably my most lasting contribution to society - the students there say "oh, the one we use as a heat shield when we burn things?"

I have nothing to add to this discussion aside from WIBSTR.
posted by flaterik at 9:35 AM on May 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


Really it all depends on what a university is for in the modern age. Is it for the pursuit of the knowledge faculty have gained and are seeking? Or how about the development of a meritocratic society that values hard work, individual achievement, and intelligence over birth and privilege? How about the search for meaning in ones life, as a student challenges themselves to figure out the value of their efforts separated from their parents? However, I've a growing suspicion that at least elite universities will continue to be what they've always been. A place where the aristocracy send their children to ensure their success in spite of themselves, where friends, access to filing cabinets of old tests and pre-turnitin papers, and sex can be purchased with inherited money and privilege.

Fraternities and sororities are inherently parasitic institutions. They prey on the best ideals of the universities they inhabit, the students who can't afford them and join, the students who can't afford them or arn't X enough and don't join them, and our society as a whole when the drunk, the entitled, and the deuchebags take the reigns in the next generation yet again.
posted by Blasdelb at 9:40 AM on May 7, 2011 [5 favorites]


When I was in undergrad at the university of washington, I recall finding a little frat recruitment pamphlet the week after rush (or whatever it's called). The pamphlet had a list of bullet points explaining the benefits of joining a frat/sorority. The only one I remember was the one that said "85% of members of Congress were members of fraternities or sororities."1 It stuck with me, because it just explained so much about our country...

[1]: I might be misremembering the exact percentage, I just remember it as being above 3/4ths.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 9:49 AM on May 7, 2011 [16 favorites]


Does this school actually exist? I did my undergrad at a school that a lot of people would think is like this, but isn't.

Yes. I had an unusually high (for the average person at my school) amount of involvement with the campus "Greek Life" (hah!) because of my suitemates my first year. One of them hit up every single frat party (of which there were, like, three) every weekend. She showed up one Sunday morning (in the middle of a Chicago January) without any pants. The other suitemate dated a football player who was in DKE. But that was about it. The next year (and all subsequent years), when I wasn't living with them, the frats and sororities were as good as nonexistent.

(My brother went to the University of Alabama. One of my proudest moments was talking to him on the phone during the first month or two of school when he said, "I have no intention of joining a fraternity, but I'm telling all the frat brothers I'm trying to decide which one to pledge. They keep giving me free stuff!" Totally gaming the system.)
posted by phunniemee at 9:51 AM on May 7, 2011 [7 favorites]


A minor TA from my university puts forth the argument that frats shouldn't be singled out for offensive behavior, since "everybody does it." And this is from a party school with a notorious record of defending football and basketball players from the consequences of their violent crimes like rape.
Doesn't that sort of support her contention that the problem is the whole culture of a given university, and banning frats isn't going to address the cultural problem?
posted by craichead at 9:53 AM on May 7, 2011


pickypicky: “I went to a school without fraternities or sororities. There were still elitist cliques, assholes, and rapists, though!”

I did, too. The difference, I guess, was that they had classes in logic at my school.
posted by koeselitz at 9:54 AM on May 7, 2011 [5 favorites]


This is a lot of forest-for-the-trees business. Take a look around, most of the powerful and/or famous in this country is/was members of fraternities and sororities. Ain't nothing going to happen.
posted by rhizome at 9:59 AM on May 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


As a person from outside the US all I know of fraternities is what I've learned from movies, which is that they are societies devoted to keggers and date rape.
posted by Artw at 10:01 AM on May 7, 2011 [13 favorites]


The famous and/or powerful don't run universities, rhizome. Fraternities and sororities might not be banned at Harvard or Yale, but they could be banned at some of the many schools that actually matter.
posted by koeselitz at 10:01 AM on May 7, 2011


The answer to this question:

YES.

But then I intentionally only considered schools without a greek system, and any school that had one was crossed off my list without a further look.
posted by zizzle at 10:07 AM on May 7, 2011


Dixon: yeah, that sounds like my undergrad, which I'm guessing is yours as well from your location. I would have never considered joining a frat (and I think once or twice people thought I was in a frat and I laughed in their faces), but I have complicated reasons of my own there...
posted by madcaptenor at 10:08 AM on May 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Fraternities and sororities might not be banned at Harvard or Yale, but they could be banned at some of the many schools that actually matter.

True Scotsmen agree.
posted by rhizome at 10:14 AM on May 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


See, there's another example of a wikipedia article that is dramatically incorrect. "No true Scotsman" is not a logical fallacy, despite the popular misconception. If one can accurately define a true Scotsman, one can easily make logically-valid statements about her or him. There is no fallacy whatsoever here.
posted by koeselitz at 10:25 AM on May 7, 2011


wow. not many people around here were in a frat. go figure.

i was once in a frat. my parents were pretty encouraging, too. i deliberately chose the frat that had the hardest partying reputation because ... well it fit me. the partying was great and i liked that part but i found that there was a lot more then just partying. i was expected, after classes each day, to go and clean the frat house and then hang out with my brothers in the afternoon-who would use the downtime to study.

i got bored pretty quickly and it showed. i was all ready to quit but was talked out of it at the last minute. later that night the house had a meeting and kicked me out.

overall i found that the frat provided a lot of it's members with role models for graduating from college. the group experience helped individuals focus more and gave them the structure and support they needed. i quickly realized it wasn't for me, but i could see that it was a great help to a lot of the other brothers.

you'd think that there would be a lot of debauchery in a frat house but the real issue is that usually it's a big house, and someone somewhere is sober and ready to put an end to dangerous behavior.
posted by lester at 10:26 AM on May 7, 2011 [5 favorites]


My wife on sororities: "why would I want a bunch of frenemies with eating disorders?"
posted by Artw at 10:39 AM on May 7, 2011 [18 favorites]


koeselitz: I did, too. The difference, I guess, was that they had classes in logic at my school.
Did they have classes in composition and argumentation? Your point here is unclear.
posted by pickypicky at 10:43 AM on May 7, 2011


How about restricting membership in "Greek" organizations to people who are actually Greeks?

"What's that? Yes, Fotopoulos, you're in. No, Smarmington-Hudsucker III, not you."
posted by 1adam12 at 10:46 AM on May 7, 2011 [9 favorites]


Sorry, clearly not. Heh.

My point was this:

I went to a school that didn't have fraternities, too; and yes, we had all of the things you mention. That doesn't mean fraternities don't encourage rape culture or cruelty or social stigmatization of the other. Indeed, they certainly do. The fact that schools without fraternities or sororities still have problems is not an argument in favor of fraternities or sororities.
posted by koeselitz at 10:47 AM on May 7, 2011


Based on my own experience with students clubs in europe I don't get worked up about that chant alone.
I'd surmise that those guys were chanting what they thought was most taboo. And I don't expect them to practice what they preach.
Most of them become very respectable members of society and dependable husbands and fathers in my experience.
In cases like this, where unacceptable behaviour occurred, the university generally threatened to take away some privileges. And as a result the behaviour was generally not seen again outside of those student clubs.

But I guess that's a much too reasonable reaction for a jocks vs nerds issue on metafilter. :-)
posted by joost de vries at 10:55 AM on May 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


Based on my own experience with students clubs in europe I don't get worked up about that chant alone.

Well, considering that all of my good female friends from high school were raped in college by fellow students whom they knew, all of whom went on to become very "respectable" members of society it's hard for me to brush it off.
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:01 AM on May 7, 2011 [7 favorites]


I realize that many fraternities have done and continue to do extremely questionable things. In fact, one of the major criticisms of my alma mater is that it's "dominated" by the fraternities and sororities. But in my day-to-day life, I never saw that. They weren't at the same parties I went to; they weren't at the same lectures I went to; they weren't at the same poetry readings I went to. For the life of me, I can't figure out how their domination changed college.

I think a lot of crazy talk and groupthink and questionable behavior in fraternities makes assholes out of a lot of people who otherwise wouln't be.

But I will say that this comment really gave me pause. I think people change more in their first year of college than in any other year of their lives. The fraternity system is built around that fact. I'd never really thought about that before.
posted by roll truck roll at 11:05 AM on May 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


I agree, that's very bad.
That hasn't been my experience though.
posted by joost de vries at 11:05 AM on May 7, 2011


How about restricting membership in "Greek" organizations to people who are actually Greeks?

one of the few fraternity members I knew in college who I would have considered a friend was actually Greek.
posted by madcaptenor at 11:12 AM on May 7, 2011


If one can accurately define a true Scotsman, one can easily make logically-valid statements about her or him.

That he wouldn't be a her for example.
posted by Grangousier at 11:19 AM on May 7, 2011 [4 favorites]


True Scotsmen wear kilts. A kilt is a kind of skirt. Women wear skirts. Therefore true Scotsmen are women.
posted by madcaptenor at 11:20 AM on May 7, 2011 [6 favorites]


Less frats, more co-ops!
posted by archagon at 11:23 AM on May 7, 2011 [11 favorites]


True Scotsmen wear kilts. A kilt is a kind of skirt. Women wear skirts. Therefore true Scotsmen are women.

An excellent proposition, and one which you should definitely poll the gentlemen of Sauchiehall Street about on a Saturday night.

(He said, invoking a completely different Scottish stereotype from about thirty years ago)
posted by Grangousier at 11:40 AM on May 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Actually, at the university where I did my graduate work (which I think is one of the universities referenced upthread), the frats were significantly more squalid than the co-ops (which, needless to say, already set a pretty high bar for squalor). I remember going to one or two parties with co-workers who happened to be undergrads and thinking (as they proceeded to throw half full cans of busch light into the yard) "why on earth would anyone pay to do this?"

So take your pick- drinking excessive amounts of very cheap beer, in a filthy house that looks like Mogadishu; or endless meetings over who's supposed to clean which bathrooms, and whether or not frozen or bottled orange juice is more energy efficient.

I will say this for one of the frats at my school- they were pretty awesome when Phelps and his mob came to town.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 11:46 AM on May 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


I was in a fraternity. If i never joined, I would've had a lot less really good friends and probably would've continued to be a boring commuter until I graduated. We weren't rapists or drug dealers, we helped each other, we did a good amount of community service, we had a bunch of fun parties where no one died, and did a lot of fun shit. All frats aren't bad.
posted by Mach5 at 11:55 AM on May 7, 2011 [8 favorites]


There were frats at my undergrad, but no frat houses. Which meant that about three times a week, some frat pulled the fire alarm in our freshman dorm and then did weird chanting stuff while we all waited to be let back inside.

So, yes, they should be banned.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:55 AM on May 7, 2011 [7 favorites]


Artw, I'm not sure which uni you may have attended, but the sorts of social activities, support and tribalism present in collegiate UK universities or between halls at uni are fairly analogous to what the Greek system is like at a larger American university. Drinking, sure, partying, sure, violence, sure, but mostly it's about building support networks, attending themed parties and making friends.

Agree with earlier posters that the alums are a big part of the problem with any effort to change the Greek system from within. Frats in particular are overrun at points with drunk, obnoxious alums who come to homecoming and other big sporting events and treat the house like it's a bachelor party. They seem way more into the Animal House way of things than the actual current members are.

Not defending obnoxious fratboy behaviour, but the whole point of pledge week is to make them do/say/eat/wear gross things - to earn their membership or prove their interest. Don't know if this was pledge week, but I wouldn't put it past some pledgemaster to send pledges out chanting something offensive so they'd be embarrassed or attacked.

Some sororities are full of anorexic frenemies - mine wasn't. Mine was full of smart, silly girls who like to organise things and have big themed parties for charity. YMMV
posted by Grrlscout at 11:59 AM on May 7, 2011 [5 favorites]


I figure this is an issue that is coming to attention now because of the shifting demographics at universities. Until very recently, college was pretty male-oriented, largely because of the GI Bill. Most of my professors were GI Bill students from WWII or the Korean War. My freshman roommate was a VietNam vet just back in school on the GI Bill.

But since that time, women students have become a majority at most universities. Even some "regular" schools (not traditionally women's colleges like Wellesley or Smith) are as much as 70/30 women/men ratio. And the demographic continues to shift that way, nationwide. Thus the attention to issues of institutional sexism.

I look forward to the day when frats are looked upon as a quaint tradition of the past, and attention shifts to the abuses of sororities.
posted by charlie don't surf at 12:06 PM on May 7, 2011


I was not in a frat; I was in the student television station. I joined my freshman year, when there was no money and all our gear was ten years old or more. In an environment like that, the cream rises to the top immediately.

A year later, the station came into some money. The cream started making some really good shows. A lot of new members joined... and began to party more than shoot and edit. By my senior year the organization was well on it's way to becoming "the TV frat."

Frats are not the problem.
posted by infinitewindow at 12:10 PM on May 7, 2011 [4 favorites]


wow. not many people around here were in a frat. go figure.

I was in a frat. Sigma Alfa Mu at the University of Minnesota. I was promised it would be an ongoing party. Instead, there were military style drills, endless hazing, and a pervasive general atmosphere of abusiveness that caused me to leave after a while. For the rest of the year, when other Sammies saw me, they felt the need to corner me and physically threaten me if I reported anything that happened in the frat.

From other people I have spoken to, my experience is not unusual.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:20 PM on May 7, 2011 [9 favorites]


"No true Scotsman" is not a logical fallacy, despite the popular misconception. If one can accurately define a true Scotsman, one can easily make logically-valid statements about her or him.

That means it's an informal fallacy, rather than a formal one. Informal fallacies do not affect the logical structure of the argument, and thus can occur in a perfectly valid argument. The classic example of this is begging the question. This argument is valid: God exists, therefore God exists. It's impossible for the premise to be true and the conclusion false. But that sure don't mean it's in any way a good argument to give -- no one would be convinced by it.

posted by meese at 12:20 PM on May 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


there were military style drills

Can you explain this? Why would they do this? Was it part of the hazing process, or something else?

That's just so crazy.
posted by meese at 12:22 PM on May 7, 2011


I was in a fraternity. Fraternities and the people who join them really can't be lumped together any more than you can lump all, say, Americans together. I admit my chapter was somewhat atypical when compared to other social fraternities.

There was some partying but nothing regular (excluding homecoming) or very large. Part of that was probably because we didn't have a house although we would frequently become roommates. Basically we didn't interact with any of the other fraternities either. The thing most likely to prevent someone from joining was a low GPA. Our chapter was very gay friendly (at one point a few of us figured it was almost 1/3rd identified as gay or bisexual). During my time there wasn't really any hazing to speak of, certainly nothing physical. Even the borderline things that we felt could be construed as hazing were stopped by the time I left. I was treated far worse by my biological brothers growing up than my fraternity brothers. If anyone treated guests at any of our parties with anything less than total respect I haven't seen or heard of it.

But honestly, if the only way to fix all the broken fraternities were to get rid of every fraternity (even ones like mine) I would ultimately support that. I'm not sure that's the only way to fix them though. It would be a shame to unnecessarily punish the better fraternities that actively discouraged all the negative behaviors people dislike about fraternity culture.
posted by Green With You at 12:48 PM on May 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


meese, no. You're right that the structure of a logical syllogism can be valid without the inference being valid. But my point was that one can construct logically-valid syllogism which are logically true of the "no true Scotsman" form. That is: one can construct non-fallacies which have the "no true Scotsman" form. Therefore, "no true Scotsman" is not a type of fallacy, but rather a hand-wavey, misdirected complaint about the fact that sometimes people utilize shifting definitions.

It gets particularly tiresome to hear the "no true Scotsman" objection on the internet. Just try giving a definition of "true Christian," for example, and people will roll their eyes and start sighing: "oh, no true Scotsman!" – whereas there is not necessarily any fallacy at all involved in the argument. Whereas, for some reason, nobody ever complains "no true Scotsman!" when you talk about a "true noble gas" or a "true ethanol molecule." "No true Scotsman" is not at all a type of fallacy.

posted by koeselitz at 12:49 PM on May 7, 2011


We could ban the national orgs from collecting any dues, forcing them to earn their money through services and donations, the dues sound exploitive. We should not tell kids they can't have a party house however.
posted by jeffburdges at 12:52 PM on May 7, 2011


I was in a frat. Loved it and I still try to maintain some involvement / give back when I can (ten years after graduating).

I learned a ton about business, leadership and people. Yes, there were a couple dbags along the way, but you don't have to hang out with them or keep up. I didn't let a few idiots keep me from having a great experience.

There was indeed some hazing. Nothing more than you would experience on any hs sports team, and if it was ever something I didn't want to do, I told them to fuck off. I mean... Heh. At 18, you're pretty much a grown ass man. It's really not hard to stick up for yourself.

It's all what you make it, I guess. The worst shit I've ever seen took place in sororities though, fwiw.
posted by rulethirty at 12:53 PM on May 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


I deliberately chose a university with no fraternities. There was a residential college system at my school instead. It didn't eliminate assholes and rape (date rape or stranger rape), but I did feel a bit safer knowing that every residential college had women in it except one, which went co-ed my junior year. Of course, there was a big scandal about a fraternity where dropping roofies into girls' drinks and running a train that was a thing when I was looking at schools, which definitely affected my decision to stay away from places with fraternities.

My sisters-in-law both had good sorority experiences, so Their Mileage clearly Varied on that front.
posted by immlass at 12:59 PM on May 7, 2011


"Wow, the fraternity brother in the Salon article could just quit school right now and get a job as a spin doctor; he's a master at the craft."

Wow, indeed. That interview gave me the creeps.
posted by Glinn at 1:04 PM on May 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


For several years i lived in a "college town" (still do, different, smaller, but so much the same) and one thing i learned is that they will do their damnedest to hide the crimes that would deter people from going there. I got beaten brutally on the street by three football members, while they were saying "we're going to kill you liberal faggot!" and also trying to rip off the clothes of two of my female friends while also saying "watch while we beat your fag friend to death!". Know what happened? Two got off scott free, no charges, while the one who kicked me in the head while i was down got a years probation, for disorderly conduct. I've had people tell me there "are no hate crimes there" because none were reported, so it must be safe huh?

Frats themselves aren't the problem, my dad was in one (but his being 85 they were probably a bit different then), and he's not like that. The problem is that they are considered the "important" students, the jocks, the popular, the student council, etc. and they will do what they can to keep that image.

Me, i'd make it so frats, athletics, student groups, could be formed, but they don't get a dime from the school, and have to behave better than the general students or get disbanded. But then i don't have a high opinion of them in the first place.
posted by usagizero at 1:29 PM on May 7, 2011 [8 favorites]


But I guess that's a much too reasonable reaction for a jocks vs nerds issue on metafilter.

You know, I used to watch American high school movies and think "This has to be a gross exaggeration of reality. If this was real then you'd have whole swathes of the American adult population permanently twisted and scarred into some weird jock v. nerd dichotomy".

Artw, I'm not sure which uni you may have attended, but the sorts of social activities, support and tribalism present in collegiate UK universities or between halls at uni are fairly analogous to what the Greek system is like at a larger American university.

Absolutely. I doubt that there's a fraternity that can match the sheer debauchery of the Piers Gaveston, I attended a few of their parties when I was a student and they were... quite something.
posted by atrazine at 1:32 PM on May 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


I would have hoped for a saner response from MeFi. Seriously? Ban ALL fraternities, because a bunch of drunken nineteen year olds marched about New Haven, yelling stupid slogans you don't like? Where does that leave sororities, or are the ladies exempt from such punishment? It says something extraordinarily sad about the women of Yale that they've turned to the legal system to right this immature wrong. In a smarter, more equal world they'd simply have organized a counter-march and gone about yelling, "Fuck you? We wouldn't even TOUCH you!"
posted by OneMonkeysUncle at 1:38 PM on May 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


That is: one can construct non-fallacies which have the "no true Scotsman" form.

Sure, but that's not what you did. My argument is that power and popularity are correlated with Greek membership in the post-university world, and you countered this with an assertion that, I don't know, some colleges aren't run by fraternity/sorority members? There's your shifting definition.

The fact remains that there are a lot of people benefiting from Greek networks who have an interest in perpetuating them, and a lot of these people are contributors to schools as alumni (and otherwise), as well as contributing to the politicians who would call for such change. That's the mechanism that will prevent any substantive change to the system: the system is (weasel word: largely) built by them.
posted by rhizome at 1:41 PM on May 7, 2011


We should not tell kids they can't have a party house however.

You don't need fraternities for this. Just a rent house and students.

I did forget to mention that my school was just starting to have co-ed "service fraternities" when I left, which where simply do-gooder networking organizations that had fundraisers and parties and brought in speakers and such. But still had the Greek letters on them. Seemed like a better approach. No house to care for/pay for, no weird sexual issues, no homophobia, no Southern Heritage (ahem) flavor like one of our frats, which went so far as to have a Rebel Ball and use Confederate flags.
posted by emjaybee at 1:45 PM on May 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


rhizome: “Sure, but that's not what you did. My argument is that power and popularity are correlated with Greek membership in the post-university world, and you countered this with an assertion that, I don't know, some colleges aren't run by fraternity/sorority members? There's your shifting definition. The fact remains that there are a lot of people benefiting from Greek networks who have an interest in perpetuating them, and a lot of these people are contributors to schools as alumni (and otherwise), as well as contributing to the politicians who would call for such change. That's the mechanism that will prevent any substantive change to the system: the system is (weasel word: largely) built by them.”

Well, I mostly agree with you. This is kind of a non-argument, and I'm sorry; "no true Scotsman" just annoys me on principle.

The only thing I would add is this: I don't know if I believe that the university system is a homogeneous system, that it's altogether the same in all places. I grant that there's something systematic at large, particularly ivy-league schools like Yale and Harvard, something that makes removing fraternities and sororities difficult. But: the University of Arizona? The University of Colorado? Etc? It seems like schools all over the place are very different, and a lot of them – maybe even most of them – are run differently enough that it might be possible to remove fraternities and sororities altogether.

I say this as a person who, admittedly, went to a school where such groups didn't exist. So maybe I'm biased. Still, I can imagine a world without these groups very easily.
posted by koeselitz at 2:16 PM on May 7, 2011


I went to a college that had no greek system. (No football team, either.) The pathological drinking / sexual assault culture revolved around the sports teams, instead. The rugby, lacrosse, and sailing team parties were particularly hazardous.

The problem isn't the frats. The problem is the douchebag asshole rapists who are IN the frats. Unless you root those out, they'll just go somewhere else.
posted by KathrynT at 2:28 PM on May 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


Others have said that "nerdy" schools may have fraternities that suffer on the popularity front as a result; I'd add "schools in big cities" to that as well. I only know of one fraternity at NYU, and the only way I even know that there was a sorority was that the student who lead the campus tour when I applied claimed she belonged to one and made a hard sell to join it.

We saw flyers for the frats' events on campus when they came up, but...I don't know a person who actually attended one of their parties or dances or pledge drives or mixers or whatever the hell they did. I've always suspected that that's because -- well, if you're in a more rural area, the frat party is the only game in town when it comes to a chance to whoop it up on Friday night. But in New York, I'm sure it's kind of hard to get people to come to your mixer when CBGB's was three blocks away.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:26 PM on May 7, 2011


EmpressCallipygos: I was a grad student at Penn, which is also in a big city1; the Greek culture seemed pretty big among the undergrads.

1. cue "Philly isn't a real city" whining here, which was actually fairly common among the undergrads, because lots of them were from New York.
posted by madcaptenor at 3:49 PM on May 7, 2011


My father was in a fraternity way back in the 60's when he was in college. He quit when (this was a frat in Rhode Island, not a noted bastion of racism) the frat, not as part of a pledge week activity started chanting against integration. I'm not sure if the integration was the the fraternity structure or the college as a whole.

My friends who were in fraternities in college (not mine, I'll get to that in the next paragraph) joined things like the engineering fraternity. They still drank dangerous amounts and made fools of themselves, although the impression is that they had people to take them to the hospital if they had alcohol poisoning. Also, it seemed that they could acquire pot more easily than others on campus. I've met some people from their frats, they're good people, but I'm not sure what, beyond a safety net that should be there, was gained by participation in the frats.

My college didn't have fraternities. Well, one year a group tried to start up Delta Gamma Pig, but they lost in the funding poll, so that was not an issue. (Having the student body determine funding allocations at a school is not the worst idea in the world. Although, no matter how they tried, the Christian group never got out of the bottom 30 or so.) That's not to say that there weren't party houses with their own flavors. The fridge was known to be crazy and perhaps have the most fraternity like atmosphere, but the biggest fear at off campus parties was a police bust, not rape. The other houses each had their own aspect and so did some of the dorms, but, on the whole, it felt that the parties were inclusive and mostly open. After being turned away from two frat parties when visiting a friend at another college, this was something I noticed.

I suppose my point of view is that frats are not necessary, should not be located on campus but should not be banned anymore than any other club. As long as the university isn't endorsing the organization and sure as hell not funding it, it doesn't seem to me that it should be banned.
posted by Hactar at 4:07 PM on May 7, 2011



My wife on sororities: "why would I want a bunch of frenemies with eating disorders?"

Because you can get kick-ass jobs and opportunities through a sorority or fraternity, not to mention special scholarships and other networking opportunities. Particularly some historically black Greek organizations like AKA have some serious behind-the-scenes chops in cities like Atlanta.

Move to a new town, look up an alum chapter of an organization and you at least have a shot at introductions, memberships, and other stuff that a non-greek doesn't. I think this does make membership a lot more attractive to some ambitious people, even those who do not care for the parties, etc.
posted by jfwlucy at 4:16 PM on May 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Collective punishment is the best kind of punishment.

How else can you punish collectives?

Btw: does anyone else know about cold airs? Fucking weird
posted by delmoi at 4:19 PM on May 7, 2011


How else can you punish collectives?

Individually.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 4:23 PM on May 7, 2011


Individually.

Just like Goldman Sachs. I hear that works very well.
posted by delmoi at 4:25 PM on May 7, 2011


Just like Goldman Sachs.

I wish.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 4:30 PM on May 7, 2011


The trick is to go to a school that's so nerdy, the frat and sorority kids are looked at as the lame weirdos.

Seconding Chicago. The frats, like the sports teams, were mostly harmless and treated with bemused indifference in my day. Their most important role was to throw decent parties. (I saw The Effigies play at Psi U in 1982.)
posted by stargell at 5:04 PM on May 7, 2011


It is interesting reading this thread, because as disdainful as I was of all the beer-soaked frats then, 12 years after school I did wind up joining a fraternity. I missed the melting-pot atmosphere of college (versus the homogenous one of coworkers and colleagues in a given profession), and recognized that joining a fraternal organization might provide that. It's been great, and I wish I'd done it at lot sooner.

Looking back at my 18 year-old self, though, even if my school had had an affiliated Masonic lodge like Harvard's I probably would have rolled my eyes at it. It never occurred to me that anybody under the age of about 80 might belong to an old-school group like that until a few years ago, when I learned that a 25-year old coworker was in the Elks. That really kicked something loose in the back of my head and I petitioned the Masons a couple of months later.
posted by usonian at 5:10 PM on May 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Madcaptenor your university actually relies on the Greek system to provide housing for a significant percentage of its undergrads. An unsuccessful rush week would be disastrous for them. A flat out ban of fraternities would have to be planned out over a few years due to the logistic and financial impact of such a move.
posted by Stu-Pendous at 5:26 PM on May 7, 2011


flaterik: hello from ITR class of '96. WIBSTR.
posted by RakDaddy at 6:25 PM on May 7, 2011


My exfiance was a frat member. I didn't hear it from him but apparently initiation to that particular frat had something to do with a goat and a condom. I leave it to your imagination.

Not a fan of frats.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:41 PM on May 7, 2011


I'd like to bring up the difference between social and professional fraternities, because oddly enough, it seems no one has talked about it yet. As a member of a newly-minted (two semesters ago) co-ed professional biology fraternity at a rather large campus, and a close friend of many in the professional chemistry fraternity, I've seen none of the sort of hazing or general asshole-ishness people are trying to ascribe to all frats. There was no hazing when I joined, and there have been no plans to start any for future pledge classes; the "worst" thing we've done is throw a very small (~15 people) party at a brother's house. The majority of our effort is put into tutoring services, cleaning up streams and parks in the area, and networking and job opportunities.

I don't think banning fraternities outright is a good way to solve the problem, because it also cuts off a lot of useful services that good frats offer. There just needs to be more effective punishment for people who do cruel, stupid things.
posted by TheMidnightHobo at 7:12 PM on May 7, 2011 [4 favorites]


apparently initiation to that particular frat had something to do with a goat and a condom. I leave it to your imagination

I don't know, I can imagine quite a bit...

Anyway, I went to two different school for undergrad, one was about a quarter Greek, the other was about quarter Greek for guys but next to nothing for girls, and I was not involved in the Greek scene at all.
Two observations/questions:
1) Are DKEs assholes everywhere, or just Yale and my first undergrad institution?
2) Literally every friend I've ever had who has gone Greek has told me, "We're not like other fraternities/sororities - those other guys/girls are totally like the stereotypical Greeks from the movies, but not us, we're really chill and smart and down-to-earth, I swear." Have other people experienced like 5 zillion iterations of this conversation? It is interesting because it leaves the following possibilities: a) they are lying, and their frat/sorority actually does suck b) they are lying in that the other frats/sororities don't really suck either, and everyone's basically ok and no one at all anywhere is like the Greeks in the movies c) I have somehow managed to only be friends with Greeks who are in organizations that don't suck.
posted by naoko at 7:35 PM on May 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yale is going to get rid of fraternities? Does anyone believe this?

Skull and Bones, Book and Snake, or Whips and Chains are just going to go away?
posted by Yakuman at 8:14 PM on May 7, 2011


Naoko - 1) I can't say anything about DKE, we don' t associate much with social frats (since they're not much interested in the sorts of events we throw). I personally abhor everything about social frats, and so am inclined to guess "yes" to your question.
2) I've had that conversation so much, and this one as well. Believe me, it gets tiring defending the fact that I joined a fraternity to figuratively everyone I know. All I can say is that, from my perspective, my fraternity is pretty alright. Yes, there are people in it who would almost certainly act like the jerks described in this thread, if that were the sort of thing we encouraged. It's not though, so they don't. At least, not around me.
posted by TheMidnightHobo at 8:18 PM on May 7, 2011


Yeah, I don't know. Dissolving fraternities and sororities seems quixotic to me. I can see the argument that some frats have really toxic institutional memory, but it's not like a lack of Greek life is going to prevent people from partying a lot or abusing each other or excluding people. And actually, I kind of agree with Armstrong's argument that keeping frats and frat-like organizations in an official relationship with the university allows the administration to exercise more oversight and put a little more pressure on them. For instance, the final clubs at Harvard (as seen in The Social Network) are only able to remain single-sex because they aren't actually affiliated with the university.
posted by en forme de poire at 8:38 PM on May 7, 2011


I know that MIT uses the Greek system in order to provide housing. They stopped freshmen from living in frats effective fall of 2002 - it was supposed to be fall of 2001 but the new dorm they had to build was delayed.
posted by madcaptenor at 8:47 PM on May 7, 2011


I grant that there's something systematic at large, particularly ivy-league schools like Yale and Harvard, something that makes removing fraternities and sororities difficult.

Just as a factual point -- Harvard has had no fraternities for decades. A few national fraternities have unofficial chapters that enroll Harvard students, but they have no houses, no recognition from the school, and play little to no role in the social life of undergraduates (at least when I was there in the 1990s.) They do have so-called "final clubs," which for the most part function in a rather different way.
posted by escabeche at 8:58 PM on May 7, 2011


They do have so-called "final clubs," which for the most part function in a rather different way.

Admittedly, I know fuck all about final clubs but they seem pretty similar to frats, except that they're even more exclusive and secretive and don't do any community service.

Skull and Bones, Book and Snake, or Whips and Chains are just going to go away?

Secret societies are sort of a world apart from frats, though. I mean if secret societies threw keggers they would sort of be giving the game away, right?
posted by en forme de poire at 9:23 PM on May 7, 2011


Believe me, it gets tiring defending the fact that I joined a fraternity to figuratively everyone I know.

Honestly, it wouldn't have occurred to me to put professional fraternities in the same category. I don't even know if such things existed where I went to school, but I sort of just assume you guys are generally ok. The countless "we're not like those other guys/girls" conversations I've had have been exclusively with members of social fraternities/sororities.
posted by naoko at 10:02 PM on May 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


lester: overall i found that the frat provided a lot of it's members with role models for graduating from college. the group experience helped individuals focus more and gave them the structure and support they needed.

I agree wholeheartedly. I am in a fraternity, Sigma Chi at Ohio State, and I do not see getting rid of fraternities as an accurate solution to the problem that started this thread. What the fraternity guys yelled is something that could have been yelled by ANY asshole. They just so happened to be in a fraternity. I do agree that a lot of fraternities, a strong majority, are ALL about partying and bragging about how many girls they've fucked, but there are a number of fraternities that are so much more than that.

I joined Sigma Chi because I wanted that brotherhood I always saw between them. They were a family and I wanted to be a part of that. And I am. I have gained so much from joining the fraternity and I am not a guy who is all about partying. There are so many people I look up to in the fraternity who are my age! There are tons of role models and people who are about more than getting drunk.

Not all fraternities haze. Not all fraternities even party. This occurrence shouldn't be treated as, "Oh, that's obnoxious and disgusting. Frat guys are so disgusting. They don't serve a purpose" and should be treated as "Oh, those men are disgusting. They should reprimanded for what they did as people." and not pile it all into a "frat" problem.

Just saying.
posted by dapperkoala at 11:15 PM on May 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


What the fraternity guys yelled is something that could have been yelled by ANY asshole

Yes, they are simple English words, but give me a break. As rare as this event may have been, no group of GDIs tromps around school yelling, ""No means yes! Yes means anal!" It just doesn't happen.

I'm not for banning anything anywhere, really, but let's call a spade a spade: the people who did this are stupid frat boys, who are the only people who do this kind of thing. If the fraternity had any sense of shame they'd kick these dumbfucks out unceremoniously for inspiring the kind of criticism being leveled.
posted by rhizome at 12:31 AM on May 8, 2011


stupid frat boys, who are the only people who do this kind of thing

Yup, never saw members of various college sports organizations like the football and baseball teams, or ROTC, or even groups of males that lived on the same floor of the dorm do anything misogynistic like this. In big groups. You know, the GDIs on campus.
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 12:48 AM on May 8, 2011


Eh, good point, but those groups are more like aspiring fraternities. Keep in mind the marching aspect, too.
posted by rhizome at 2:30 AM on May 8, 2011


The famous and/or powerful don't run universities ...

Maybe not the famous, but running a university is exercising a good bit of power.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:03 AM on May 8, 2011


I've been to a total of two frat parties in my entire life. They didn't seem all that different from any other college parties I went to. No-frat types can be elitist douchebags, too, in my experience.

Also, the passion with which everybody is arguing about this is kind of hilarious. College was a long time ago for me and I never finished, so all this clique war BS is kind of ridiculous to me.
posted by jonmc at 5:53 AM on May 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also, the passion with which everybody is arguing about this is kind of hilarious. College was a long time ago for me and I never finished, so all this clique war BS is kind of ridiculous to me.
I work at a college and live in a college town, so this is actually kind of a live issue for me.

Having said that, I am also unconvinced that frat members are worse than anyone else. I had some prejudices about the Greek system when I started working on a Greek-heavy campus, and they haven't really been confirmed by my actual interactions with students.
posted by craichead at 7:42 AM on May 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


The following is long, so I don't expect anyone to read it at this point.

I realize I am in the minority here, but I was in a fraternity -- and I loved it.
But before I describe my experience (and I know my username will not give me much credence), I'd like to point out that I attended a university with a strange Greek system, but seems to remedy most of the problems that you've all mentioned.

The Greek system of which I was a part is different from most in two respects: we had deferred rush (freshmen could not rush until their second semester) and we had an open system (no guest lists or closed parties). Also, the sororities were almost local without exception, and there were a couple of local fraternities.

Now, admittedly fraternities claim some sort of traditional values or qualities that they supposedly champion, but realistically we realized that the primary function of such groups is to have fun. But even so, most of the supposedly-triumphed qualities are sincerely regarded; it may be the result of being at a distinctly southern university (we are mocked on occasion for our quaint mannerisms and ultimately trivial civility), but the members of my fraternity did hold themselves to a certain degree of "truth, honor, etc." If someone lied, or was disrespectful (especially one of our "brothers"), our relation to them within the fraternity entitled us (even more than others) to call them out on it. Concerning women, a member of a fraternity at my university once saw a visiting student from another college strike a woman during a weekend here and proceeded to beat the shit out of the guy (vulgar, I know). As for brotherhood, the onerous (if not degrading) processes known as "pledgeship" admittedly draw the members of a fraternity to be far closer and feel far more comfortable with each other. Our fraternity always made it known that pledges could opt out of pledgeship at the fraternity, but it was a process to which every member since the 1800s had consented.

Now it may make sense to also point out that my university had an honor code that was enforced by students (the governing bodies determining violation of the honor code and the body determining disciplinary measures were both entirely composed of students), so the level of integrity ideally upheld may have been higher-than-normal across the entire student body. Also, not being a research institution, our professors often met students outside of class, and would drink with students while discussing some topic from class, and even were faculty advisors for some Greek organizations (thus correcting the issue from one op-ed on the NYTIMES that mentioned the lack of faculty influence in Greek life). Likewise, because of the aforementioned unique characteristics of our Greek life, approximately 80% of the students were involved in Greek life. This meant that there was a sorority that did not drink and instead held ice cream socials and the like. There is a predominantly gay fraternity. There was a primarily black fraternity as well (with maybe 10% of their members being white). But more importantly there actually was diversity in the fraternities -- even the "bastion of the Old South" fraternity had black members, the "gay" fraternity had straight members, my fraternity had hispanic, black, and east asian members. Some of the fraternities of course focused more than even we did, and had pretty stellar low GPA averages, but my fraternity had well above the school's average GPA (and was not the "artsy frat" or anything like that). So it definitely can work.

Ok, so perhaps I have convinced you that there might possibly be a singular, unique climate in which fraternities can be not atrocious. But what do they contribute that would be lost?

Personally, college to me is about more than academics. Certainly the pursuit of knowledge is the primary focus of a university, and I can say I did fine regarding that, but it is also a point where students are finally free from the confines and influences that molded them in growing up. Importantly, colleges allow time to develop opinions and also to learn balance. The members of my fraternity would likely have held as many leadership positions were they not together in a fraternity, but through the ties in the fraternity we grew together in different organizations throughout campus. We united our different clubs or groups, fraternities on campus would often hold events (traditional "frat parties" even) that also contributed donations or a small entrance fee toward Falling Whistles, Invisible Children, or Red Cross. Our fraternities held marathons and runs for causes, they brought accessible blood drives to the student body, they cleaned up the roads and highways nearby.

Those are all tangible outreach sort of things, but the fraternity benefited the individual as well. I guess it is different than from other places since we had fraternities that were actually somewhat diverse, and no one sneered at another because of a Greek affiliation or lack thereof (we liked to consider our university one big fraternity or sorority), but being with a group of individuals whom you can actually trust, who have proven their trustworthiness, who uphold similar ideals as you (again, I guess my case is unique since there were no ideals of misogyny) can be a good thing -- or at least you respect them enough to allow their contentions and consider them seriously. It builds confidence in one's own values, it gives you a core group of people who will support you out of respect even if they do not necessarily consider themselves a real close friend to you, and it gives you a group of people whom you can get rowdy with every once in a while (this is true for men as for women) and trust to take care of you if you go overboard, or to stop you and moderate you if you screw up or start to act against the sort of character ideally possessed by fraternity members.

Regarding academics, my fraternity required all pledges to attend a mandatory study hall at least once a week to ensure that they were on top of things, and we recognized members who made stellar grades on papers and exams, and also recognized students for academic awards that they received. Likewise we had a number of bright people in most departments, and they gladly helped other members understand concepts, or looked over other member's papers even if they were going to be extremely busy. All the frats also had "risk management" members who would stay sober at parties and act as monitors. In terms of athletics, we had a few people on a few different teams at the school, but we also had an intramural team that gave members a team to play on (few dorms or departments had teams, mostly just fraternities and sororities).

In my fraternity, one member alone could prevent an incoming pledge from being given a bid. It seems excessive, but at least in my experience no such "balling" was ever done unless there were serious questions about a person's ethics. Generally it would be if the person expecting a bid did something heinously offensive or rude to a current member, or was seen doing something very offensive to someone else (the kind of misogynistic things in the original case with Yale would probably have constituted a person being "balled"). Along with the knowledge that all members had undergone the same (mostly goofy and fun, if a little humiliating) ritual to join, the fact that every member respected every other member's character gave credence to your trusting each person. And while it might seem that this sort of thing might fall by the wayside in some circumstances, I can say from experience that a shitty person who was extravagantly wealthy would just as easily be denied entry into a fraternity's ranks because the selection process insures that there would be at least one person to "ball" him (but generally far more, I never saw a single-person "balling").

I can see where things have taken a wrong turn, but I suppose I just want to say that it certainly is possible to have fraternities be a good thing. Fraternities at my university did have certain values, and the idea was that they were held innately and did not need to be worked on -- so even at a party where everyone was getting hammered we still strove to be gentlemen (and would call out someone who was not). Perhaps they only work in certain settings, where faculty life is not divorced from student life, where Greek events are not private affairs (this was another policy decided way back in time by students themselves), where fraternity members are also planning to be contributing members of society so maintain high grades and character, and where there is no stigma attached to the decision to go Greek, but it can work.

@naoko, I'd say that most people in Greek organizations are okay and that most Greek organizations probably are not at all like the Greeks in the movies (though there have been some examples from the responses here).
posted by mangasm at 11:59 AM on May 8, 2011


@naoko, I'd say that most people in Greek organizations are okay and that most Greek organizations probably are not at all like the Greeks in the movies (though there have been some examples from the responses here)

I'm sure you are probably right. What amuses me so much is not necessarily the "we're not like that" part so much as the "the other ones ARE like that, but we're totally different!" part - even Greeks themselves seem to buy into the stereotype.
posted by naoko at 1:14 PM on May 8, 2011


The trick is to go to a school that's so nerdy, the frat and sorority kids are looked at as the lame weirdos.


If they are nationwide as they are around here in SE Michigan, then community colleges are the way to go for a couple years, then become basically a mentor at the Big 10 University closest to the house. This is entirely dependent on your area of study.
posted by JoeXIII007 at 1:29 PM on May 8, 2011


I'm not so sure it's the frats that's the problem, so much as it's whether a given school is more or less likely to look the other way when such incidents occur.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:57 AM on May 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


My undergraduate school, SFU, also banned fraternities and sororities for similar reasons that jb describes at York. In fact, until I discovered in my third year that UBC actually had these, I'd pretty much consigned them to a phenomenom exclusive to very silly American movies and not really integral to university life.

TBH, I don't see what they add to university live that couldn't be replicated with any regular service club or organization that's inclusive. Most of the more "ethnic" student clubs or associations pretty much were fraternities without the special houses.
posted by Kurichina at 11:17 AM on May 9, 2011


@naoko, I'd say that most people in Greek organizations are okay and that most Greek organizations probably are not at all like the Greeks in the movies (though there have been some examples from the responses here).

The thing is, a few bad apples do spoil the whole barrel. The germs from the bad apple spread to the other apples very easily and you can't tell which is healthy. The strength of tradition within fraternities encourages this metaphor. Covering up for bad brothers turns good brothers into more bad ones.

The reaction of the Greek system to this (and other events) is the inoculation that does or doesn't prevent things like this from happening in the future. Saying "boys will be boys" is the social equivalent of not going to the doctor when you break your arm.
posted by rhizome at 12:10 PM on May 9, 2011


I went to an art school and the few fraternities on campus were looked on by the majority of the student body as utterly ridiculous.
posted by yeti at 7:35 AM on May 12, 2011


yeti, what you didn't realize is that those fraternities were actually performance art.
posted by madcaptenor at 8:28 AM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


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