Broken Pledges
December 30, 2013 4:50 PM   Subscribe


 
It's funny that in 2007 when I was attending a Greek-dominated school I asked Metafilter about whether or not there was any movement to abolish these organizations. It looks like there has been more movement in that direction since I asked that, which is fantastic.

After I asked that question I was lucky enough to finish up my education in Uppsala, Sweden which had "Student Nations" that had many of the benefits I felt were denied me for not being Greek in Illinois, but were far more inclusive. They were co-ed and there was no hazing. You visited all of them and chose the one you wanted to join.

Sadly it looks like colleges are simply dropping them rather than replacing them. They have their benefits. Currently they are just denied to a lot of the population at Universities.
posted by melissam at 5:15 PM on December 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's pure old-boy privilege. A little taste of kingship for the rich little princes. Enforced by the threat of withdrawal of daddy's alumni money that is going to be used to build the new library or whatever.

Sororities have a different history, not so focused on macho excess, but instead on marriage to a suitable rich asshole by graduation. But they are invested in not letting the Greek system die either.

All of it concealed under a public screen of charitable giving and fundraising and harmless socializing. Except for the date rapes and the racism and the drinking and/or hazing-related deaths and injuries, why it's all very wholesome and traditional.

There are plenty of academic coed "fraternities" that actually serve a social/charitable purpose, don't haze or exploit their members, and would do far less harm, but money and power don't like being told what to do.

I mean, the KAs are still at my old university, despite several racist incidents, not surprising when their identity is actually focused on a Confederate flag-waving, Southern Belle and Gentleman image. They used to have little promenades with their dates, girls dressed in Scarlett O'Hara gowns, and fire off a fake cannon while waving the Confederate flag on special occasions and playing Dixie. Utterly distasteful, but they are still there 20 years later, because enough alumni have enough power to keep it going.
posted by emjaybee at 5:21 PM on December 30, 2013 [31 favorites]


Yeah, um, fuck that. The kiddos will be instructed to avoid them and anything to do with them. That and football.
posted by Artw at 5:24 PM on December 30, 2013 [8 favorites]


I had an absolutely great time in a fraternity at college and still count several of my fraternity brothers among my closest friends in the world 20+ years later. You put 18-21 year old guys together with freedom and alcohol and lots of stupid shit happens. Stick the same guys in an apartment complex, rental house, or on a loosely supervised dorm floor and you'd get the same results; drunken shenanigans that unfortunately sometimes go too far. You can eliminate the greek system entirely from colleges and the effect on under age drinking, sexual assault and whatever else you want to blame on fraternities will be nil.

Eliminate alcohol from college campus and behavior will improve greatly. However, we already tried prohibition and it didn't work out so well.
posted by COD at 5:44 PM on December 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


What the emphasis on fraternity hazing misses, in my opinion, is that hazing happens everywhere. At my university, fraternity hazing was less significant, and less visible, then hazing at dormitory halls, and in student organizations. I'm not arguing that efforts to curb fraternity hazing should stop, just that the problem needs to be viewed more holistically.

Also, for what it's worth, not all fraternities haze (mine sure didn't). A lot just function like a group of friends that provides social support, academic advice, and a sense of community that can be difficult to find in a dormitory, or at all, especially in the super high stress environment of college.

Most of the time, I don't mention (or even lie), about having been in a fraternity, due to the stereotyping and judgement associated with it.
posted by Bahro at 5:53 PM on December 30, 2013 [6 favorites]


I remember the frat brothers in college. They were accomplished researchers: they archived every professor's quizzes and exams so that later years' brothers could use them. Of course straightforward cheating wasn't off the table either. On that note, it's telling that fraternity members now comprise 39% of the Senate.
posted by mullingitover at 5:55 PM on December 30, 2013 [14 favorites]


You put 18-21 year old guys together with freedom and alcohol and lots of stupid shit happens. Stick the same guys in an apartment complex, rental house, or on a loosely supervised dorm floor and you'd get the same results; drunken shenanigans that unfortunately sometimes go too far.

This isn't really about that at all. Students should be able to socialize within the context of a frat or sorority with the comfort of knowing they are in a safe place and have rights. And if the universities can't control that then they should end their affiliation with the places where these things happen.
posted by triceryclops at 5:57 PM on December 30, 2013 [25 favorites]


Eliminate alcohol from college campus and behavior will improve greatly. However, we already tried prohibition and it didn't work out so well.


Or move the drinking age back to 18, so that whole toxic dynamic is mitigated.
posted by ocschwar at 5:58 PM on December 30, 2013 [24 favorites]


TOGA! TOGA!

posted by HuronBob at 6:00 PM on December 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


You can eliminate the greek system entirely from colleges and the effect on under age drinking, sexual assault and whatever else you want to blame on fraternities will be nil.

I just don't buy it. I was a complete alcoholic trainwreck in college. I got up to a whole pile of less-than-advisable shenanigans and made a really impressive number of truly terrible decisions. But you know what? The greek scene was vastly worse than all of that in all kinds of really clear-cut ways. It was full of institutionalized pathology that made whatever drug-addled / liquor-soaked stupidity my Ultimate team and my dorm full of international students got up to look totally benign in comparison. It treated women like shit, ran interference for routinized sexual assault, formalized and demanded ritual humiliation and violence, and infantilized a set people who should have been supported in sorting out the fundamental parameters of adulthood.

I know some people who had positive experiences with the whole thing, but as far as I could ever tell, the only worse influence on my alma mater was its football program.
posted by brennen at 6:02 PM on December 30, 2013 [77 favorites]


I too remember the frat brothers in college: Many of them were totally normal guys that I only know were in frats via t-shirt. Some frats are, well, frattier than others.

For example, the SAE chapter at my alma mater was disbanded when I was a freshman for serving alcohol to a minor from another school. So I'm certainly not defending them. I'm just saying the Theta Xi guys were really nice and don't deserve to get lumped in with them (to the best of my knowledge).
posted by maryr at 6:03 PM on December 30, 2013


Or move the drinking age back to 18, so that whole toxic dynamic is mitigated.

Or better yet, add a couple more years of high school so kids (and they really are still kids) aren't arriving at college so immature.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 6:08 PM on December 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


You can eliminate the greek system entirely from colleges and the effect on under age drinking, sexual assault and whatever else you want to blame on fraternities will be nil.

Including the post-graduation cronyism that gives an elite few a fast track into employment based on perceived nepotism as opposed to their having earned it?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:08 PM on December 30, 2013 [32 favorites]


...I suppose it is also worth noting that while I was in school my college had just had a highly publicized hazing death and so maybe things were a bit more in check over all at the time.
posted by maryr at 6:09 PM on December 30, 2013


A friend of mine who was an EMT said that hazing—which she described as often being quite cruel and severe—occurs among the employees at many ambulance companies, the rationale being that they want to know whether when they're partnered with the new person if the new guy's going to crack under pressure. (This being an anecdote from the northeastern U.S.)
posted by XMLicious at 6:09 PM on December 30, 2013


Or move the drinking age back to 18, so that whole toxic dynamic is mitigated.

It was not mitigated in the least when the drinking age was 18. Animal House took place in the early 60s and was co-written by a Dartmouth class of '63. I was there right as the drinking age was changing (my class was grandfathered in in Vermont, which had just adopted the new drinking age), and there was no difference before/after that I could see. Small sample size, but still.

I knew nice guys in frats and assholes in frats, and nice guys who turned into assholes when they joined frats. On the whole, I think they cost more than they are worth, on a variety of axes.
posted by rtha at 6:10 PM on December 30, 2013 [7 favorites]


There is no 'earning it'. Social skills are more rarefied and valuable than other skills. I would love to hate on fraternities but the fact is that I know two people who were both in charge of their respective fraternities and they are both exceptionally kind and empathetic people.
posted by Teakettle at 6:12 PM on December 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Stereotypes, as usual, don't tell the whole story. I was in a fraternity in college. It was (is) totally co-ed. We didn't have little sisters; in fact we had female brothers. We definitely did our share of partying, but took our definition as a service organization seriously. We did a hefty amount of community service. There's still a group of thirty or forty of us who socialize together thirty-five years later.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 6:12 PM on December 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


//Including the post-graduation cronyism that gives an elite few a fast track into employment based on perceived nepotism as opposed to their having earned it?//

I really think that aspect is overplayed in the media, or is limited to very narrow range of jobs on Wall Street. I certainly have never received any benefit in my career because I was in a frat, nor do I know anybody that has.

I have however, received the benefit of the reputation of my alma mater several times in my career. Should I feel guilty that not everybody had the chance to attend the same public school that sounds like an Ivy that I did?
posted by COD at 6:14 PM on December 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


I was in a sorority (their last pledge on that campus, actually...long story), for the record, but then nice girls I knew in it were already my friends, and the nice guys you meet in a frat can be your friends without a frat. My brother was in a frat, and he was an upstanding guy. Some of his brothers were not.

That's when you get a bystander effect problems, you see. You are a nice person! Then you join a group of friends that is bound by semi-secret rules, and above all, by the idea that you must never betray your brothers or shame your group.

But if the brothers who are so nice to you also have a problem with no means no, and you witness it or know about it, you have a problem. You have been screened, accepted, and tested to get into this organization that has claimed a moral authority and a noble purpose of brotherhood. You have probably spent a significant sum; dues aren't cheap! You are hoping it will help you in your career.

And then the girl gets raped by your brother. No one else is saying or doing anything about it. The pressure for you to also say or do nothing is enormous. It is greater than the pressure of a regular friendship. Regular friendships don't promise to transform your life, don't involve hazing and indoctrination that can be akin to brainwashing techniques, they don't cost you hundreds of dollars.
posted by emjaybee at 6:20 PM on December 30, 2013 [51 favorites]


*enters thread about corruption and dead kids, furiously waves hands*
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 6:20 PM on December 30, 2013 [9 favorites]


There are so many things to unpack here that it isn't really ok to say that 'fraternities are all bad and should go.'

(this is a rambling mess, but i'm going to hit enter and then clarify later as needed)

Fraternities are classist, occasionally racist (in all directions) dinosaurs dedicated to a form of networking that is slowly becoming diminished in value, but will never go away - the ritual of a homogenous group of males standing around and talking 'seriously' over alcohol.

I was in a university fraternity and it took itself ridiculously seriously. Everything was about 'being a man,' and 'living up to the legacy of the fraternity.' It was baloney and when I didn't take it seriously, I alienated myself. I was more interested in right and wrong than 'good for us' and 'not good for us.' I won't recount the issue that finally drove a wedge between me and the group, but it was bad enough for me to go to the police.

We were a very varied group, compared to other greek letter organizations (GLOs) and largely very inclusive. I won't describe the group as inclusive - but they were more inclusive than the other GLOs on campus. We still segregated out people not of our socioeconomic class and 'brothers' who couldn't make ends meet were ostracized very effectively, as were brothers who engaged in activities that were considered 'lower class' activities (including dressing certain ways).

The GLO is a dinosaur that will never go fully extinct, but it should be forced to evolve into something else. If we remove GLOs from middle-class university campuses without another outlet for that type of networking in play, we are giving ground to the wealthy who organize into non-greek letter fraternities. Fraternity networking is one of the few ways that we still have middle-to-upper class mobility in this country and we shouldn't just let it go without a more positive replacement. Or, until we finally eat the rich.

posted by Fuka at 6:23 PM on December 30, 2013 [7 favorites]


... in fact we had female brothers.

Wow, how generous of you to let them be the good kind of sibling even though they were the wrong gender.
posted by BrashTech at 6:27 PM on December 30, 2013 [18 favorites]


Including the post-graduation cronyism that gives an elite few a fast track into employment based on perceived nepotism as opposed to their having earned it?

How much of this is self-selection as opposed to cronyism? I can only speak for myself, but I'm positive that my fraternity membership has done precisely jack squat for my career. I work for a hedge fund, and I have no idea if any of my coworkers were in the Greek system, because quite frankly nobody cares. The alumni networks from top business schools are far more influential to career advancement than some Greek letters on a sweatshirt.
posted by Guernsey Halleck at 6:29 PM on December 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


the rationale being that they want to know whether when they're partnered with the new person if the new guy's going to crack under pressure.

That's what they say (and possibly even think) the rationale is, but the real rationale is that they were hazed, so they're sure as hell gonna haze the next batch, because it must have been good for them.
posted by Etrigan at 6:37 PM on December 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


I was in a fraternity in college. It was (is) totally co-ed.
I really think that co-ed service fraternities are a totally different beast. There's also Alpha Chi Sigma, the co-ed chemistry fraternity, and that's not exactly Animal House, either.

I don't know. I have some pretty deep-seated prejudices against the Greek system, but I wouldn't say that the students I encounter who are involved in it are any more or less obnoxious than any other students. I think it's often a survival strategy for kids who are really overwhelmed on big college campuses. I would have completely drowned at a huge state university, and I don't blame students for seeking out a community.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:39 PM on December 30, 2013 [3 favorites]



It was not mitigated in the least when the drinking age was 18. Animal House took place in the early 60s and was co-written by a Dartmouth class of '63. I was there right as the drinking age was changing (my class was grandfathered in in Vermont, which had just adopted the new drinking age), and there was no difference before/after that I could see. Small sample size, but still.


These things take a while to build up.

When I arrived in college, it was a simple and well known fact that if you wanted to drink underage, it was easier to do it in a frat house, with no school staff breathing down your neck.

Some fraternities used this as a selling point both for recruiting members and for their parties.

Others let you drink underage because they thought the drinking age was stupid.

Others only let you drink underage if you were a pledge or brother (key word LET, not make).

And others only let seniors drink.

That first group of frats was where all the hazing, misogyny, classism and all around stupid was.
posted by ocschwar at 6:39 PM on December 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


... in fact we had female brothers.

Wow, how generous of you to let them be the good kind of sibling even though they were the wrong gender.


Not that it matters, but nothing was forced on anyone. In fact, everything was voted on. We actually tried "associates", but nobody liked it. Brothers and Sisters are the usual terms for fraternity members and sorority members, respectively. Since we were a fraternity...
posted by Benny Andajetz at 6:40 PM on December 30, 2013 [5 favorites]


I was there right as the drinking age was changing (my class was grandfathered in in Vermont, which had just adopted the new drinking age), and there was no difference before/after that I could see.

I was at Rice when the drinking age in Texas went from 19 to 21. When the majority of students could drink, drinking was open (at Rice) and students kept an eye on each other. When it was illegal for anyone under 21, there was no "have a beer in public", it was all private and secret and the drinking among those who did it was harder core and worse.

Frat parties were not a problem since Rice has residential colleges instead of fraternities and sororities. It was part of the reason I picked Rice back in the 80s, after a spate of articles about gang rapes in fraternities ("training" as in line up like a train and have at the drunken girl). Given how things were at Rice, I'd really have hated to be at a drunken frat party, with everybody sworn to secrecy, during those years.
posted by immlass at 6:42 PM on December 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


That's what they say (and possibly even think) the rationale is, but the real rationale is that they were hazed, so they're sure as hell gonna haze the next batch, because it must have been good for them.

Yeah, pretty much this. It's just giving the same shitty excuse they were given.

I never really understood how treating people like utter shit and deliberately harming/tormenting/humiliating them is supposed to foster some kind of unity. It teaches you that the people you should be able to count on and trust cannot in fact be either counted on or trusted at all. Especially since the kind of hazing shit that goes on is often exactly the same kind of thing that high school bullies do to the kids they single out for torment, except now we're suddenly meant to believe it will lead the bullies to somehow develop respect and camaraderie for their victims.

people are fucking weird
posted by elizardbits at 6:45 PM on December 30, 2013 [32 favorites]


I was in a fraternity in college. It was (is) totally co-ed.
I really think that co-ed service fraternities are a totally different beast. There's also Alpha Chi Sigma, the co-ed chemistry fraternity, and that's not exactly Animal House, either.


At my school, the social fraternities and sororities were united on one topic: the co-ed service fraternity was completely shunned from any Greek events. Apparently, carrying around a binder with Greek letters isn't enough of an initiation for their taste.

Years later, an underground frat that was long kicked off campus managed to kill a kid by hyponatremia. Their punishment was to fund a lame documentary with the local PBS affiliate. How harsh!
posted by dr_dank at 6:49 PM on December 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


//... with everybody sworn to secrecy, during those years.//

I really think the secrecy thing is mostly a media invention, and an excuse kids use when they make bad decisions. Lying for your friends is not uncommon, and your fraternity brothers are generally close friends. I can think of 3 or 4 times that cops showed up at our frat house and every single time we cooperated fully. Although it's been 20+ years I certainly don't remember anything in our charter that would have required me to lie to the cops. In fact, "character" was one of our primary principles, and it was character as generally related to the teachings of Jesus.

That's another thing about the national Greek organizations. Most of them are built on Christian principles. Not that we took them real seriously when tapping the 20th keg of the night at a party, but the founding basis for many of them aren't that different from your run of the mill religious service organization today.
posted by COD at 6:50 PM on December 30, 2013


Make college about education and not socializing and the frats will be obsolete.
posted by fraxil at 6:51 PM on December 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


Separating education and socializing isn't the answer to anything. Both are necessary.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 6:53 PM on December 30, 2013 [6 favorites]


I really think the secrecy thing is mostly a media invention, and an excuse kids use when they make bad decisions. Lying for your friends is not uncommon, and your fraternity brothers are generally close friends.

It's not about secrets, it's just about lying and omitting so that some things remain unknown
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 6:55 PM on December 30, 2013



I really think the secrecy thing is mostly a media invention,


As a fraternity brother, I am sworn to secrecy regarding one evening in which we got together and recited a whole bunch of symbolism that was pure 19th century love of pomp, circumstance, and overwrought rhetoric. The only thing I am made to keep secret was the symbolism we recited.

As for talking to cops, our house was, and is, under a lodging house license from our city under which the police could enter at any time. We all knew better than to try anything that stupid.
posted by ocschwar at 6:56 PM on December 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


That's what they say (and possibly even think) the rationale is, but the real rationale is that they were hazed, so they're sure as hell gonna haze the next batch, because it must have been good for them.

I was using "rationale" to mean the way in which something is rationalized.

I wasn't speaking about what the genuine underlying motivation for hazing new EMTs is, in any case. My friend mentioned other ways people would attempt to pressure those they considered incompetent or unreliable to quit their jobs or at least move to different shifts, so as to avoid being paired up with them and consequently have to depend on them in the field, though, so I don't think the people who did this sort thing of were completely deluded and out of touch with their own intentions.
posted by XMLicious at 7:01 PM on December 30, 2013


I was a leftie activist and a fraternity member in college (Ann Arbor, mid 1980's). The activist groups had more ethnic and sexual diversity, but the Greek system had more political, religious, and economic diversity by a wide margin. It was not a bunch of little rich princes by any stretch of the imagination.

In many ways it was easier to be working class in the Greek system - economies of scale meant that it was far more affordable than living on your own, and our monthly housing dues were on par with the co-ops.

And though my brothers would tease me for being their token socialist, it was nothing ... and I mean nothing ... compared to the raw in your face contempt I would sometimes get if I told someone at a rally that I was a frat boy.
posted by kanewai at 7:08 PM on December 30, 2013 [15 favorites]


A friend of mine who was an EMT said that hazing—which she described as often being quite cruel and severe—occurs among the employees at many ambulance companies, the rationale being that they want to know whether when they're partnered with the new person if the new guy's going to crack under pressure.

Well since nobody else has dipped their toes into the military, let's mention the Pollywogs.
posted by JoeZydeco at 7:11 PM on December 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


So much of the fraternity experience is localized and specific to each house, it's difficult to draw sweeping conclusions about fraternities as a whole. The most frightening part of many fraternities is that they draw their culture from a small pool of very young, sometimes incredibly irresponsible, but mostly just excitable college students. In an organization with complete turnover every 3-4 years, "ideas" can become "tradition" in short order. This can be a force for good or evil, but it too often leans toward the latter.

I know my undergrad experience was made better by joining a fraternity and starting/continuing some weird/fun/absurd "traditions", but I can see how that can very quickly go south.
posted by notpace at 7:12 PM on December 30, 2013 [6 favorites]


That's another thing about the national Greek organizations. Most of them are built on Christian principles. Not that we took them real seriously when tapping the 20th keg of the night at a party, but the founding basis for many of them aren't that different from your run of the mill religious service organization today.
Yeeeahhh.... except that they ran the social scene at many colleges and universities, and they systematically and formally excluded non-Christians, which in practice mostly meant Jews. That exclusion shaped the experience of Jewish college students on a lot of campuses. And that's not even getting into the history of formal racial exclusion.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:15 PM on December 30, 2013 [6 favorites]


Hazing happens almost everywhere. My secondary school (in Malaysia) had hazing, largely for the "we did it and so should you" factor, and I suspect to also induce some sort of Stockholm Syndrome - the unity-building thing seemed to have worked somehow.

When I was in the batch of kids being hazed, once I realised what was happening, I slacked off; when I was in the batch that was supposed to do the hazing I played along for a bit and then slacked off too because the whole endeavour was pointless. I feel that it was because of this that my juniors often went to me for support - I was the only person who saw them as an actual human being and was trustworthy. Didn't get as much from my own peers though; a lot of them found my distaste for hazing rather weird.

In Australia there isn't really the Greek system, but I was in one of the residential colleges (which was run by a different university than the one I went to; my university didn't do on-campus housing and there were a few of us in a similar boat). Our college didn't really bother with hazing, most likely because we were 50% international students, many of whom were there on exchange and were often a lot older, but we did witness the hazing rituals of the other colleges that came to visit and were rather aghast at them.

(One time one group of 'freshies' from a neighbouring women's college came to visit, all decked out in some hazing uniform or other, and one of the freshies was a slightly older student who had taken some time off before going into university. We tried to instigate a rebellion, but I'm not sure if she was successful.)
posted by divabat at 7:27 PM on December 30, 2013


i posted a comment about this issue when it came up in 2011. pretty much is still my opinion today.


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.
posted by lester at 7:31 PM on December 30, 2013


I swear that I am 37 years old and I have never experienced nor heard of anyone I know being involved in anything that could even vaguely be considered hazing. The stories I've heard about it have come from sports teams and the US military academies as well as these "Greek Organization" things, but I just felt I had to speak up to say that hazing is not universal and inevitable and I'm sorry that other people have experienced it as such.
posted by hydropsyche at 7:47 PM on December 30, 2013 [8 favorites]


Get em Bloomie.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:12 PM on December 30, 2013


I swear that I am 37 years old and I have never experienced nor heard of anyone I know being involved in anything that could even vaguely be considered hazing.

That is fantastic, and I hope that your experience is (or becomes) the norm.

I never got anything worse than new-guy-in-school as a kid and low key stuff on job sites, but I certainly have seen some pretty bad hazing/bullying. (I think of hazing as something you go through in order to be in the group or on the team, while bullying can be perpetual and the victim doesn't get to join. I'm not sure if that distinction is valid, though.) Maybe this is a thing where some kinds of hazing are open and others are secret and hidden?

And it's definitely something people don't talk about much. I think I have literally had one conversation about this, with one person, in my adult life.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:25 PM on December 30, 2013


Or better yet, add a couple more years of high school so kids (and they really are still kids) aren't arriving at college so immature.

I think the end result would just be a couple more years of wallowing in immaturity. The environmental shift really does a lot for maturing a little bit, even if the process doesn't finish up for a while.
posted by Gymnopedist at 8:27 PM on December 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


I really think that aspect is overplayed in the media, or is limited to very narrow range of jobs on Wall Street. I certainly have never received any benefit in my career because I was in a frat, nor do I know anybody that has.

As far as I know, every member of my pledge class benefited directly from in-chapter networking multiple times, with several members parlaying membership into lucrative spots at otherwise 'hard to get into' companies. Personally, having had very young experience in restaurant management, I was able to hit up everyone who knew a restaurant owner for an 'in' and this always was turned directly into a management-level job. I did this for four years, until i graduated with my first degree.

Fields that I know for a fact that in-chapter networking paid off into careers: IT, film and television production (before digital existed, more-or-less), and education administration. Additionally I know of three brothers who used their connections to kick-start small businesses, all of which still exist today.
posted by Fuka at 8:30 PM on December 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


It feels like all that happens in America these days is spirited defenses of stupidity.
posted by srboisvert at 8:30 PM on December 30, 2013 [11 favorites]


Eh, for the record i'm not defending it. I'm saying 'change it because getting rid of it without any transitional form will make things worse.'
posted by Fuka at 8:34 PM on December 30, 2013


I get that sharing our own personal frat anecdotes is fun* but the articles are really good and we don't seem to be discussing them at all. The stuff about the lack of any sort of national reporting of hazing-related injuries, the way the national organizations are set up to create distance from local chapters by claiming they never assumed a "duty to protect" individual chapter members, the way national orgs work to shield their huge assets from lawsuits...it's all very chilling and worth talking about, too.

*(my sharpest pledge memory is watching some of the older brothers cringing on the sidelines as they watched the insane forced alcohol consumption, which gave me hope that this place would be ok, and then losing much of that hope the next year as I watched a brother in my class who I thought was better than that force alcohol down a scared pledge's throat)
posted by mediareport at 8:35 PM on December 30, 2013 [11 favorites]


the founding basis for many of them aren't that different from your run of the mill religious service organization today.

I admit I am not much of an expert on religious service organizations but I cannot recall the last time I read anything in the newspaper or saw a televised news program reporting that a local chapter of the Knights of Columbus was responsible for a drunken gang rape or for the beating death of one of their own members.
posted by elizardbits at 8:36 PM on December 30, 2013 [16 favorites]


I really think that aspect is overplayed in the media, or is limited to very narrow range of jobs on Wall Street. I certainly have never received any benefit in my career because I was in a frat, nor do I know anybody that has.

An investment house referenced in the article has four times as many fraternity men as *all* women.

FratPAC is also actively lobbying against the Department of ED's proposed new tougher regs on campus sexual assault. Evil.
posted by Apropos of Something at 9:10 PM on December 30, 2013 [14 favorites]


People concerned with fraternities should consider Simpson College. There, it is all about opera.
posted by 4ster at 9:25 PM on December 30, 2013 [20 favorites]


I go to a relatively Greek-heavy university. From what my friends in the Greek system have told me, hazing now is much less dangerous than in years past, thanks in large part to the campus police's increased involvement. This year, the department of safety even managed to shut down Hell Week.

That being said, one pledge in my dorm was barely able to stand on his own two feet when he showed up to his room in the middle of the night. When we asked why he looked like he had been hit by a truck, he said, "Let's just say I blacked out." This (sadly) did not surprise us too much because his frat was known for forcing its pledges to drink as much as possible. Our worry and fear increased tenfold, however, when he continued on: "And not because of any alcohol." A couple of weeks later, due to another frat-related incident of which I do not know the details, he began sporting a sling on his right arm.

His story pales in comparison with the articles posted here. These organizations are all shockingly immature and irresponsible, especially as in the case of poor Michael Deng, may he rest in peace.
posted by that silly white dress at 10:11 PM on December 30, 2013


I attended an all-women's college. We had no greek system, obviously, but managed to attract plenty of attention from frats at surrounding schools. I recall being approached by a couple of guys who identified themselves as pledges to a frat at a school in a different state who explained they had been tasked with bringing a Smith student back to their campus, and would I be willing to go with them? (umm, no, and WTF?)

I heard enough other anecdotes from other classmates to form a pretty low opinion of the whole enterprise.
posted by ambrosia at 10:58 PM on December 30, 2013 [5 favorites]


I recall that one of the underground frats at my school forced its pledges to walk everywhere in a line, wear a silly uniform, and exchange secret handshakes and greetings when they saw each other on campus. They were apparently expected to exchange even more elaborate obeisances with senior members of the fraternity. I saw this schtick, students paying gobs of money to get one of the best educations available anywhere prostrating themselves to beg and plead for strangers to pretend that they were "brothers," and I laughed. Like, out loud, at this exchange when I saw it once on campus.

The senior frat member yelled at me and told me that I didn't understand. But the thing is, I do understand. I understand the desperate gaping loneliness that makes us so eager to belong to something bigger than ourselves. I just don't want to be pretend-friends with anyone who makes me lick their boots for the privilege, and then pay money for it after being judged worthy. Every single secret faux-spiritual ritual these groups do could be laid out for all the world to see, and the the result would be … nothing. Because there's nothing there to see. There's a reason mystery religions mostly died out in the world. Because the mystery is usually pretty stupid, once it gets out. The words and costumes are silly nonsense when taken out into the light of day. But the need to know and be inside, now that's enough to keep a society together.
posted by 1adam12 at 11:19 PM on December 30, 2013 [15 favorites]


I saw one of those line-marching things at a university I passed through back in the nineties! While being a dumb thing to do because someone else told you to, it was actually kind of impressive because the guys I saw had worked it out so that they were walking close enough that they had to keep their legs and arms perfectly synchronized to not collide with each other. They could reverse and turn in formation too, IIRC. They could have been a circus act.

Come to think of it, maybe what I saw was some people from a college of performing arts within the university who were parodying a frat. They were wearing what looked like uniforms made of and decorated with felt.
posted by XMLicious at 11:42 PM on December 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


the "underground frats" at my school had names like Lambda Sigma Delta. There was no hazing because, look at the wood grain on this paddle, man
posted by thelonius at 11:44 PM on December 30, 2013 [5 favorites]


I'm kind of in awe that people can look at the reports of hazing described in these articles and say "oh wellz, that's what inevitably happens when you have any group of friends living together in college doing stupid shit!" Like, did you all hand your friends a brown bag full of alcohol and say it had to be finished by midnight? Or make them submerge themselves in ice? Or make them drink tobacco spit?

The other main argument for reducing the drinking age is that a lot of the injuries described in the article could have been prevented or lessened if someone had called an ambulance earlier. That means that legalizing drinking at 18 could literally be a lifeline for people suffering from acute injuries like broken necks and spines (as described in the article) or severe alcohol poisoning.
posted by en forme de poire at 12:50 AM on December 31, 2013 [15 favorites]


I saw one of those line-marching things at a university I passed through back in the nineties! While being a dumb thing to do because someone else told you to, it was actually kind of impressive because the guys I saw had worked it out so that they were walking close enough that they had to keep their legs and arms perfectly synchronized to not collide with each other. They could reverse and turn in formation too, IIRC.

The Divine 9 stroll, which is like stepping but in a straight line. It's a dance form and there are competitions and such. It's not a hazing thing. If it was white people you saw doing that, I dunno.

In general, the Greek organizations that many people decry are white social Greek organizations. They're the ones that members of the Panhellenic Council on campus and have houses that look like mansions. I think the Divine 9 and other black Greek orgs are Pan-hellenic or a similar term but usually they have a separate university-wide governing council and different I guess social concerns? Then there are a few service Greek organizations (my "you'll never guess" fact about me for ice-breakers and similar is always that I was a fraternity brother because HAHA! I'M A WOMAN! SURPRISE!), and the ones that were fraternities have all become co-ed. There are also all those Phi Beta Kappa-type professional or academic societies which can be anything from "we sponsor the mock trial team and look good on your resume" to "we have a house and we all drink there like the social Greeks." It is a strange, wide Greek world out there.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 1:29 AM on December 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


One thing that struck me as strange when I was in college at my Greek-dominated university was how normal all the hazing seemed to people who were going through it. There was "hell week" that consisted of a week with 1-2 hours sleep/night, being forced to eat all sorts of vile stuff, being forced to stand naked while you were hosed down (no euphemism) or had old food or whatever dumped on you.

And *of course* this sort of behavior was totally appropriate. It was part of going Greek. It always had been. I think that part of what caused no one to question it was that you'd already spent a semester (iirc) working your way into frat membership, and you were invested in finishing the process.
posted by professor plum with a rope at 2:00 AM on December 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


After a 20 year career in higher education, I conclude that frats and sororities are mostly -- mostly, mind you -- institutions of and for white privilege. Where they are more diverse they still reproduce structures of white privilege. I started my career at a school with a lot of them. At my current institution the frats are less powerful and seem more pathetic, like "hey, where's my white privilege I was promised?"
posted by spitbull at 2:07 AM on December 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


all those Phi Beta Kappa-type professional

I think most of what PBK is up to nowadays is worrying about how no one is joining anymore.
posted by professor plum with a rope at 2:15 AM on December 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


Elizardbits: In my fraternity, the rationale for hazing was that it would foster unity with the other guys in your pledge class, i.e. the people who also were trying to gain admission and were being hazed along with you.

It's all about banding together against a common oppressor - in this case, the "active" brothers who were giving you a hard time. The same idea applied in a slightly different way to other mandatory but somewhat unpleasant activities like house clean-ups and pledge-class study halls; you went through them together as a pledge class, and therefore had the shared experience as basis for a bond.

In the short term, it worked pretty well - you're forced to get to know, and learn to work with, people that you might have ignored if you were living in the same apartment complex or dorm floor. In the long run, I can't say that it really stuck; I'm still friends with a few of the brothers from the pledge classes ahead of and behind mine (who I got to know through common interests after becoming an "active") but have lost touch with most of the guys I pledged with. Weird how that turned out.

Overall, I'd say the experience was a net positive for me personally, but there's no question that there also was a lot of messed up stuff that happened. There's been some progress made - at my old fraternity, there's almost no hazing now, compared to the 50s, 60s and 70s, and much more awareness of issues like binge drinking and date rape - but there are still plenty of bad individuals/chapters/campuses, and inadequate policies from national organizations, in effect out there.

I'd like to think the system can be reformed, and in some places I have no doubt it can. But there are other locations - specific campuses - where the old ways may die hard enough to take the whole thing down with them.
posted by Nat "King" Cole Porter Wagoner at 2:31 AM on December 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


What the emphasis on fraternity hazing misses, in my opinion, is that hazing happens everywhere. At my university, fraternity hazing was less significant, and less visible, then hazing at dormitory halls, and in student organizations. I'm not arguing that efforts to curb fraternity hazing should stop, just that the problem needs to be viewed more holistically.

I was never hazed in university, nor were any of my friends.

Of course, we were commuter students who spent all of our time on campus in lecture, in libraries researching essays or in computer labs pretending to write essays while reading metafilter. You know, getting an education, which is what university is for.

I did join a few clubs - but, funny enough, the SF&F club had no hazing, nor did the Faculty of Arts governing council (the profs we worked with were super nice).
posted by jb at 5:03 AM on December 31, 2013 [7 favorites]


I was a resident student, and there was no dormitory hazing that I knew of. I also participated in many student organizations, none of which hazed, either. I'd be curious to see reports of these hazings, because they sound terrible.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 5:46 AM on December 31, 2013 [2 favorites]



I really think the secrecy thing is mostly a media invention,


Data point: I was in a fraternity, there was hazing, and I was sworn to secrecy. I quit before the hazing reached its climax (something called "hell night"), but was still physically threatened because frat members thought I was telling their secrets.

And I was, because fuck them.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 6:12 AM on December 31, 2013 [21 favorites]


I never really understood how treating people like utter shit and deliberately harming/tormenting/humiliating them is supposed to foster some kind of unity.

That is the underpinning of every armed force in human history; I'm guessing it works somehow.
posted by Renoroc at 6:17 AM on December 31, 2013 [3 favorites]


Or move the drinking age back to 18, so that whole toxic dynamic is mitigated.

States have leeway to do this themselves. The federal government, though, ties highway funding (well, 10% of it) to the minimum legal drinking age. Why? Because back in the 60s and 70s, when the MLDA was lowered in a lot of states, there was a significant, definitive increase in motor vehicle deaths among people age 18-21. Attributable to the lowered MLDA (kids driving drunk and crashing and dying and killing other people).

So, you know. Consequences. and epidemiology.
posted by entropone at 6:17 AM on December 31, 2013 [3 favorites]


That is the underpinning of every armed force in human history; I'm guessing it works somehow.

Cognitive Dissonance. One of the bigger findings in social psychology.
posted by srboisvert at 6:25 AM on December 31, 2013 [4 favorites]


Cognitive Dissonance. One of the bigger findings in social psychology.

I liken it more to the PUA concept of negging. Basically, if you can chip away at someone's sense of self-esteem, identity, and belonging just enough, they will eventually love you (or delude themselves into thinking so) if you show them even the tiniest token kindness further on down the line.
posted by Strange Interlude at 6:29 AM on December 31, 2013 [4 favorites]


Oh no, surely I never received any benefit, no sir. I got where I am completely on my own!
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 6:29 AM on December 31, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I don't think I've ever experienced anything that I would think of as hazing. I'm a woman, though, and hazing may be more of a male thing. Also, I have carefully avoided pretty much any activity or institution based on group identity and cohesion: organized sports, the military, sororities, etc. My friends who did marching band reported that there was some fairly mild hazing there, but that's another institution where you have to dress alike and march in lockstep.
After a 20 year career in higher education, I conclude that frats and sororities are mostly -- mostly, mind you -- institutions of and for white privilege. Where they are more diverse they still reproduce structures of white privilege.
I assume you're only talking about the historically white fraternities. As someone alluded to above, there's a whole separate structure of black fraternities and sororities, under the umbrella of the National Pan-Hellenic Council. A big trend on my campus is the introduction of new "multicultural" fraternities and sororities, which primarily serve Asian-American, Latin@, and LGBT students. I think that, for a lot of reasons, the multicultural Greek organizations might be different from the ones discussed in the Bloomberg series, including that they're all pretty recent and don't have a lot of horrible "ancient traditions" that they feel they need to cling to. But there are definitely hazing issues with the black fraternities and sororities. And whatever they're about, I don't think they're about white privilege. In fact, I think that black and multicultural Greek organizations can be pretty important spaces for students of color on predominantly white campuses.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:34 AM on December 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hazing happens almost everywhere.

Never met anyone in the UK who has experienced anything remotely similar. It's an army thing here I think.
posted by colie at 6:37 AM on December 31, 2013


Never met anyone in the UK who has experienced anything remotely similar. It's an army thing here I think.

Sure, now that fagging has been abolished.
posted by Sys Rq at 6:44 AM on December 31, 2013


I personally don't like paying for stuff that is available elsewhere for free, and fraternities can be abusive, elitist, etc, and sororities are probably just as bad, but too often people feel that because they disapprove of something (and much of the opposition to fraternities is mainly political) or see it as a negative choice, it should be abolished.

It should be enough to emphasize to kids that if they are being pressured to drink more than they want to or engage in humiliating acts, they can walk away, and they should. If they allow themselves to be humiliated or hurt against their own better judgement, then they are the ones at fault.
posted by knoyers at 6:57 AM on December 31, 2013


It should be enough to emphasize to kids that if they are being pressured to drink more than they want to or engage in humiliating acts, they can walk away, and they should.

"Should" is a much larger word than it looks, isn't it.
posted by Etrigan at 7:02 AM on December 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


I agree! Organizations should never be held accountable as though anything is their fault, only individuals!
posted by XMLicious at 7:08 AM on December 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


Going to college in a big city, frats had a lot of power because they had the houses and spaces to throw big parties. One got in a lot of trouble a couple years ago, when they had the "little sibling visit" at my university. Some girl brought her little sister, about 15 or so, to a frat party. A frat bro raped the child. That brought *some* disciplinary action, but the frats still exist and have their giant mansions.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 7:58 AM on December 31, 2013


I never joined a frat in college, but most of my good friends from my floor in the dorm joined as freshmen. They were all good guys, at the time I couldn't understand why they would "pay for friends." Then I realized they didn't have an exclusive lock on judgmental and cliquish assholes, and there were some genuinely good and nice people in the Greek system. Hell, some of the biggest assholes I know were/are virulently anti-Greek.
posted by entropicamericana at 8:12 AM on December 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


A girl who lived in the room next door when I was in college was devastated when the sorority she wanted to join didn't want her. She was threatening to kill herself. This same girl had lost family members on 9/11 about a month earlier and she was threatening to kill herself because a bunch of girls she wanted to be friends with did not want to be friends with her. I still don't understand.
posted by kat518 at 8:49 AM on December 31, 2013


Oh no, surely I never received any benefit, no sir. I got where I am completely on my own!

I'm not going to pretend I didn't have some advantages others didn't which helped me get where I am, but fraternity connections was not on that list. If you don't put it on your resume, don't openly discuss your involvement, and don't put any of your details into the national organization's database, then you're not going to get any leg up.

And, as I said before, it's been my experience that nobody cares. I've been involved in the hiring process at my firm - if anyone advocated for a certain candidate because of their membership in a certain fraternity, they'd be laughed out of my office.
posted by Guernsey Halleck at 9:27 AM on December 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


Organizations should never be held accountable as though anything is their fault, only individuals!
posted by XMLicious at 7:08 AM on December 31

A whole class of organizations shouldn't be held accountable for individual misbehavior and no, responsibility shouldn't be shifted from individuals to their groups either, as if affirming that they really can abdicate their responsibility to the social atmosphere of the group.

If it's true that frat members sometimes get a leg up for jobs, the problem, if there is one, would be in those companies. In any case, people will always get jobs and opportunities as a result of connections, whether there are fraternities or not, in almost any type of society.
posted by knoyers at 9:46 AM on December 31, 2013


And, as I said before, it's been my experience that nobody cares. I've been involved in the hiring process at my firm - if anyone advocated for a certain candidate because of their membership in a certain fraternity, they'd be laughed out of my office.

It's rarely that obvious. It's more typically Worthington Throckmorton (Iota Phi Eta, chapter Delta Kappa, class of '91) hearing via the proverbial grapevine that Everton Chumley (Iota Phi Eta, chapter Alpha Omega, class of '14) is applying to his firm. Throckmorton then advocates for Chumley based on some other observable attribute, or even just "Chumley seems like a good fit," and the other candidates who don't have anyone advocating for them specifically just fall by the wayside.

Your own experience of fraternity membership conveying no advantage does not prove that it conveys no advantage for anyone else. You lived through college -- that does not prove that no one has ever died while rushing.
posted by Etrigan at 9:48 AM on December 31, 2013 [11 favorites]


A whole class of organizations shouldn't be held accountable for individual misbehavior and no, responsibility shouldn't be shifted from individuals to their groups either, as if affirming that they really can abdicate their responsibility to the social atmosphere of the group.

The individuals should be held accountable for their actions, but if the group they are part of has actively encouraged practices that allow for (or require!) those actions and turned a blind eye to them, then the group should be held responsible for its part, as well.

The national organizations for Greek locals on campuses absolutely play a part in allowing their locals to continue with practices that are harmful, and so do college administrations. There's more than one frat at my alma mater that has been repeatedly put on probation, deactivated, and reactivated - numerous times, over a period of decades - for alcohol violations, assault, and severe property damage, and yet there they still are, allowed to rush, allowed to keep their charter, allowed to keep their house (which is actually college property), etc. If a group is really that "good" at repeatedly attracting individuals who commit so many bad acts, then there is something about that group that is contributing to those bad acts.
posted by rtha at 9:58 AM on December 31, 2013 [6 favorites]


Yeah, the "dorms and student groups had worse hazing" thing is totally confounding me. I was in only one student group that had even the merest soupcon of hazing during initiations of new members (blindfolded trip around campus with ridiculous narration, then some trivia), and it was so light, benign, and most importantly, optional, that I have trouble even putting it in the same mental category. Nobody yelled at me or called me a worthless faggot, like the SAE hazing mentioned in one of the articles. Nobody told me that if I wanted to join I had to drink three beers in 60 seconds, or eat raw chicken, or run a gauntlet of people throwing punches so hard that one of the pledges was actually killed (all actual reported events).

If people were receiving any treatment even approaching that in university owned dorms my naive expectation is that this would be a big deal for the school and I would genuinely like to hear what happened.
posted by en forme de poire at 10:06 AM on December 31, 2013 [6 favorites]


I admit I was a sorority girl at a small Midwestern university. I have no doubt there was serious hazing at the fraternities, but at our sorority, the extent of hazing involved being driven out to the country and left to "find our way home" (which essentially involved going to the nearest welcoming farmhouse and asking which way to the college. We also had to memorize basic biographical details of our "sisters" and the history of the sorority. On Hell Night, as I recall, there were what I considered rather slumber partyesque hazing rituals. One was to be shown two glasses of water, one of which contained a live goldfish. Then we were blindfolded and told to choose one of the glasses (not supposedly knowing which one). I could see under my blindfold though, and saw them switch out both glasses with ones containing a canned peach slice. I earned a reputation for being badass because instead of swallowing, I chewed my "goldfish". Also, they had us stand on chairs, then surrounded them with broken glass. Then we were blindfolded and told to step off the chair (truuuust ussss). I refused, declaring it was dumb and I wouldn't trust anyone that much, no sorry. Turned out they'd switched the glass with bunched up paper. I was still accepted as a "sister" and we didn't do that last "hazing ritual" ever again, because everyone agreed it induced revolt and encouraged the sort of "trust" we didn't require.

I agree with the poster above who says that "traditions" are basically things that get out of hand with the inducement of one or two charismatic leaders with bad judgment. It's a nasty byproduct of suburban privilege and some sort of perfect storm involving developing brains. I have no real doubt that all of those hazing activities were pulled out of the pledge master binder with no real forethought.

I don't particularly regret my experience, however, I do see the organizations as inherently problematic as far as racism and other related bullshit. Never mind the "traditions" of binge drinking and date rape, both of which I experienced.

It really sucks that the supposedly adult alumni are not taking a proper stand about this sort of thing. I have no real contact with my sorority now, and it makes me wonder if I've dropped the ball.
posted by RedEmma at 10:29 AM on December 31, 2013 [4 favorites]


For the record, my school had no "landed" frats, but I am good friends with plenty of people who were in frats in undergrad. This isn't about a referendum on the type of person who joins a frat or whatevs, it's about how frat chapters escape any type of meaningful oversight in a way that has serious consequences for the rest of the student community. I drank a lot and used plenty of substances as a kid and I am fine with the University doing mostly harm reduction: i.e., focusing on making sure people who are in danger get helped and making sure nobody is tempted to drive drunk, as opposed to making busts and driving things further underground. I am not fine with forced binge drinking and other dangerous physical abuse being minimized as part of the traditions of groups that are allowed to recruit young college kids. I definitely have a problem with national organizations with huge budgets lobbying against anti-hazing laws and gaslighting former pledges who dare to speak out. (And then there's sexual assault, which is an entire other post in itself.) None of that is an inevitable result of college kids (or even specifically bro-dudes! shock gasp!) socializing in groups.
posted by en forme de poire at 10:36 AM on December 31, 2013 [3 favorites]


yeah, I sort of feel like people here who are all "what, there is no secrecy in frats!!" didn't...read the articles?
posted by threeants at 10:58 AM on December 31, 2013 [3 favorites]


A whole class of organizations shouldn't be held accountable for individual misbehavior...

We're not just talking about individual misbehavior here. You yourself said "...fraternities can be abusive, elitist, etc, and sororities are probably just as bad..."

If a fraternity is abusive as a result of consensus shown explicitly or as a pattern of behavior, the organization should be held at fault as much as the individuals involved in carrying out any particular act of abuse are. (Though I would note that you didn't actually say anything about fault or responsibiity on the part of the abusing individuals themselves in the comment I was responding to, just fault on the part of people who have been humiliated or hurt.)
posted by XMLicious at 11:16 AM on December 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


the "underground frats" at my school had names like Lambda Sigma Delta
Sport Death?

posted by en forme de poire at 11:19 AM on December 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, the "dorms and student groups had worse hazing" thing is totally confounding me.

ROTC. And I don't mean the actual normal stuff of getting up early for running, I mean pushing peanuts across the floor with their noses.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:30 AM on December 31, 2013


My experience with frats is a group of dudes in popped collars who snorted lots of cocaine out of $100 bills on pool tables, painted the fire hydrant outside their brownstone whenever a brother took a girl's virginity, and then departed en masse for high paying jobs on wall-street after marginally passing their courses. It's hard not to develop a hatred.
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:09 PM on December 31, 2013 [4 favorites]


That's horrible. The powder would absorb into the felt and you'd waste half of it.
posted by Cookiebastard at 12:24 PM on December 31, 2013 [8 favorites]


And doesn't that say something about the folks running the financial sector right now that they don't even know how to properly not waste expensive drugs!?
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:32 PM on December 31, 2013 [9 favorites]


Year after year, there are deaths, stories like these of hazing that amounts to torture, and universities and national organizations hide their heads in the sand. The kid in the 1st story, who reported the abuse, used a supposedly confidential tool to report the abuse and was identified, ended up being shunned and havning his college experience royally fucked up. The university and national organization did nothing to effectively deal with the horrible problem.

There are fine fraternities and sororities. Not as classist as they once were, with reasonable people having fun and developing lifelong friendships. No problem. Universities should get real and heavily fine and ban offenders. Not for a year, for 10 years or more. That students have died, and that frat still exists is appalling. Law enforcement should take frats and members to court and there should be prison time for torture, injury and especially death. And rape, which is so frequently condoned. Not tacitly, but outright condoned and even encouraged.

So, people who have been inculcated in a system that tolerates torture, promotes alcohol abuse, rape and dishonesty with no consequences go to Wall Street. And Wall Street fucks the country. Go figure.
posted by theora55 at 1:23 PM on December 31, 2013 [6 favorites]


And doesn't that say something about the folks running the financial sector right now that they don't even know how to properly not waste expensive drugs!?

God, read Veblen already, the waste is the whole point
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 1:27 PM on December 31, 2013 [3 favorites]


This is the kind of stuff that gets me:

As he ran, Harrison, weighing 165 pounds, was beaten by fraternity brothers, some 100 pounds heavier, who were lurking in the darkness, she said. He died of a brain hemorrhage.

At first, fraternity members told Kowiak that Harrison died from injuries in a football game. A Theta Chi official said it was from “a team-building enterprise,” said her husband, Brian Kowiak, 55. Only later, as part of a lawsuit filed in 2009 against Lenoir-Rhyne and Theta Chi, did they learn that the gantlet-running ritual, known as “bulldogging,” had been an initiation tradition for years during Theta Chi’s “Hell Week.”


They lie, they cover it up, they protect each other, and the first statement from a national fraternity when a student dies is always along the lines of, "what a shame, we condemn hazing, that local chapter has nothing to do with us." The national orgs never face any penalties. The mom of the kid who died in that case (the "Mother of Golf Prodigy" link above) tried to fight for a bill to increase penalties but it was never introduced because of pressure from FratPAC.

How is this not organized crime?
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 1:53 PM on December 31, 2013 [4 favorites]


Sure, ROTC, but I would classify that as "branch of the military" more than "student group." I also haven't been aware of any deaths during ROTC hazing coming to light and I don't think they emphasize forced alcohol drinking, which is one of the most problematic aspects of frat hazing.

(Also, many schools actually banned ROTC until '11 when DADT was repealed, but those were private colleges where ROTC was already marginal so I don't know how illuminating that is. Still, it suggests that doing something more drastic about fraternities is certainly an option.)
posted by en forme de poire at 1:55 PM on December 31, 2013


The "college students will haze each other no matter what" meme is nonsense and should be forgotten. The worst "hazing" that I heard of at my college was people being mocked because their pool skills were inferior. And the coach of the male basketball team telling his players after a bad practice that they had "brought their strap-on vaginas today." No forced drinking, no assaults, no slurs. There was a suggestion for a fake frat "Delta Gamma Pig" that showed up in the student funding poll. It polled lower than the intravarsity Christian Fellowship. (Why yes, my school was voted "Most likely to ignore God" on multiple occasions while I was there.)

I have good friends who were in frats. Their frat brothers are good people. But everything I have heard makes them sound like poisonous organizations that we would be better off without.
posted by Hactar at 2:33 PM on December 31, 2013


When it comes to the examples of hazing, some of these things are not like the others. There's an important difference between exposing people who've explicitly signed up for the privilege to brief discomfort, and putting them in situations where it's impossible to prevent serious injury or death.

If you want to join a club that forces its members to stand in ice water, eat cat food, and listen to Rammstein for a whole evening, be my guest. (Though, if you want my unreserved sympathy afterward, you won't compare the experience to Guantanamo Bay.) It's a weird choice, but people make all kinds of choices I don't understand. I tend to lump "wearing women's clothing because you find it humiliating" into the same category, though I recognize it reinforces ugly prejudices and that thoughtful people may disagree.

On the other hand, encouraging young people to drink unmonitored quantities of alcohol, eat raw chicken, drive while drunk, and sexually assault non-consenting people are seriously unethical activities. There are already laws against these things, and enforcing them vigorously seems like a fine idea.

I wonder if campuses are doing more harm than good by lumping all hazing into one category and declaring it off-limits. It makes administrators sound like they have no sense of perspective. ("We must stamp out the horror of being forced to take cold showers.") And, it insures that only really dedicated scofflaws will be involved in the process, who are probably worse at risk-analysis than an average college student.

What would happen if we had officially sanctioned hazing provided the pledges are sober throughout and everyone involved has signed consent forms and attended a "how not to kill your friends" lecture by an EMT? While we're at it, let's make the minimum drinking age only apply to drinks that aren't served by licensed bartenders. (And we'll train all the intelligent unicorns created by our Manhattan-project style GM and cloning program to be bartenders, so there will never be a shortage.)

Frankly, on the ranked list of potentially interesting human experiences I'd consider trying, being hazed into a fraternity scores much higher than actually being a member of the organization afterward. Perhaps this gives me a skewed perspective.
posted by eotvos at 2:45 PM on December 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


Classifying some activities as "okay" hazing is interesting - there's definitely an argument to be made that hazing is a form of ("no-homo") BDSM, and consenting adults and all that jazz. But obviously there are big differences in "real" BDSM. First, as you mentioned, it would be considered incredibly irresponsible to do BDSM while also encouraging people to get drunk at all, let alone to the point of injury or death. Second, you can always tap out in BDSM with a safeword, and also, there also isn't the same type of real power dynamic as exists between 17/18-year-old pledges and upperclassmen. Finally, as a practical matter, I'd be concerned that having some "allowed" hazing could make it harder to investigate "disallowed" hazing. There would have to be a very clear, bright, and unambiguous line there.
posted by en forme de poire at 3:09 PM on December 31, 2013 [3 favorites]


Also with BDSM usually the actions are negotiated by all parties involved, taking note of everyone's interests and boundaries - when you sign on you know what you're going in for. Here? Not so much.

Also I'm not OK with the idea of 'sanctioned hazing' because then that assumes that abuse only takes a certain form and everything else is meaningless. (Forced cold showers can be abusive! Verbal abuse is still abuse!) Also slippery slopes ahoy.

This got brought up briefly upthread, but: why hazing at all? What purpose does it serve? If the idea is to unite current pledges against the "common oppressor" - what good would it do to have one set of members constantly animous against another set? If it's "we had to do it so you had to too" - why not break the cycle of abuse?

I know in my school when hazing happened it was largely because "we had to do it" etc, as well as hazing being the only way they can show dominance ("now you know who your real bosses are"). Creating fear instead of trust. Because that's all the models we have for leadership around us - you were supposed to fear your elders, or else they will fuck you up, but no one really talked about trust so much.

Is there a way to break the cycle of hazing by tackling why hazing happens to start with and finding an alternative? And not just assume it's a Greek thing?
posted by divabat at 4:25 PM on December 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


And the coach of the male basketball team telling his players after a bad practice that they had "brought their strap-on vaginas today." No forced drinking, no assaults, no slurs.

I don't argue your larger point, but that is definitely a slur.
posted by KathrynT at 9:15 AM on January 1, 2014 [5 favorites]


You can eliminate the greek system entirely from colleges and the effect on under age drinking, sexual assault and whatever else you want to blame on fraternities will be nil.

The point is not just the hazing, the sexual assault, and underage drinking. It's that fraternities get to support these things, while being placed in a privileged position on campuses to create old-boy networks, monopolize resources, monopolize student government, and control access to social events. Assault and underage boozing may be inevitable, but I'll be damned if I'm going to subsidize it.
posted by jonp72 at 9:40 AM on January 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


hazing happens everywhere.

That's bullshit. I've never heard of a Phi Beta Kappa hazing anybody. Just because the only organizations you consider important haze people, that doesn't mean that hazing is necessary for the preservation of social order.
posted by jonp72 at 9:42 AM on January 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


In general, the Greek organizations that many people decry are white social Greek organizations. They're the ones that members of the Panhellenic Council on campus and have houses that look like mansions. I think the Divine 9 and other black Greek orgs are Pan-hellenic or a similar term but usually they have a separate university-wide governing council and different I guess social concerns?

This is a very important point. The bulk of the abuses come from the predominantly white social Greek organizations, which are designed to reinforce social networks among local and state-level elites, although I believe that most of the elite white frats are in the North-American Interfraternity Conference, whereas the historically black frats are in the National Pan-Hellenic Council. Historically, the predominantly black frats have lower dues and have more of a community service orientation than the predominantly white frats. I even read something in a Rolling Stone article in the 1990s or so, which said that there were a higher percentage of white students in predominantly black frats than there were black students in predominantly white frats, which definitely undermines the portrayal I sometimes encountered of the black frats as racially separatist. I was an independent in my college days, but I was also quite aware that predominantly white frats tended to get a disproportionate share of the resources that frats got from student government, even though more resources would have gone to community service if it had been channeled through the black frats.
posted by jonp72 at 9:59 AM on January 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


Those of you crying "bullshit" at "hazing happens (almost) everywhere": I think those of us who are saying it don't mean "every organisation in the world subscribes to hazing so it's fine". At least in my case I'm trying to say that hazing is not uniquely a frat phenomena: I've seen it happen and been part of it in places with no Greek system.

To make it solely a frat/sorority thing is to ignore the reasons why it happens at all; if you try to remove the Greek system wholesale and that's it you run the risk of similar behaviour showing up elsewhere. We need to find the root causes, we need to see what people are getting out of hazing, we need to find better models for teambuilding and leadership, we need to make it so that hazing doesn't seem like a good idea at all.
posted by divabat at 1:00 AM on January 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


To make it solely a frat/sorority thing is to ignore the reasons why it happens at all...

And is something that no one is doing anywhere, particularly in this discussion.
posted by Etrigan at 3:57 AM on January 3, 2014


Honestly, it's the post-graduation nepotism that pisses me off more about the Frat system more so than the hazing. Because yeah, okay, groups that aren't frats also have their share of hazing - but those groups aren't the ones that give people an insider fast-track to the positions of economic power in the country today.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:50 AM on January 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


Honestly, it's the post-graduation nepotism that pisses me off more about the Frat system more so than the hazing. Because yeah, okay, groups that aren't frats also have their share of hazing - but those groups aren't the ones that give people an insider fast-track to the positions of economic power in the country today.

I would imagine members of other, non-Greek campus organizations also use their group affiliation for networking purposes following graduation. Out of all the things to be upset with the Greek system about, this honestly seems like kind of a strange one to hang your hat on. If you read virtually any "Help me land a good job" AskMe question, it will inevitably be filled with, "Network, network, network" responses. Why is it uniquely bad for former fraternity and sorority members to use any possible networking connections to find employment compared to any other people?

Interestingly enough, I interviewed for a job about two years ago where one of the first things the interviewer said to me was, "We're members of the same fraternity!", which was the first time in the nearly 20 years I've been out of college where my fraternity affiliation had a chance to positively effect my chances of landing a job. I ended up not getting it. I realize this is just anecdotal, but I do tend to agree with COD above that this idea of a fraternity or sorority member graduating from college and immediately being offered some super-high salary, ultra-powerful position based on nothing more than Greek affiliation alone is more myth than reality in most cases.
posted by The Gooch at 11:55 AM on January 3, 2014


Here are a few of the acts of baretoothed cruelty described in just one entry of this series:

- Confinement to a basement without food, water, or toilet access, while music played at extremely high volume.

- Forced alcohol poisoning after a kidnapping and blindfolding, resulting in death.

- Forced immersion in ice water outside on a cold day while being sprayed with a hose.

And on top of that, fraternity alumni successfully lobby their old colleges and the government so that the like may continue.

But yeah, the nepotism is definitely worse, guys, and it should be the focus of the thread.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 1:11 PM on January 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


Why is it uniquely bad for former fraternity and sorority members to use any possible networking connections to find employment compared to any other people?

I think the difference is in 1. what's involved in joining a frat or sorority in the first place and 2. how much the connection helps. If you have to risk the things that Rustic Etruscan just mentioned in order to get those job connections, that's fucked up. And if the nepotism crosses the line into outright fraudulence (I think I remember this from one of the articles, where people would invent recommendations for frat members), that's fucked up too.

I don't know how prevalent the second problem is and it's hard to get an accurate sense of that from this type of article, but the first one is definitely still a problem because it intensifies the pressures around hazing. If you know your frat is a source of insider connections into particularly lucrative industries like finance, that's a big incentive to submit to mistreatment and to be complicit in covering up abuse.
posted by en forme de poire at 1:17 PM on January 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


At least in my case I'm trying to say that hazing is not uniquely a frat phenomena

I don't think anyone's claiming that it's uniquely a frat phenomenon, just that it's much more pervasive and extreme in frats, and that fraternities also often uniquely benefit from having a politically active and wealthy national organization which helps to buffer them against claims of abuse and lawsuits, as described in the articles. I'd say athletic teams have similar problems for similar reasons, fwiw.

(I mean - does anyone here believe that singing groups or student newspapers or the Spanish club are just as likely to have this type of extreme hazing as the local SAE chapter? That seems kind of boggling to me.)
posted by en forme de poire at 1:24 PM on January 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


this idea of a fraternity or sorority member graduating from college and immediately being offered some super-high salary, ultra-powerful position based on nothing more than Greek affiliation alone is more myth than reality in most cases.

That's probably why no one is seriously suggesting that it ever happens.
posted by Etrigan at 2:34 PM on January 3, 2014


Etrigan, are these not serious suggestions?

Including the post-graduation cronyism that gives an elite few a fast track into employment based on perceived nepotism as opposed to their having earned it?

...

Honestly, it's the post-graduation nepotism that pisses me off more about the Frat system more so than the hazing. Because yeah, okay, groups that aren't frats also have their share of hazing - but those groups aren't the ones that give people an insider fast-track to the positions of economic power in the country today.

posted by The Gooch at 2:41 PM on January 3, 2014


this idea of a fraternity or sorority member graduating from college and immediately being offered some super-high salary, ultra-powerful position based on nothing more than Greek affiliation alone is more myth than reality in most cases.

Did you not read the damn article?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:04 PM on January 3, 2014


"fast track" != "super-high salary, ultra-powerful position based on nothing more than Greek affiliation"

See also life on easy mode.
posted by Etrigan at 3:04 PM on January 3, 2014


I will respectfully bow out now that we are essentially having a semantics argument
posted by The Gooch at 3:13 PM on January 3, 2014


From TFA:
One of the recruiting e-mails to Dartmouth’s Alpha Delta arrived last month from an alumnus working in a unit of Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC), the largest U.S. mortgage lender.

The e-mail, a copy of which was obtained by Bloomberg News, was his best chance at reaching the college’s top men for next year’s analyst class in a San Francisco office that has had Dartmouth grads for eight straight years and Alpha Deltas for four, he wrote. Students could e-mail their resumes to him directly, he added, and they’d go to the top of the pile.

Fraternity members who went to work for Goldman Sachs, Citigroup Inc. and Bank of America Corp. said they were sent back to campus on recruiting trips, where they could tap people from their houses for interviews ahead of other candidates, some more qualified. One said he would sometimes invent endorsements to send to bosses that didn’t mention fraternity connections.
Of course someone with a 2.7 from Penn isn't going to get a Goldman job just because he was in SAE or whatever, but if true, this is still considerably more systematic and less above-board than any kind of informal networking from other student groups I've experienced/heard of (beyond other frat-like groups, at least).
posted by en forme de poire at 3:44 PM on January 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


(I mean - does anyone here believe that singing groups or student newspapers or the Spanish club are just as likely to have this type of extreme hazing as the local SAE chapter? That seems kind of boggling to me.)

the science fiction club was always really snooty to anyone who was a Piers Anthony fan after age fourteen...
posted by jb at 6:58 PM on January 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


Pledges must renounce Piers Anthony NAKED IN A GARBAGE CAN FULL OF ICE
posted by en forme de poire at 9:25 PM on January 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


(I mean - does anyone here believe that singing groups or student newspapers or the Spanish club are just as likely to have this type of extreme hazing as the local SAE chapter? That seems kind of boggling to me.)

Sports teams have certainly been found to have some pretty intense hazing.

I don't think those other groups are as likely to have as intense hazing because they tend to be co-ed.

Additionally, I am an alumni of a program that sends out emails pretty similar to that Dartmouth email. It's a different situation - the program is academic - but that email doesn't seem that damning to me.

Obviously, it's nepotism. But nepotism, as unfair as it is, doesn't necessarily preclude qualified candidates. The other stuff about inventing reasons to recruit at your frat - that's problematic. But specifically inviting your frat to an on-campus recruiting event or to submit applications to a publicly listed job posting? Fair game.

(But maybe I'm assuming the best on the recruiter's side here. I can't imagine hiring someone unqualified based on a personal connection, but that doesn't mean it doesn't happen.)
posted by maryr at 8:18 AM on January 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


Pledges must renounce Piers Anthony NAKED IN A GARBAGE CAN FULL OF ICE

I dunno about renouncing that. Piers Anthony stuffed naked in to a garbage can full of ice kind of sounds like a good idea, provided we leave him there.
posted by dersins at 9:23 AM on January 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


I can't imagine hiring someone unqualified based on a personal connection, but that doesn't mean it doesn't happen.

It's rarely as obvious as hiring someone unqualified, or even less qualified, but if you're talking about jobs with a lot of applicants who are roughly-equally-qualified which is to say, the vast majority of jobs that people get right out of college), any advantage -- including just being at the front of the line for the on-campus interview -- is a huge difference.
posted by Etrigan at 3:17 PM on January 5, 2014 [3 favorites]


Sports teams have certainly been found to have some pretty intense hazing.

I agree, and that's why I metioned them as well. Former college athletes are also, not so coincidentally, one of the other groups that is heavily favored on Wall Street.
posted by en forme de poire at 8:25 PM on January 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


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