Hazing is an interesting topic, mostly because of how polarizing it is. So, in an effort to go out with a bang, let’s talk about male-on-male discomfort. On March 28th, Rolling Stone magazine released an article entitled “Confessions of an Ivy League Frat Boy: Inside Dartmouth’s Hazing Abuses.” The article details hazing endured and dealt out by Andrew Lohse during his time as a fraternity member at Dartmouth. After coming forth, “Lohse—the only student to come forward voluntarily—may be the only student who is ultimately punished.” With the fraternity maintaining a policy of silence, and Dartmouth protecting its image, Lohse’s accusations amount to unsubstantiated lies and self-incrimination.
One thing in particular struck me when reading the article. In a move similar to sobering up by downing cups of coffee, James Wright, Dartmouth’s 16th president, planned “to end the Greek system ‘as we know it’ by requiring fraternities to substantially go coed.” Marches on Wright’s home and protest rallies ensued, as would be expected when you mess with those who are literally already organized and united. After surveying “push back” from alumni and fraternities alike, Wright substituted his proposal with only a minor set of reforms in July 1999. Dartmouth demanded change and fraternities said “nah.” When millionaires and even billionaires make up fraternity alumni, you have to listen.
Making fraternities coed is an idea my cargo shorts-wearing, GDI of a mother would propose before breaking out in laughter and hitting the last beer pong cup. Maybe I mixed metaphors, but regardless, using women is no way to combat organizations that you believe are (among other things) … using women. Moreover, fraternities are not inherently evil syndicates that constantly throw parties filled with cheap booze and kiddie pools. As an outsider, Wright merely saw symptoms of a social problem, symptoms that could cost a lot in reputation and lawsuits. His gross misunderstanding of the people and power that make up Dartmouth’s fraternities (which are not unlike Duke’s) led to such a miscalculated and embarrassing solution that his successor, Jim Yong Kim, “met with Dartmouth alums and reassured them he had no intention of overhauling the fraternities.”
Fratbros: one. Guy who was recently nominated by the Obama administration to head the World Bank: zero.
The article mentions some of the causes of the “problems” seen in fraternity life. The big three are money, power and privilege, with money ensuring power, and power ensuring privilege. How would a college go about altering this homogeneity (frats are so homo) found at the top of the social scene? I recall the Fall semester meeting I had in Page Auditorium before rushing my freshman year.
The events of the rush process that followed have limited my memory, but I’ll try to summarize what was said. The presenting IFC executive member said that rushing and becoming a member of a fraternity was expensive, but IFC scholarships were available. We were then told that these scholarships were so few and hard to obtain that it was essentially pointless to apply. Pushing this further, one could translate that statement to mean, “If you are poor then fraternity life will not overlap with your life. Please don’t soil the bid cards.”
I support pledging, fraternities and intoxication. I don’t support ignorant policies that could result in unknown unknowns. However you feel, understanding the many facets of the problems surrounding greek life is essential to being able to “fix” them. Where there is a bro and a beer, there is a way.
Fraternities are smart, independent institutions moving more quickly and more effectively than public and private universities’ administrations. Fraternities have agendas, goals and dreams, moving forward at all times just as we all try to do. So when restrictions and regulations try and limit a few visible symptoms, more will pop up, but maybe not so visibly. Punishing your kids time and time again may not effectively change their behavior, it may just change how open and honest they are about their behavior. Being passed out on the main quad is a lot better than being passed out in a gutter somewhere. At least we will all know where you are.
Travis Smith is a Trinity junior. This is his final column of the semester.