Non-Americans probably wonder why the big ruckus over here about these social clubs called fraternities. Their history in the US is as old as the Republic itself. Fortunately, that history is only a few hundred and not a few thousand years old. There is another factor, alcohol. Exclusivity is the the first “strike” against fraternities. A group of young men have decided that they will organize a group that will form the “bonds of brotherhood”. In reality they are not choosing men, they are choosing from among boys learning to become men. The fraternity brothers see themselves as the benchmarks that all “beneath them” need to aspire to someday become. In actual fact what you have is boys trying to teach other boys what is is to become responsible men.
Pledge week is where the current fraternity brothers decide who will get invited to join their group. Not so strangely, like gravitates towards like. Fraternities are overwhelmingly composed of young, white, upper-middle to wealthy young men, white men. See the seeds of a problem developing yet? It was not so long ago in the US that colleges were 100% white and 100% male. It was only in the last 40-50 years that many colleges grew more inclusive. In fact, in the US it took the National Guard and a visionary young President to stare down the faces of hate in the college doorway. Now, these young men have decided to re-segregate, if you will, the college campus. Women become the “outsiders”, minorities too, the same for anyone that does not share these young boys narrow view of the world. We were all 18 yo once, a fact that many fraternity brothers, seem to forget. Insecurity is part of growing up, learning to understand yourself and becoming an adult is a process with few guides on college campuses other than other young people struggling to do the same. Perhaps professors are mentors and can be a good influence. But, professors are not 18 yo, they don’t share the same concerns and emotions. As a result, a vacuum is created, young men now are led to believe that if they join these “clubs” they will gain a better experience and have a better chance of developing into “men of honor”.
Unfortunately, the exact wrong message is sent. Fraternities teach you that your self-worth is measured by the letters on your chest. In reality your self-worth is measured by how you relate to everyone, how you treat people who are not exactly like you. In fraternities, you are “special” because you belong and the “others” do not. Imagine what a warped world view this is for young people just finding their way. They are taught that in order to truly bond, you must be part of an exclusive group. That will be a lesson they learn forever. They will take this with them to investment banks, law firms, country clubs, med schools, business schools etc. In fact, many begin to see that a true brother hood is a group of “white young men”. Where college is supposed to be a place where you meet people of all races, religions, nationalities, these “brothers” decide that they want to segregate the campus. The normal rules of society (those pesky rules having to do with equality, non-discrimination) don’t apply. Women don’t need apply. Minorities need not apply. Foreigners “need not apply”. This is a world recreated, recast in ones own image, free of dissenters and rules and all contained in the infamous “house”.
NEXT…..the drinking culture or “if it happens when you’re drunk you’re not responsible”