US Fraternities self-destructing

This piece in Quartz is brilliant

It is a fantastic and well thought out indictment of the group think that makes these organizations seem increasingly out of place in a diverse and modern society.


Diveristy, its not just a concept…you have to live it.

Of the 116 SAE members at UNL, two are black, one is Latino and one is South Korean.

The better question is why. I really hate articles where the most important question is left un-addressed. WHY is it so difficult? Because when you have 116 people and only one other person shares your experience even remotely then you have a segregated institution. I am amazed that the University of Nebraska-Lincoln frat boys don’t see there club as a segregated institution. Imagine a room with one hundred people in in and only 2 black students and one Asian students. Could it be that there is something about the institution that either a. makes it difficult to join the institution b. makes it hostile for minorities to consider joining c. represents an idea of “brotherhood” that is foreign to people with different experiences. This is a good story for more complex reasons. It is interesting because the frat boys involved are examining their experience through the clouded lens of the white male American experience. They don’t see the racism inherent in this organization because they cannot. They cannot because their entire world view is framed in a world where everyone thinks like them, behaves like them, looks like them, talks like them, dresses like them, and on and on and on. Diversity is a goal that can be achieved only when individuals embrace that which is different from them and recognize the experiences of others as valuable and integral. Fraternity’s by their very nature demand adherence to their rules, their “ideals of a good brother”. If you are different, I’ve got news for you, you are not getting into a fraternity. Anything claim otherwise belies the evidence in front of us. The frat might as well have said, “Who you gonna believe, me or your lying eyes?”


Lets think about this. Imagine a situation where 30 separate fraternities are shut down, well you don’t have to imagine it. This is not a test. This is real. Now imagine that those 30 groups were made up of young predominantly African-American men and the crimes were taking place on college campuses and involved charges that varied from hazing to murder. What would our response be? What would the news media be reporting? What would FOX NEWS be broadcasting? WHat would our politicians be saying? How would our police be reacting?

Its disturbing because I think we all know the answer. There would be outrage and calls for mass expulsions. There would be calls for federal involvement to stop these events. There would be calls for FBI involvement. National Guard units (and i’m serous) would be called out, especially in the American South, a region of the US that is no stranger to federal involvement in race based crimes.

This is a national tragedy. And what is the response? Piecemeal enforcement. There is a problem at these organizations. They are mostly white. Mostly made up of middle class to wealthy white men and women they are largely immune to collective blame. In the United States, minorities seem to be subject to a different standard. In fact its much worse, fraternities are given the benefit of the doubt to the extreme. 30 times ? 1 time maybe. 2 or 3 maybe. But 30 times ? In one year? No…IN ONE MONTH!! Something is seriously wrong in America and you need not look any further than our nations college campuses. Whats worse, every Spring and Fall the groups hold open recruitments to bring more members into the fold. The “kids” love it. Are there any adults left ?

Something to think about


Fraternities have their historical roots in exclusivity and privilege, as Matthew W. Hughey, a professor at the University of Connecticut who studies Greek organizations , told McClatchy News Service for an article that appeared in the Sunday Valley News last week. They were created in the 18th- and 19th centuries to protect and foster white power, wealth and status. Some still do serve that purpose.

The question today is whether young men who bond with like-minded brothers in a closed society whose origins lie in the fact of exclusion are more likely to offend against common decency than they would as individuals. Unless all that charitable work and fundraising by fraternity members for good causes is undertaken by a completely different cohort of fraternity members from those whose depredations are featured in the news just about every day, we’re inclined to think so. And that’s a strong argument for just disbanding them.

Bill Maher rips into frats

Bill Maher went off on fraternity culture in his show this week, saying that before President Obama leaves office he “must send in the national guard to desegregate America’s last bastion of societal-approved racism.” And for those who complain? “Sorry brah, from now on if you’re going to want to live with 40 dudes and hold secret homoerotic ceremonies you’re going to have to join the seminary.”

Maher says that it’s always seemed strange that while everyone seems to value political correctness on campus, “smack in the middle are frat houses, these little Vatican cities of depravity that seem to enjoy diplomatic immunity from civilization.”

And while fraternities do plenty of bad things, there’s likely nothing worse than the way “they take young people at the exact moment when they should be learning to be individuals and turn them into shit-eating orders-following group thinkers,” says Maher.


Why are fraternities so bad?

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”