The Dark Power of Fraternities

by Christopher Paul on February 20, 2014

I just added this to my Readability queue. It’s a look into college fraternities. As you can imagine from the title, it doesn’t sound as if it’s going to be a positive spin on the institutions. I skimmed the first section and I’ll read the rest later tonight. Here’s a interesting glimpse of how it starts:

College fraternities—by which term of art I refer to the formerly all-white, now nominally integrated men’s “general” or “social” fraternities, and not the several other types of fraternities on American campuses (religious, ethnic, academic)—are as old, almost, as the republic. In a sense, they are older: they emanated in part from the Freemasons, of which George Washington himself was a member. When arguments are made in their favor, they are arguments in defense of a foundational experience for millions of American young men, and of a system that helped build American higher education as we know it. Fraternities also provide their members with matchless leadership training. While the system has produced its share of poets, aesthetes, and Henry James scholars, it is far more famous for its success in the powerhouse fraternity fields of business, law, and politics. An astonishing number of CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, congressmen and male senators, and American presidents have belonged to fraternities. Many more thousands of American men count their fraternal experience—and the friendships made within it—as among the most valuable in their lives. The organizations raise millions of dollars for worthy causes, contribute millions of hours in community service, and seek to steer young men toward lives of service and honorable action. They also have a long, dark history of violence against their own members and visitors to their houses, which makes them in many respects at odds with the core mission of college itself.

When I went to college, I pledged a fraternity and it was not a good experience at all. I was attracted to the close friends the members had with one another but as I went through the process, I questioned whether it was real. Between the inflexible meetings, pledge rituals, mind-numbing memorization, group think, and virtually no free will on social obligations, I realized it wasn’t for me.

Although the experience was pretty awful, I learned a lot about myself and the type of person I am. I realized I beat to a different drum and it’s my independence and uniqueness that makes me special.

via Longreads

Previous post:

Next post: