I didn't set out to hate fraternities. I don't hate drinking. I don't hate drugs. I don't hate networking. I don't hate partying, or male camaraderie, or fun, or any other ephemeral symbolic virtue/excuse that "Greek" organizations have clung to (with less efficacy each year) for generations. But I do hate sexual assault. And cronyism. And torture. (Which sleep deprivation is according to the Geneva Convention, and if we have qualms about professional interrogators doing it, why are we trusting a 20-year old finance major?)
So, here I am again, responding to another Hans Dix original, this one entitled "Greek Life Will Never Truly Leave the American College Campus." I won't link it here, but I will quote it, and if anyone reading this article has the desire to seek it out on their own, then feel free. At one point, I was worried about people like Hans and the danger that their way of thinking and acting presented to not only college life, but American life in general. Recently, however, I have discovered that I can treat them the same way I treat old bigots and simply wait for them to go away.
Ultimately, there's no one to blame the protracted demise of the "Greek" system on but the "Greeks" themselves. My own school, Wesleyan University, has changed its mind from forcing fraternities to co-educate to just kicking them off campus. This comes as no surprise however, as I said in my last article on the topic, since no one seems inclined to tolerate the "Greek" brand of bad behavior any more. The costs have begun to outweigh the benefits of having them around, and it's clear to everyone. Perhaps even them.
To Hans Dix, and the thousands of people who agree with him, let me be very clear. It's not because the rest of us are jealous about how much sex you're getting, in fact, it seems to be quite different. Multiple studies have confirmed that "fraternity men are three times more likely to commit sexual assault than other college men." It's not because we're jealous of your "brotherhood."
Hans Dix's self-applied label of "good ol' boy" denotes not only the nature of his fraternity, but his lack of touch with the regular world, to think that, in 2015, that phrase would engender any level of relatability to his cause. It's not because we think the way you spend your time is dumb, or pointless, or a distraction from academic studies as you seem to think (though in some cases, that's right on the money). We want fraternities gone because they create an environment that's harmful to the rest of us, who are trying to create an environment that everyone can benefit from.
In their limited view, the world appears to contain only two kinds of people, those in "Greek" life who are just trying to have a good time, and everyone else, who are a vague collection of hipster and nerd stereotypes that only want to kill their buzz. Simply put, we don't have that kind of time. All most of us want is less sexual harassment/assaults, less institutional racism, and less dead kids. If you guys stopped doing that, you could drink all the Natty Light you wanted, but you seem incapable of doing so, so the decision has been taken out of your hands. And that scares you.
All I had to do was Google News search "fraternity" and the first story that came up was one about a branch of Sigma Nu at Old Dominion University getting suspended for putting up signs that read "Freshman Daughter Drop-Off". The signs were up for less than a day. Or take into account the example of the Alpha Phi sorority at the University of Alabama who put up an incredibly whitewashed recruitment video that many found "reductive and objectifying." They took the video down. Five years ago, that kind of rapid remedial action was a pipe dream. The giant has bled.
As a result, the narrative has shifted, and fraternities are on the defensive. Even Hans article's title seems to be hedging its bets with the word "truly," as if even he knows what is sure to come. The title is vaguely threatening however, in line with the article's final paragraph, whereupon he proclaims, reminiscent of a Saturday morning cartoon villain, that we will never stop him, only push this kind of behavior "underground".
This is, unfortunately, where I must concede that we -all of us- will never get rid of some of these problems. It is not as if people who are not in fraternities do not rape, discriminate and peer pressure. However, they do not do so institutionally, in packs, with a mob mentality. Thus the best first step to take against these ills is to remove the institutional legitimacy and protection that some of their perpetrators are granted. Ideas may be invincible, but they can also become intolerable.
Fraternities' narratives no longer herald the places where presidents and Fortune 500 CEOs are made. Now, they're tales of the poor victims of the evil universities that want to keep them from having a good time. If that's the case, then where are their big name defenders? Why haven't I seen Hugh Heffner, and Steven Spielberg come to their aid with a well-written think piece? Why doesn't George W. Bush have a photo-op wearing a "Frat Lives Matter" T-Shirt? Could it be because even they see which way the tide is turning? Could it be because, despite their claims, this wasn't the most important thing that they did with their lives, and they aren't willing to risk their public reputations defending a college social club?
No matter the answer, playing the victim is not these guys' strong suit. Boys, the rest of the world doesn't see you guys as the Deltas from "Animal House;" you're the frat boys from "Grown Ups 2," an incompetent gaggle of ineffectual bullies on your way out.
Hans Dix calls the current attitude toward fraternities "the collegiate war on drugs." No, Hans, you and your predominantly white, wealthy, over-privileged boys club being punished for institutional discrimination, sexual assault, and manslaughter have almost nothing in common with the racialized and disenfranchised victims of the War on Drugs (You can afford lawyers, for starters). In one case, a half-century of laws was constructed to imprison, subjugate, and disenfranchise a group of non-violent offenders (mostly of color) for the interest of privately-owned prisons and those who wished to return to the racial prejudice of a previous era. You put a roofie in a girls drink: not exactly the victimless crime equivalent.
This disconnect with reality is insulting to me, not only as a black man, but as a human being with a functioning brain. His gall (and incredible racial colorblindness) continues when he indicts society for calling fraternities "mean names". I refer him to the SAE incident earlier this year, where a fraternity was caught singing about excluding and hanging black people, with liberal use of a certain six letter racial slur, of course.
Fraternities are much like one recent media event, however: the recent uptick in reporting of police brutality. Much like them, fraternity crimes have certainly been going on for years, but the United States becoming "super sensitive", as Hans put it, has brought the behavior to national attention; and even though frats see that America has less and less tolerance for them, they continue as if it were business as usual.
It's not however. To quote Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit "The struggle with [the infection] betrays the fact that the infection has done its work". There is no better proof-positive of the fact that the old way is finished than frat boys writing article after article about how "Fraternity Culture" is as strong as ever. Keep dreaming.