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February 06, 2012 4:28 PM Frat Boy Whines

By Daniel Luzer

One Dartmouth student has decided to go to war against the Greek system. Is there really a serious problem in the American fraternity? It’s hard to tell. Andrew Lohse writes in the New York Daily News:

In September 2008, I matriculated at what had been sold to me as one of the most prestigious universities in America. It had been a dream of mine to attend Dartmouth College. There, I assumed that as an English major, I would be receiving a world-class education in literature, philosophy, culture and ethics.
But I soon found that a culture of another sort dominated campus discourse: fraternity life and its attendant substance abuse and hazing rituals. As a pledge of Sigma Alpha Epsilon, my course of study included psychological degradation, being vomited on by others, swimming in a kiddie pool of feculent toxic sludge and having to chug vinegar until a full-body shutdown seemed likely. These were just some of the “essential experiences” of the foul curriculum that was to make the supposedly best four years of my life.

But does this “foul curriculum” really undermine the world-class education? How?

I am shocked, shocked to hear that drunken fraternity hazing occurs at Dartmouth. This story recalled in me a moment from high school. I was going on the Dartmouth tour with my parents. I remember a family, from India, taking their daughter on the college tour, too. “Is this a school where there’s drinking?” the girl’s mother asked, over and over.

Her daughter was curiously silent, either because she was embarrassed that her mother was asking that question so repeatedly or because—as she was the sort of person with a mother like that—she was really eager to begin some serious drinking. She had, I remember, already been admitted.

Asking if Dartmouth is a school where drinking occurs, of course, is like asking if Smith is a college where there are lesbians or if Oberlin is a school where there are hippies. If you don’t know that, you don’t know Dartmouth.

This is what seems particularly odd about Lohse’s criticism. It’s unclear why Lohse’s experience with Sigma Alpha Epsilon, however unfortunate, is surprisingly to him or why it matters at all for the rest of the world.

This does, however, look suspicious. He writes that:

A national push is needed to address both the social question posed by fraternities and the larger one of how to fix an American higher education system increasingly failing to produce the learned, moral citizens our society needs,” Lohse writes. “As a whistleblower against Dartmouth’s fraternity system, I resolved to do something by advocating for reforms.

Well yes, but on May 19, 2010 Lohse was arrested for cocaine possession and witness tampering after an extensively chronicled, heavy partying incident at SAE. Lohse, now on his anti-fraternity kick, writes that,

These cultures of secret depravity at elite schools produce hordes of narrow-minded investment bankers and consultants with no social perspective except personal gain. These are the same “me first” graduates who have been intimately involved in sinking the economy with bad mortgages, crony capitalism and casino-style private equity schemes — as long as they got their payday.
I entirely understand Ivy League graduates with such worldviews because I have studied and partied with them, and have been hazed by them. And what I have witnessed is a society that, at its core, inculcates nothing short of sociopathy.

Well, no. It appears likely that you “understand such worldviews” because you are that guy, you just aren’t very good at it.

That’s fine. That’s his life. Those were his decisions and he’s being punished for those actions. But this doesn’t have anything to do with his fraternity; it has everything to do with him. Take responsibility.

Fraternity hazing is really humiliating. It’s a really sad, stressful, experience that can, in many ways, ruin the undergraduate experience. But we’ve already litigated this one. It’s wrong and that’s why people are severely punished for it. But one cannot instill sociopathy through fraternity hazing. It’s not ruining the world, kid. In fact, membership in fraternities has been on the decline for more than a decade.

Lohse writes that,

Fraternities are anachronistic institutions that sanction the worst in adolescent men. The lights must be turned off and the doors padlocked until a gender-equal system can be put it into place. Reform has to subvert the traditional archetype of the “social house” and turn it into a safe space for growth and recreation.

Um, or just join a different fraternity, or don’t join one at all.

Sure, fraternities are anachronistic and elitist. But so is Dartmouth itself. So is spending the equivalent of America’s median salary on one year of college. The anachronism is the point. Don’t confuse the anachronism for a real problem. A “safe space for growth and recreation” is not actually college living; it’s some fantasy of college. This crusade against America’s Greek system is unrealistic.

And unseemly. You pledged the fraternity, you discovered and identified a problem (apparently as a result of your own involvement in many of these problems). Take some responsibility, fix the problem. Don’t stand on the outside and piss on your own (apparently feculent toxic sludge-filled) pool. You were responsible for this problem. Be a gentleman and a leader and address the issue.

Or just, well, keep it to yourself.

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer

Comments

  • Anonymous on February 07, 2012 10:24 AM:

    Daniel Luzer- Dartmouth thanks you