When I was a freshman at the University of Texas at Austin in the early 1990s, the Greek system was an entirely foreign concept to me—unsurprisingly, since I was a foreign student. My blonde roommate from Minnesota asked me in a thick Midwest accent if I was “gonna rush,” to which I responded, “Where to?” Observing her desperate courting of numerous sororities—made all the more nerve-wracking because of her fear of rejection for being slightly chubby and “not Texan”—confused me even further. After several months of observation, I
i’d like to read the article but so far, after 30 minutes, still only a broken paragraph is actually posted here.
EDIT: The full article is now here.
The TruthDig link at the top takes you to the original.
Another excellent article by Sonali Kolhatkar. Nothing would be more effective at ending the frat/sorority mentality than implementing free, government funded, universal education. In more developed countries, these silly "ole white boy clubs’ have longed been abolished with no signs of negatively impacting camaraderie and social networking. However the marketing of the college experience still very much encompasses this perception that college is one big party and that choosing the right club is an integral part of that. Until there is a national debate about this in the MSM though, I’m afraid nothing will change.
It’s no coincidence that very recently both Presidential candidates were those who’d been indoctrinated into Skull & Bones Fraternity. Plenty of court justices and department heads hold the same bona fides.
THIS is what’s key:
" Marian Konnikova, writing in The Atlantic, summed it up best: The fraternity system was a product of America’s elite: the white, the Christian, the wealthy (the early fraternities were expensive—prohibitively so for any but the moneyed), the male. The “innest” of the in-groups the Founding Fathers could have envisioned."
Old entrenched power does NOT wish to share power, privilege, or prosperity much with others outside of its small circle.
And that’s why this comment is at best, naïve:
“American society would not tolerate the same set of vile behaviors year after year from any other group of students but those who are members of fraternities and sororities. Let’s abolish the whole system once and for all.”
American “society” is a PRODUCT of racism, sexism, and classism… held in place by boatloads of violence, overt and covert.
Up until just a couple of generations ago, universities themselves fulfilled this function – providing the stamp of approval for entry into the elite, for the children of the elite.
As universities become more technical, moving beyond the old elite professions (law, clergy) and becoming more democratic, the anti-democratic elite-reproducting function has been increasingly fulfilled by systems such as frats.
A few things bothered me about this article.
Ms. Kolhatkar seem to be unaware of the importance of historic black fraternities in providing camaraderie and refuge for black students in otherwise white racist campuses.
Does she want to “abolish” sororities too?
There are also those honorary fraternities for academic achievement in the various fields of study… I see no problem with them.
And finally, how in any kind of free society is any kind of free private association of people going to be “abolished”? They can prohibit with penalties bigoted, drunk and disorderly, disruptive, vandalizing behavior - and those schools with on-campus frat houses can order them off-campus. But they can’t “abolish” them. If they can abolish them, then they can also abolish, say, the Afghani Students Anti-Imperialist League; the Student Chapter of the Socialist Party, USA, or anything else they don’t like.
The commenter-ship of TruthDig bothers the hell out of me - mostly clueless liberals, few commenters with genuinely leftist perspectives. And none of them knows what racism is - confusing it with mere individual bigotry or prejudice.
You forgot to mention that pesky first amendment to the US constitution that guarantees freedom of association.
Ah, the leaps forward that we could take were it not for the constitution and Bill of Rights…
I did mention freedom of association.
But having brought it up, I did not mention the US constitution, because, believe it or not, there is a lot more to the world than just the USA and its hoary constitution and there are plenty of societies where freedom is more broadly protected becasue their freedom is protected from not only actions of governments, but private individuals and corporations too.
For example, in Canada, it is against the law for a private employer to require a person to pee in a jar as a condition of employment, while in the US, the Fourth Amendment protections against such behavior is limited only to government actions while the same constitution protects the “freedom” of an employer to force an employee to pee in a jar as a condition of employment - and therefore for practical purposes, not starving or freezing to death. (BTW, my federal govt. job is the only job where I haven’t been required to pee in a jar.) Similarly, in the US, a private university or school can certainly kick any student out for belonging to a frat - thereby effectively banning the frat, or kick a student out for their political viewpoints - or anything. And you probably agree with this - in the name of “freedom” yet! Only public schools receiving public moneys can maybe, just maybe, be challenged regarding this. Well guess what? In many other countries, a private school, university, or employer cannot kick out or fire a person on the basis of association, speech, or political affiliation. So by this standard, the USA and its idolized constitution is not the last word in freedom…
I always hated/despised fraternities. And the students who belonged to them. I always wondered why they do those initiation rites. While attending the university here, I was fascinated/disgusted to read how some student had had Janitor-in-the-Drum poured over his head or something equally horrific. Why do they do these things, I wondered? But then eventually I realized, that the whole University system is an initiation rite. You have to suffer at doing all these ridiculous projects like term papers, so that you can be accepted into the arms of the middle class, I guess. I never made it through the university system, so I will forever by a 'po boy I guess. Not one of those special people who managed to get through the initiation rite known at higher education. So they can stand out above the hoi polloi. I can’t be too hard on this, since I always wanted to be able to stand out, to be special, to stand apart from others because I knew more or I had a better understanding of the world. Isn’t this a pretty common desire? Especially here in the capitalistic competitive U.S. or A.
And what about this author Sonali Kolhatkar? Does she have children. Who perhaps she would like to see go to the best schools of higher education. So that they can fraternize with peers of the same class but stand out in relation to the wider public and get a good job and have a decent life? If she really wants to abolish fraternities, maybe she could consider abolishing higher education too, since it is cut from the same cloth.
Higher education is more than just an “initiation rite.” And they make you do papers so you can demonstrate your ability to engage in research and critical inquiry and expressing the results in a form understandable to others - skills needed so poeple can do everything from building bridges that don’t fall down to develop lifesaving medical treatments to inquiring into the fundamental makeup of the universe.
Of course everybody should be equally compensated for the effort and sacrifice in their work no matter what the work is, and of course nobody should attend a course of study in a university just becasue it is needed to get decent pay. But you proposal to abolish higher education seems a bit extreme. Lets abolish all education beyond rudimentary reading, writing and arithmetic too then.
Well, the federal government can afford not to make their employees pee in jar because, as far i know, one can’t really sue the federal government in a court of law. So if some government employee is high as kite and someone ends up dead, i guess tough luck.
This article bothers me because it throws out the baby with the bathwater. When I was an undergraduate I lived in a housing cooperative which I found to be a positive and transformative experience. The friends you make out of such an organization are friends for life as you get to know people well and get beyond a lot of superficialities when you live with people for a long period of time and actively interact with them over that time period. Participation in a self-governing consensus or near-consensus based organization also provides experience which is useful later in life.
I find that the concept of self-governing intentional residential communities at universities are a good thing. The greek system can be more than that however, in that they tend to attract the sons and daughters of the wealthy and powerful, such that membership in such an organization helps you to build relationships that lead to success in business and politics if you form bonds with these people. Despite the idea that America is based on merit, the reality is that connections with wealthy and powerful individuals are often required in order to succeed, in the mainstream sense of the term. While I’m sure a lot of guys join frats to bed women, nevertheless, they kind of mirror the predominant social order. The exclusionary nature of fraternities and sororities is what makes it that way. My experience with cooperative housing is most people who applied were accepted. The only ones who were not were people who posed a risk of harm to others who lived there. Fraternities and sororities, on the other hand, are by nature exclusionary. This I think is the problem with them.
The author however, seems to object to intentional student residential communities wholesale seeming to prefer independent living as the default. However, being new to a university, and far from home can be a difficult adjustment. Some of us seek to belong to something. Intentional residential communities are helpful in establishing identity and a sense of place. While the Greek system has now become a kind of elitist popularity contest, nevertheless, the idea of creating a sense of community and place at universities is a good thing. Communities are good. Exclusion is not.