CBS News reported on Tuesday (7/12) that a Harvard University committee is proposing ending all student fraternities, sororities, and other single gender clubs at the school. If approved, the ban would go into effect for incoming students beginning in 2018. Currently enrolled students would be exempt. The committee was original formed in March to address diversity concerns on campus as well as the recent spate of negative Greek life related issues such as rape and alcohol fueled deaths*. Their conclusion is that the University would be better served without them. Williams College and Bowdoin College have already enacted a similar ban.
Although very controversially and bound to be challenged, personally, I say GOOD RIDDANCE.
When I was in college in the mid-1970's, the fraternity system was well entrenched at my school (Rutgers University). As I recollect, the most desired of them all was TEKE. The reason for this was not that they were the best connected for post-college opportunities. But, rather, because they threw the wildest, most outrageous parties. And, as far as I could tell from my perspective, outside of a place to crash when you were too drunk to get home, it offered little else.
As an athlete, there was some pressure to join a fraternity. After all, EVERYONE did. Well, I had little, if any, desire to do so.
First, I was always a proponent of the Groucho Marx philosophy about "membership": I would never want to belong to any club that would have me as a member. After all, I needed very little help or encouragement for my debauchery. I did just fine on my own. Sure, I would go to their parties and drink their free beer but I had no desire to join in a club who's collective behavior resembled that of a bunch of drunken savages. I didn't need ANYONE'S permission or help to experiment in order to gain personal experience. What I saw at most of those parties was simply misogynistic savagery. In fact, with the hindsight of maturity, I'm actually embarrassed by what I saw - and, did nothing about. Any woman who came to one of those mixers was in serious jeopardy for her health and well-being. I found it offensive and vile. So, what would I want to belong to something so base and disgusting? Animal House may have been outrageously funny as a movie but, the reality was usually something far more sinister.
Besides my natural aversion to such disturbing behavior, I had a cultural issue with it, too. My family and I were never big joiners. My mother simply did not believe in clubs. She felt them unnecessary because my brother, sister, and I already belonged to the best one: it was called family. So, my mother wouldn't even let me join the Boy Scouts! In addition to my aversion to joining something I didn't believe in, I heard about the hazing initiation rights that one would have to endure in order to become a member. It usually involved some type of ritualized ceremony that included spanking and other personal humiliations.
Right. THAT'S going to happen. NOT!
One of the principals of my life has been to be non-violent but never allow anyone to put their hands on me. I was taught that most clearly by my father. So, why would I allow a bunch of strangers abuse me in a most embarrassing way, just so I could say that I belong to THEIR club?
Didn't happen then.
Won't happen now.
And, it ain't EVER going to happen.
I'm sure that fraternities and sororities have done their share of good over the years, both for their members and their communities. They can't be ALL bad. However, in their current form, they have become outdated. People have seen that the damage they do often overshadows any possible good. If they ever reflected the best a campus had to offer, they most certainly don't now. And, again, personally, I have never seen their point entirely. I am my own club and am happy with the number of members it has - one.