I recently read ‘The Dark Power of Fraternities‘ by Caitlin Flanagan, an essay on Fraternity life in The Atlantic. While she doesn’t outright attack and tear apart fraternities, she does deeply question whether they should exist. I think this is an important thing to think about. She brings up MANY deaths, rapes, and drunken injuries that are truly devastating. She discusses the way that universities let fraternities go under the radar and how insurance and liability are big problems. I agree that tragic or horrid events happen in or around fraternity houses and parties. I think that alcohol has effects on young men that can cloud judgement. I do disagree with her complete outrage and her dismissal of the importance of brotherhood. She says that fraternities claim to have this archaic form of friendship, but that they just get together to drink and do various stupid activities and drugs. This is not the case, at least in my experience.
I am an initiated member of a fraternity. In my specific fraternity on my campus, there have been no deaths or rapes. There have been a few alcohol related injuries. There is plenty of drinking. I went through pledgeship as a “dry pledge” meaning that I would not drink. I started and stopped drinking my sophomore year in high school. I have not had more than a sip or two of alcohol in the past three years. I have to say to Flanagan that she is partially correct. There are reports of rape in other fraternities on my campus and, of course, nationwide. Deaths have occurred on our campus in the past. I disagree with her though. First, she is wrong in the sense that this applies everywhere. She makes it seem as if these things occur normally to all fraternities, but my experience is different then what she claims. Second, she seems to want fraternities to be disbanded, since they are the cause of all these accidents. While a fraternity might draw a certain person (if it is a certain fraternity), and alcohol can always contribute to an event, the elimination of Greek life would most certainly not solve the problem. Let’s just say that all fraternities were eliminated. There would still be plenty of drinking, weed smoking, drug doing, rapes, and accidents. Also, plenty of people not in fraternities do these things. In fact, I would wager that at public universities, the majority of ‘independents’ participate in pretty similar activities as Greeks do. Lastly, brotherhood is not something to be dismissed, as Flanagan seems to do.
Six weeks ago, my close friend and pledge brother, Tristan, was walking to his car at around 6 pm, but it was already dark outside, since daylight savings had not come yet. Him and our pledge brother, Taylor, were walking to the ‘arm pit’ where all the undergraduates park. They started to step onto the cross-walk. It is a law at the university that all cross-walks must be stopped at for pedestrians. Pedestrians have the right of way at every cross walk on campus. They didn’t see any cars near, and as they were walking across the second and last lane, Tristan was hit by a car. Taylor was right ahead of him and had not been hit. He turned around and couldn’t believe what happened. Tristan was fine, although he had to be rushed to the ER. He ended up having to go back home, figuring out that he had a fractured hand/wrist, a torn meniscus, and a torn MCL, requiring knee surgery. He had to miss a full week of school (which is a huge deal) and still is on crutches and is going through physical training. There was no alcohol involved in this situation.
I want to point out a few things. First. it was Taylor, Tristan’s brother, who pulled him off the road, so that no other car would run over his body. It was his brother that called all four of his parents (step-parents included), and who also rode in the ambulance with him, staying with him until his parents were there. Second, once Tristan returned to campus, it was me (and others, when I was not eating with Tristan), his brother, who could get his food in the dining hall for him at every meal since he couldn’t even carry a plate. One time at dinner he asked me to get him seconds, and then proceeded to apologize that I kept having to get him food. I looked at him for a second. I was wearing a sweatshirt with our letters printed the size of my entire chest. I told him, “these letters mean something, you know that right?” If there is ever something that is going to happen to one of my brothers, I will help. If there is ever anything that happens to me, I trust my brothers to be there for me and help me any way they can.
I can agree to some extent to what Flanagan says in that some crazy stuff goes down in fraternities and that some things might need to be corrected, but I cannot even remotely come close to thinking that this ‘brotherhood thing’ doesn’t exist.