The True Lessons of Frat Life

The True Lessons of Frat Life

Maybe there really is something in the water or the air, because in the past two days, I've seen nothing but ugly, sexist stories coming out of Yale and USC. They both involve fraternities. 

Oh, what a surprise. 

Fraternities exist for two reasons: to extend the high school experience for another four years and to grease the poles for members whose daddies are rich and want their sons to slide easily into future business and banking roles. Now bear in mind these are the same people who will wind up screwing over regular folks with Wall Street Ponzi schemes and the like. It's all about the networking, and for universities, it's all about the money that comes in, which is why a permanent blind eye is given go these groups unless it involves something like murder. But everything else is usually ignored. 

At USC, we have an alleged frat boy having sex on top of a building, followed by a viral email purporting to come from Kappa Sigma, wherein women are not only derided in general, but basically called objects for things I won't bother to repeat. Of course, where this email originated is still in question, but according to Michael Wilson, executive director of Kappa Sigma Fraternity, "the individuals at USC involved with forwarding the email and making inappropriate comments in response to the email are in the process of being disciplined. Wilson did not talk about the punishments." (Source: USC Daily Trojan.)

Ah there it is, the only useful life lesson one can pick up from a fraternity: the delicate art of protecting one's own. This is exactly what goes on in the business and banking fields these boys will venture into, which should be translated into English as: doing nothing. 

Now, the usual riposte to criticism of fraternities is: "You don't know the charity work we do." That's right, I don't, because you did not join a fraternity for the charity work. You can do that a billion other ways. And face it, fraternities nationwide do not have reputations for their charity work, they have one for drinking, hazing, date rapes and AIDS jokes. Oh, and yes, an ingrained belief that they are entitled to act the way they do because they are men. Women beware. If you find that unfounded, look at the trouble a frat at Yale has started (October 2010) with a despicable rape chant. This isn't boys being boys: it's future rapists. Think that's too harsh? When is the last time you heard someone making a pedophile joke and laughed hysterically? How do you get a reasonable man to chant "No means yes! Yes means anal!" ?  And one does not accidentally chant such crap, either. 

But like I said, we're not dealing with reasonable people, we're dealing with fraternities. And they have a very bad image problem that isn't corrected by pointing out their charity work. So when you hear of another outrage committed by a frat, you can safely conclude that closing ranks and spin (plus the lie of self-policing) are the only lessons being taught to these boys. It's all about money and power, and universities will not get in the way. 

In other words, expect nothing to change.