Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

It's Greek to me

My alma mater has suspended fraternity activity because of some leaked documents that show members of one -- Phi Psi -- celebrating blackout drinking and insulting women, racial and gender minorities and joking about sexual assault. Coincidentally, I had lunch with my mother on Sunday, who is also an alum, and we talked about Swarthmore College fraternities. There are only two, and there are no sororities.

When I was there, I had friends who were members of the other frat, Delta Upsilon, and I went to some parties there -- I got invited because I was on the wrestling team -- but I had no interest in membership. DU was actually the rowdier frat in those days. They'd fill a washtub with grain alcohol punch, have contests for longest continuous sucking beer from the keg, and of course smoke mass quantities of pot. I wasn't privy to their meetings or internal doings, so I don't know about the rest of it. I did have a woman friend who wanted to go to a party there and asked me to escort her for protection, so she must have been worried about something, but I had other female friends at those parties and they seemed to be having a good time. That's all I really know.

It seems to be generally hazardous for young men to form secret societies and carry on as they will. Our gender role norms, combined with hormones and underdeveloped frontal cortices, are a toxic brew. I think it's great for there to be student clubs and organizations, but they need to have some purpose other than swallowing ethanol and competing to for the title of worst pig. As far as I can tell most of fraternities exist basically for those purposes. I think a rule that sanctioned student organizations ought to have open membership, or objective and defensible membership criteria; admit all genders; and have a degree of transparency is right for every college and university.

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