In yet another shocking scan- dal that utterly transfixed the nation (!), six different Greek life organizations from the University of Michigan—the fraternities Sigma Alpha Mu, Pi Kappa Alpha, and Chi Psi, as well as the sororities Sigma Delta Tau, Alpha Phi, and Delta Gamma—allegedly caused tens of thousands of dollars of damage to two different northern Michigan ski resorts: Treetops Resorts and Boyne Highlands. Treetops estimates that the local chapters of Sigma Alpha Mu and Sigma Delta Tau are responsible for over $75,000 worth of damages; the other four organizations reportedly caused over $20,000 worth of damage at Boyne Highlands.
Did the fraternities and sorori- ties act irresponsibly? Should they be held accountable? Should the University take disciplinary action against these organizations? Should the national governing bodies come down (in addition to the University)—and come down hard—with their own sanctions on these local chapters? Should the University and all her members be ashamed of the actions of these six Greek organizations? Yes, on all counts, yes.
Fraternities (and sororities) nowadays have become havens for and enablers of a prolonged and destructive adolescence. They are, to put it mildly, utter cesspools of immorality—veritable “dens of iniquity.” They promote virtually nothing of value to the general populace (only for their members) save binge drinking; a libertinism heretofore unseen in the whole of human history; and a sickening, dizzying level of entitlement. When adult men can chant “‘No’ means ‘Yes’ and ‘Yes’ means anal” on the campus of an elite, Ivy League institution, and this generates next-to-no furor, except from feminist critics, we have a major problem on our hands: our Greek life organizations are disappointing and shameful husks of their former selves.
Gone indeed are the fraternities of yore, where the objects toward which men were oriented upon admission were wholesome and useful: scholar- ship, rhetoric, and ethical conduct. These goods, if they even still exist at all, have been polluted beyond recognition. Ethical conduct? One might (I stress: might) find people behaving more ethically at a local brothel. As for rhetoric: well, forgive me, but primitive man had a more well-developed capacity with which to draw upon a much more elegantly endowed lexicon. (Calls of “Sup brah?!” and “Duuuuude, I was so hammered” rattle off the walls of frat houses, ricocheting noisily off of the many beer cans strewn about, indicating—though surely incompletely—the emptiness of the heads that produced such drivel.)
Despite this, however, I still support fraternities and sororities. Do I support them as they are, in their present form? No, absolutely not. They are bad for people and are simply not good environments in which to conduct any sort of worthwhile activities (read: upright and conducive to the common good).
Some will try to use this is- sue to attempt to malign fraternities and sororities, undermining them to the point of irrelevance so that they can then disband them altogether relatively unopposed at a later date. I think this is wrongheaded. Fraternities (and to a lesser extent, sororities) are a part of a noble and prestigious heritage that our universities today— themselves institutions attempting to maintain their integrity and identity— have on loan from the past, and they are a gift to our future. I wish to see Greek organizations reformed, trans- figured, uplifted, made to seek their original founders’ purposes anew, not cast aside as so much as a bygone relic from an age of which we are ashamed.
This is a Burkean-esque conservatism in social change: seek first to alter individual, constituent parts of the social fabric instead of ridding ourselves of the entire edifice. Our institutes of higher learning have rich and storied traditions that ought to be preserved (at a most basic level) for no other reason than because they came from societies that valued them. Those societies were made up of people— human beings just like us—and we diminish our own humanity in turn if we move rashly, radically upending the social fabric of our country, public institutions, and colleges for no other reason than because these traditions and ways of thinking vaguely stand in the way of our confused notion of “progress.”