A closer look at fraternity formals

Kurt Wall | Op-Ed Submission

In her April 19 column “The not-so-hidden expectations behind fraternity formals,” Alissa Rotblatt called to attention an important issue in the fraternity community. She raised valid concerns about what can be an uncomfortable situation for many women. In no way, shape or form should a man paying for a weekend formal experience cause his date to feel that he or she owes him anything. Sadly, this situation has occurred in the past, and the Interfraternity Council will be taking actions in the upcoming weeks and months to address this issue.

However, I was deeply concerned with the content and tone of the article. My concern lies not in the identification of the aforementioned problem but rather in the implication that this problem is widespread and an accepted norm within the Greek community. To imply that all men believe that their dates “owe” them something in return for the money they spent on a fraternity formal is wrong and perpetuates a negative stereotype of our community.

In reality, most men in our community do not take that approach to formals, and many of our chapters actively program to avoid this sort of mentality in their members. As a community and within individual chapters, our expectations are that every fraternity man treats his date with respect and takes the initiative to clearly communicate with his date to avoid putting him or her under unfair pressure

Fraternity formals are meant to be fun and exciting events that bring our brotherhoods closer together, but problems that can arise from these types of events must be dealt with. I hope that in the coming weeks there can be effective dialogue between the Greek and campus communities about this issue.

Kurt Wall is a Junior in Arts and Sciences and President of the Interfraternity Council. He can be reached via e-mail at kurtwall@wustl.edu

  • WU Senior

    I’m very grateful that Kurt (and other commenters on Alissa’s original article) challenged some of her generalized statements, while acknowledging that this can be an issue. Rotblatt’s intent was honest and admirable in bringing attention to the pressures some people feel whenever any sort of “exchange” takes place, if you will, but her execution was flawed, and does an injustice to Greek men in particular.

    Rotblatt stated: It is a given, for instance, that if a boy asks you to his formal, you will be sleeping in a bed with him. The implications of this are quite obvious. He pays for the formal, the meals and the hotel room, generally expecting something in return.

    To say that “implications are quite obvious,” or that a date is “generally expecting something in return” is an extremely dangerous inference, and is harmful to the many men I know in Greek Life who have the utmost respect for me, and for other women.

    There is no doubt that, for some, the sexual pressures of college exist, but it seems cowardly to go after Greek Life and the supposed “fraternity formal mentality” when it is an issue that permeates all men and women on college campuses.

    If anything, Rotblatt can use Mr. Wall here as an example of a Greek man who handles situations with class and respect.