Op-ed: The questionable morality of fraternity dues

Ben Aunins | Class of 2018

As the end of the fall semester transitions to the beginning of spring, many male underclassmen will descend upon fraternities for rush. What I am going to write about is what I did not know when I was one of those freshmen.

I am not going to write about the culture of social fraternities here at Washington University, because the stories of “brotherhood” will inevitably drown out my not-so-singular experience of hazing, of being coerced to eat and drink to the point of puking and of having friends that were victims of sexual violence by fraternity members. Brothers at rush will convince many that “ours isn’t a typical fraternity,” or even that they “didn’t even consider joining a fraternity at first.”

What I am writing about is fraternity dues and one of the reasons they cost so much. When one joins a fraternity and the time comes to pay the multi-hundred dollar semesterly dues, a portion of those dues go towards a nationalized insurance pool. For some, this covers all of the chapters of his fraternity; for others, it covers the cumulative chapters of the pooled, 33-fraternity Fraternal Property Management Association. This is insurance that defends against sexual violence lawsuits, defends against lawsuits from the many families whose children were killed during hazing rituals. It defends the numerous disturbing allegations from chapters across the country. And it is insurance paid for by fraternity members across the country, including those here at Wash. U.

It is not up to me to say what is right or wrong, because moral extremes are neither realistic nor should be applied en masse. But I didn’t know this when I pledged a fraternity here. Nor did I stop to think about where my dues were going and whether they might help perpetuate rape culture and hazing here or on another campus.

I just want others to know what I didn’t.