What is going on with our fraternities?

David D’Alessandro

In the past term, two of the 12 fraternities on campus have been disbanded or suspended by not only the school but also their respective national headquarters. That number is an anomaly, yes, but it’s also alarming. To think that one-sixth of our fraternity life has simply disappeared in a span of roughly three months is shocking. Or rather, one-sixth of the fraternity life hasn’t just disappeared; one-sixth of the fraternity life is currently under investigation by both the school and authorities for its actions. To give a little perspective, when the Alpha chapter of Sigma Chi was disbanded and investigated for hard drugs and weapons last year at Miami University of Ohio, that was national news. So was the disbanding of the Sigma Phi Epsilon chapter at Vermont for hazing. Both of these chapters committed egregious wrongs, but they were hopefully isolated events. We, on the other hand, have (or rather had) two fraternities committing acts of questionable legality and morality, yet it seems the fraternity community is not up in arms about this. That is incredible.

Now, I’m not trying to sound fatalistic and say that we have huge systemic flaws in our fraternity system and everything is seemingly spinning out of control because it’s not. But this begs the question: how is it possible that such a large portion of our fraternity system could fall apart so quickly? If only there were some sort of council of all the fraternities that met and discussed the interests of the fraternity community as a whole. And, what the heck, why don’t we make the members of this council all the presidents of each respective chapter on campus? Maybe if we had this council in place, these sorts of things wouldn’t happen again. Well, we do have this council, fittingly called the Interfraternity Council (IFC), and it does have the presidents of each chapter meet and discuss the fraternity community as a whole.

I’m sure the IFC and each individual chapter will say that it isn’t its brother’s keeper, in that if other chapters want to act shadily and implode, that is their prerogative; but, by virtue of the fact that this council of fraternities exists suggests, at least philosophically, that each chapter on campus has an interest in every other chapter, how it fares, what it does individually and its part in the fraternity community. If the IFC and chapters on campus don’t believe this, I’m certain there wouldn’t be an IFC because what purpose would it serve to have these presidents meet—and quite regularly at that? That leaves the question: if we assume that these chapters are interested and invested in the other chapters, why would they let these two chapters fall apart the way they have? I propose two possible answers. First, they did know what the chapters were doing and encouraged it. Second, they could have guessed what was going on with these other chapters, as rumors are always quietly creeping across the student body, and simply decided to be complacent to the goings-on of these two chapters. I am more inclined to believe the latter.

With all this in mind, the culture of the IFC and fraternity community hasn’t changed overnight. This complacency with bad behavior is still the norm, and I don’t think the disbanded chapters were such pariahs of the fraternity community that their actions were completely insulated from everyone else. Both, until their disbanding, sat on the IFC. Both had an active role in the Wash. U. community.

So what’s the solution? There are a few ways this can go. Potentially the entire fraternity community falls apart, one by one, quickly or maybe not, until the rows are turned into regular dorms. I don’t think this is likely. The next possibility is that the fraternities decide to clean up their acts. They have had the fear of God put in them by these events, and they make serious improvements in their operations. I also doubt this will happen. The most likely possibility is nothing changes. Status quo. The complacency stays the norm, and the eye is still turned blind.

However, maybe, just maybe, the answer comes from outside the fraternity community. There are plenty of guys who didn’t rush or pledge a fraternity for a multitude of reasons. Maybe some didn’t like how the system was. What if those men, the ones who don’t approve of the status quo, brought a new chapter to campus and changed the norm? Now, wouldn’t that be interesting?

  • Anonymous

    I agree that Greek life at WashU must begin to take a larger stake in the community as a whole and that there has yet to be an overwhelming understanding that what one fraternity/sorority does affects the others. I also agree that some actions by groups within the Greek community are unacceptable…That being said I feel like you are making three significantly egregious errors:

    1.
    You seem to think that greek life exists in a bubble and is incapable of interacting in a positive way with the university. Greek organizations sponsor a large number of community service activities, campus wide events, and social events all around the university. Members of Greek organizations make up much of the university’s student government and are leaders around campus. Monetarily, Greek alumni give far and away more money to our school.

    Also, hundreds of non-greek students (probably like yourself) go and party at fraternities every weekend. Fraternities provide a public space, outside of closed dorm rooms or sketchy off campus apartments, where you can drink, dance, and have fun with your friends. These parties are typically centered around beer (versus the higher levels of hard alcohol consumed at dorms/apartments) and these parties should have fraternity brothers invested in keeping people safe and giving off the best impression of their fraternity possible. So, if there is a problem within the greek system that reaches outside of the pledge process, then it is also a university wide problem. If people are passing out in fraternities its often because they pre-gamed in their dorms, if people in fraternities are doing drugs you can bet people outside of them are doing them also, etc. You cannot completely separate this community from the larger whole.

    2.
    I’m not sure where this idea of IFC’s “complacency with bad behavior”. Have you been to an IFC standards meeting? Seen the cases they get? It is not as if IFC had evidence of drug dealing and hazing and simply turned a blind eye, or that IFC has its own investigatory task force to hunt down perpetrators and chose not to.

    3.
    This university and articles like this have created an environment in which there is no positive reenforcement for Greek organizations. That there is little to no recognition of the huge benefit they provide (scholarship events or social ones) and to the outstanding individuals in them. If a fraternity holds itself responsibly and acts in an honorable way (as many of the remaining 5/6th have and do) they are passed over. There are fraternities on this campus with higher GPA’s that the campus average, with outstanding records on safety and respect, and with groups of individuals that do great things. We do not feel a norm of complacency and bad behavior, we want more clarification on both the university and the police’s side. We want to contribute positively to this campus.

    Finally… where are sororities in all this. We keep talking about a greek community… are we trying to just talk about fraternities because they have houses and people party there or are we trying to have a constructive discussion about a larger group.

  • Anonymous

    While StudLife has a storied history at WashU, in recent times, it has published articles that do not live up to journalistic standards. This article is one of them, lacking in logical and argumentative merit. Because I feel that the views expressed herein are harmful to the Greek community (and the WashU community as a whole), I will respond to this Op-Ed in kind.

    To quote from your article: “I’m sure the IFC and each individual chapter will say that it isn’t its brother’s keeper, in that if other chapters want to act shadily and implode, that is their prerogative; but, by virtue of the fact that this council of fraternities exists suggests, at least philosophically, that each chapter on campus has an interest in every other chapter, how it fares, what it does individually and its part in the fraternity community.”

    Do you have any idea how logical arguments work? You’re making an assumption. That IS NOT a logical argument. You also need to do some research. Clearly you haven’t read anything about the IFC and what the point of such an overarching body is. Yes, each chapter on campus has “an interest” in every other chapter. That does not mean each chapter babysits one another. You’re naïve and need to start viewing this from a realistic perspective.

    “If the IFC and chapters on campus don’t believe this, I’m certain there wouldn’t be an IFC because what purpose would it serve to have these presidents meet—and quite regularly at that?”

    You are a student at WashU. The admissions department here deemed you worthy of a position as a student representing the university. And you can’t come up with other feasible answers to this question? Oh, wait! You have answers!

    “I propose two possible answers. First, they did know what the chapters were doing and encouraged it. Second, they could have guessed what was going on with these other chapters, as rumors are always quietly creeping across the student body, and simply decided to be complacent to the goings-on of these two chapters. I am more inclined to believe the latter.”

    Are these ACTUALLY the only two answers you can come up with? Be more creative. You have brains, clearly, as you were admitted to WashU. Take advantage of that intelligence. And if you truly believe that the other chapters were ‘complacent’ in these goings-on, you need to get your shit together. No chapter that is part of a collective Greek community truly wants other chapters to go under or be plagued by scandals. The image of the Greek community is at stake, and the way in which the public views each individual fraternity is often the way in which it views the entire Greek community as a whole (unfortunately). No fraternity, therefore, wants to have the whole Greek community reflect poorly on itself.

    “This complacency with bad behavior is still the norm, and I don’t think the disbanded chapters were such pariahs of the fraternity community that their actions were completely insulated from everyone else.” I didn’t even bring it up previously, but you’re making a huge assumption, and you’re making a fool of yourself at the same time. Good work, buddy. Despite the fact that you have no proof (not even an ounce) that the various Greek life organizations are complacent, let’s assume that they are. Just for the sake of argument. How can you determine the motive for such complacency? Are you a fraternity president? Are you privy to information that allows you to demonstratively show why these groups are complacent? No. You aren’t. So don’t even try to pretend that you do. You’re making yourself look even more incompetent than you already have. The fact that you’re “more inclined to believe the latter” merely shows you have an agenda. Yeah, I get it. It’s an Op-Ed. But it’s a really bad opinion when it’s based on poorly structured argument. Even if I’m going to disagree with your perspective, at least base your view in sound logic.

    You’re still basing the entirety of your analysis on an assumption. AN ASSUMPTION. “I don’t think the disbanded chapters were such pariahs of the fraternity community that their actions were completely insulated from everyone else.” So you’re insinuating that the other fraternities engage in such distasteful behavior? Where is your proof? Again, you’re empty-handed. If there were, the other fraternities would be under investigation as well. You’re making yourself look like a fool. “Both, until their disbanding, sat on the IFC. Both had an active role in the WashU community.” Let’s state the obvious again. Two fraternities composed entirely of WashU students had their leaders sitting on an organization that represented every social fraternity on campus. That’s some real deep shit.

    “The complacency stays the norm, and the eye is still turned blind.”

    Despite your awkward phrasing and apparent inability to properly compose idiomatic English, you still base the entirety of your argument on a fallacious and baseless assumption. Wow. Let me give you a standing ovation.

    “There are plenty of guys who didn’t rush or pledge a fraternity for a multitude of reasons. Maybe some didn’t like how the system was. What if those men, the ones who don’t approve of the status quo, brought a new chapter to campus and changed the norm? Now, wouldn’t that be interesting?”

    So was your whole plan to bash the current fraternity community so as to create a stage to introduce your fledgling fraternity in a positive light (at least, if I am to believe the comments on this article)? You do realize there are better ways to do that without attacking your (potentially) fellow Greeks, right?

    Perhaps this critique of your article is overly harsh. Perhaps it’s a bit blunt. I concede that it may be, to an extent, offensive on those two counts. However, realize that when you publish yourself to the web, you leave yourself vulnerable to scathing replies.

    My advice to you: the next time you decide to write an article on StudLife, make sure you aren’t leaving yourself open to embarrassment. Oh, and try not to offend your potential allies. It’s really not good for you.

    • Roasted

      Damn, you nailed it man.

      Mr. D’Alessandro:
      http://static.fjcdn.com/pictures/boom_04a99e_1717826.jpg

    • anon

      this article is a bunch of bs, but when you read this along with the other studlife article you do wonder why WUPD and the admin don’t clarify what exactly Sammy or SigEp have done to deserve closing

    • dripping with sarcasm

      This op-ed is the best attempt at publicity I’ve seen.

      I’d be lying if I said that last paragraph just didn’t leave me tingling with suspense and excitement over what the author’s true motives might actually be. Can’t wait to see your new fraternity on-campus after all this. I’m sure you’ll be welcomed with open arms.

  • Publius

    The problem with the university drug policy is the hypocrisy: they condone alcohol while they sanction cannabis users. They can’t have it both ways.

  • mop

    Conspiracy Theory:

    Perhaps shining the spotlight on the fraternities is helping WashU hide something much, much worse?

  • blahh

    How has no one mentioned Thurtene? The group blatantly hazes publicly and encourages drinking more than any group. If there should be a ‘forum’ article written about something it should be that.

  • Anonymous

    How is StudLife allowed to publish an article that is blatently wrong and damaging to an entire community? I understand this is “forum” but by publishing it under the name of Student Life isn’t the paper condoning what is said? This article should be taken down for inaccuracies and false accusations

    • Anonymous

      Maybe it’s a community that needs to be damaged.

    • anonymous

      No you idiot. There are opinions OF WRITERS.

  • Anonymous

    This article overlooks many other dangerous practices that exist at this school and others in order to portray the fraternities in a more negative light. The freshman drinking culture at this university is far more dangerous than anything that occurs in the fraternities. Varsity and club level sports engage in hazing processes regularly; where are the articles condemning those actions? Fraternities are easy targets and are being treated unfairly by this paper and by this university. Try asking some better questions. Find out the real reason that Sigep has been suspended and stop placing their case side by side with the Sammy case. They are completely different. Do real reporting for once! I am disgusted by this op-ed and while I recognize this author’s right to have an opinion, it is troubling that this paper would publish such a biased and misinformed piece of writing.

    • Broccoli Kisses

      1. The freshman drinking culture is one that’s endemic to a society that strictly disallows drinking before the age of 21, and is one that is fueled by fraternities. You were a freshman once (I assume; otherwise you have no business making claims about drinking at college). How many times did you hear “hey guys, let’s go to the frats?”

      2. Varsity and club sports shouldn’t haze. Hazing is bad, regardless of who does it. No one is unfairly targeted for hazing. Some groups might be unfairly overlooked, but that’s another issue entirely.

      3. If you or anyone you know knows anything about why SigEp was suspended and would like to share, anyone on Studlife’s staff would probably be thrilled to have a sit down. The emails of every editor are listed in the paper.

    • Missing the point

      The freshman drinking culture? Like when a group of pledges are thrown in a room with a handle of liquor and told they can leave when it is finished? Or when brothers tell potentials that they “won’t remember anything” from their bid acceptance night?

      • YOU are missing the point

        I think you are missing the point. The freshman drinking culture at WashU is one where they are told from day one that alcohol is allowed in the room. Sure, they are told to not get too drunk; but if I recall correctly during my freshman year, I could have hard liquor in my room. That also encourages fake IDs or illegal purchasing of alcohol. How is that not questioned? Hard liquor is not allowed in any fraternity house anywhere, including rooms. What happens when a freshman gets blackout, comes to a fraternity house, and gets EST called on them? The fraternity gets in trouble. Does the RA? Nope. Does the student? Maybe a little. I am not trying to say that fraternities are not at all responsible for drinking issues on campus, but to put all the blame on fraternities is unfair. It seems like they have become an easy target instead of tackling the problem at large. The crackdown needs to come to the alcohol policy on campus in general if you want substantial change, no pun intended.

        • Anonymous

          The issue WashU has with fraternities isn’t alcohol. WashU loves alochol. When a freshman cracked his head open at the clocktower and told WUPD Sig Chi served him booze, the university opened an ongoing “investigation” that has gone nowhere.

          The university does not like other drugs. The university does not like hazing. This crackdown has absolutely nothing to do with alcohol, unless some in-the-know person would like to step in and say otherwise.

          • Anonymous

            It’s naive to think this crackdown has nothing to do with alcohol. Countless members of fraternities have been caught smoking weed inside a frat house or weed has been found inside a frat house. The consequences are minimal if any compared to social probation that ensues after throwing an unregistered party. Also, I’m not a part of this whole thing but it seems like half the commenters are StudLife reporters trying to get a story. It might be a better source to not focus on anonymous posts on an op-ed, begging someone to come forward. Just a suggestion.

  • Disgusted

    This is terrible. Is he implying that IFC should follow up on every rumor that “quietly creeps across the student body?”

  • Anonymous

    There’s a reason this guy didn’t get a bid…

    Also, Stud Life, report something worthwhile and true. I’m tired of reading the WUSTL tabloids.

    • Captain Obvious

      This is Forum. Where people write editorials.

  • anonymous

    Trying too hard. NF

  • Foolish

    Good job ADPhi talk smack about IFC when their vote is required to legitimize you in the community. Do your research, GLO is giving IFC a lot of say in whether or not we let you become a part of the Greek community. Biting the hand that feeds you like a ferrel dog. Ballsy or moronic?

  • Bull

    Just to clarify: If you could not tell this was written as an advertisement by a group that is trying to become a recognized Fraternity by the IFC. Because he is not a part of the IFC committee, Mr D’Allesandro, who may I add is not a member of the committee, has absolutely no idea what he is talking about. This article should be taken down because of inaccuracies, unless it was paid for as an advertisement and if so, it should be marked as such.

    • anonymous

      Out of curiosity, what group is Mr. D’Allesandro trying to get recognized by the IFC?

      • anon

        None. As of now, he’s not associated with any group or potential group.

        • Rick

          He is not “associated” with any group because ADPhi is not anything because they needed IFCs vote of approval to become an actual Fraternity…..good luck with that now

          • Chuckles

            Rar angry frat boy.

      • Anonymous

        I don’t know about Mr. D’Allesandro, but there has been a “colony” of ADPhi that is trying to get recognized by the IFC and administration. They have not gone through the proper channels, yet still seem to pop up in instances like this one.

        Aside from that fact, Mr. D’Allesandro seems to have a lack of understanding about the fraternity community or operations and the administration’s recent handling of the fraternities. While he takes a ballsy approach to promoting this new organization, he’ll soon find that his conclusions are completely unfounded.

  • Counter-idea

    Or, the problem isn’t with the fraternities, it’s with a university that feels compelled to enforce the (failing) war on drugs.

    • anonymous

      They are compelled to, given that WashU receives federal funding. They don’t really have a choice in the matter.

      • Counter-idea

        States receive federal funds, too, but we just had two states legalize marijuana. It’s been decriminalized or legalized in a medicinal context in countless other states.

        Can you point me in the direction of the section of WashU’s agreement with the feds that stipulates that if they do not actively search for and follow up on leads with regard to drugs on campus, they will have their federal funding removed? I think it would add a lot of weight to your argument.

        • anonymous

          This is a problem particular to universities, not states. See this article in the Chronicle of Higher Education: http://chronicle.com/article/ColoradoWashington/135618/ . As you noted, Washington and Colorado recently legalized marijuana. However, “despite the new state measure, he pointed out, marijuana is still illegal under federal law. And since most colleges receive federal funds, they are required to abide by federal regulations that bar the illegal use of drugs and alcohol on their campuses.” The article I linked contains more information.

          I agree with you that the war on drugs is harmful, but this is simply the reality of the situation.

          • Counter-idea

            I’m not saying that universities don’t have to abide by federal laws. What I’m saying is that there’s a difference between theoretically prohibiting drug use on campus and actively investigating and cracking down on it. Oberlin is an excellent example of a college in a state that does not have drug-friendly laws that, while officially discouraging the use of drugs on its campus, in the main, turns a blind eye. WashU could, and indeed should, do the same.

            Additionally, a friend of mine goes to UC Berkeley, a school in a state with lenient marijuana laws. I asked him about growing, to which he responded “Of course I grow. All my friends grow. Everyone I know grows!” In 2011, a year after I had this conversation, Berkeley announced that it was receiving 500 million dollars in federal funds.

            I understand that, in theory, the university risks losing funding if it doesn’t participate in the war on drugs, but WashU is going far above and beyond what it needs to do, which is, essentially, nothing.