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Friday, October 5. 2018
I've seen this term used to describe Kavanaugh and his friends. It is used in a pejorative manner, designed to wrinkle noses and cause people to roll eyes. A Frat Boy isn't welcome. He considers himself exclusive. He is boorish, usually a heavy drinker and engages in wild behaviors, often degrading women and/or abusing them. He is a troublemaker, not much of an academic, usually superficial and probably narcissistic.
I'm a Frat Boy. Proud member of Delta Tau Delta at Syracuse. Gamma Omicron chapter, and my younger son is also a member. My older son was in Kappa Sigma at Miami University (OH). My grandfather was in a fraternity at Penn, the name of which eludes me. When he heard I'd joined a fraternity (first of his children or grandchildren to join Greek life) he was ecstatic. I never got a chance to share stories with him, he died my junior year. My niece joined Delta Delta Delta and my sister was in Alpha Phi. So I think it's fair to say many in my family are 'Frat Boys' of some kind.
While I understand the negative connotations of the term, I reject them all. After all, I was a shy introverted kid trying to find his place at a large university. I had no money, so I'd go to fraternities during Rush to drink for free. One of them kept inviting me back. I liked all of the guys and had a class with two of them. I turned down their offer. They said think about it. A week later I said yes. The fraternity helped me develop lifelong friendships with people who I won't see for years at a time, and we'll pick up where we left off when we do get together.
Sure, we partied, we had fun, we were wild in many respects. But we didn't degrade women or abuse them. Heavy drinking? Some took place, I did my share. We did have at least 3 people wind up with addiction problems over my 4 years, but that's out of 160 people who passed through the house. Basically 1.5%, but that is well below the estimate of 9.4% in the US as a whole. These 3 are all recovered now (although that's a lifetime thing). I'd say that while we did quite a bit of drinking and smoking, we were pretty a pretty solid group of young men. When our friends announced their addiction, we didn't turn our backs. We were there for them, not as crutches, but as supportive friends. I'd say our fraternity reduced the addiction likelihood because it's an accepting and supportive culture.
We were also very academic. We won Chancellor's Cup 3 of the 4 years I was there. Part of that was an academic component. Our GPA was always very high. I remember one member left after sophomore year, and we were all shocked to learn his GPA was below 2. That's how rare a low GPA was. When I struggled learning to code software, our in-house genius (now works for the Navy) took time to assist me. Three of us took Buddhism together, and had a grand time learning the intricacies of that way of life. I doubt I'd have spent a semester in London if not for my fraternity roommate, who encouraged me to join him.
While Animal House or Revenge of the Nerds are what people think of when they try to describe their conception of fraternity and sorority life, neither is remotely close to the truth. Aspirationally, we tried to party as hard, but we knew it was more a joke than reality. Besides, we were very athletic. Part of Chancellor's Cup was an athletic component, and we competed hard in every intramural sport, taking the top spot in at least 40-50% of them each year. We were particularly good at bowling, volleyball (where we were entered 2 teams - every fraternity could enter 2 teams in 3 sports they considered important - and these 2 teams regularly met in the finals), track and field, horseshoes (2 teams), football, and soccer. The athletics meant sometimes partying was less important. Nobody wanted to show up at floor hockey with a load on. That's a recipe for disaster. Even bowling, designed for the drinking life, required a drive of several miles. So very little drinking there (I have to admit that wasn't as true for me, since I would relax as I drank, and my scores rose throughout the night, but I wasn't driving).
When I joined a fraternity, my father was concerned and tried to make sure it was something I really wanted to do. He warned if my grades faltered, I'd have to drop out. They went up, not down. My brother made fun of me, goofing about secret handshakes and weird rituals. I pointed out to him that he'd lived with the same 6 people every year of his college life, they'd just change residences. The only thing they lacked was a ritual and a handshake, but they were a fraternity in every other aspect of life.
My brother and I spent the summer of 1982 at the Jersey Shore with 6 others. We had a house, and it was a great summer overall. We recently had a reunion. The first time in 36 years that everybody (not the entire house, one member died of AIDS in the late 80's) had gotten together since my brother's graduation in 1983. Kavanaugh's travails occurred after that reunion, but don't think we haven't discussed how we'd all be treated if we ever entered public office. That was a 'fraternity' and we were Frat Boys that summer. But we weren't really. We all spent a better portion of our summers working jobs or at my father's house painting, cleaning or trimming hedges because the work came with a great meal my stepmother would put together.
I am STILL a Frat Boy. I'm going out tonight to play a poker tournament with 50 people. My male friends and I get together at least once a month to drink, play cards, BBQ, or just relax. Our wives join us sometimes. We take an annual weekend trip to Atlantic City. We play pranks on each other.
Yet when I think back to my fraternity, I don't think of wild debauchery and abusive relationships. I remember that we regularly raised more money than any other group for Muscular Dystrophy EVERY SINGLE YEAR from 1972 until about 1987. My fraternity started one of the first Dance Marathons in 1972, and at one point it was the largest in the nation. It was held in Manley Field House, and I had the honor of dancing and representing my house my senior year. During my son's tenure in DTD, he was the #1 fund raiser for JDRF in the house (and the house was #1 fraternity in fund raising) for 2 years. I taught him the power of networking - and while he may not realize it, part of the reason he has a job today has to do with his fund raising. One person I sent my son's donor link to has juvenile diabetes (I did not know this) and he donated $600. His firm is where my son now works.
I haven't been able to find proof of this, but I have heard from my contacts at the alumni office that former fraternity and sorority members send the most back to the school in donations every year. I heard it's over 50%. Greek life was only about 14% of Syracuse enrollment while I was there. It's never been much more than that. In addition, fraternity and sorority members tend to have legacies. My son was in DTD with the sons of several other people I went to school with. Universities may not like the image of the fraternity, but they will suffer without fraternities.
My feeling is if Kavanaugh is a Frat Boy, then I like him more than I did before. It means he has all the great stuff that makes fraternities so long lasting. Honor, friendship, loyalty, academics, athleticism, community service and a commitment to something other than himself.
While hazing is something people think of as a negative, my son started a workout program for himself after having to wake up at 5am and get to the house and do calisthenics. Making them workout is hazing (can you believe it?), but my son embraced it and ran with it. Good for him. I love that he goes to the gym almost 5 times a week. He has transformed from a thin rail into a rock hard specimen who has done two Spartan Races.
It's time to do away with the negative Frat Boy image. At least, if it's going to be a negative image, then I'm going to embrace it and own it. I'm a Frat Boy and I'm damn proud of it. I'm not going to let the Progressive Cultural Revolution take away all the good things it provided for me.
Posted by Bulldog in The Culture, "Culture," Pop Culture and Recreation at 17:53 | Comments (12) | Trackbacks (0)
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I have said that I would not want a nerd on the Court. As it happened, I was not a frat boy because of my grandpa. Wrong advice, but well-intentioned. He was a New England Puritan.
Still, I did drink plenty of beer and chased lots of skirts. Studied a lot too. Juggling it all was not easy for a dumb adolescent.
It all worked out OK. Especially because some of the gals were serious students despite their interest in us guys. Gals make better students at that age.
You and I have differed before and we probably will again. I am writing tonight to let you know that I am opposed to the fraternity/sorority system for one reason. Although you rave about the close friendship and long lasting network of contacts that has elevated your son above others in this country, you have failed to acknowledge or even speak to a very real and very deadly fact about your fraternity, or a daughter's sorority and that fact is this: if one of your "brothers" or "sisters" has a dispute with someone outside the system they may, and frequently do, call upon their network to wreak havoc on someone's life. Someone they do not know. They use the network because it is a fun power game and one for which they will never be held accountable. Sorry Bull Dog, but that is exactly how the union mafia, or the Chinese Red army, or Hitler's youth all became very effective. Same exact capability
same exact system.
Gee, that's how university faculties work, too. If a conservative student or faculty member expresses a conservative view - in private - the leftist faculty members close ranks and castigate the "outsider"
Oh for Pete's sake! Frats are like Hitler's Youth? Really?
It doesn't surprise me that a "faculty" wife went straight to Godwin's law.
Why didn't you use the example of how the left has "wreak havoc" on others' lives like they are doing to this judge?
Now, the Democrats and other Leftists are more like the real Mafia! Someone doesn't think like they do then destroy him with all lies possible.
I'm sorry but I'll disagree with you.
I know there are some schools where that may occur. But it is very rare.
The reality is it seems common because you hear about it. You hear about it because it's rare and because of the natural bias against the Greek life.
I saw other groups and clubs, non-fraternity, wreck far worse havoc on people they didn't like. When people exist in any kind of clique, that's likely to happen somewhere, sometime.
Getting rid of fraternities and sororities won't end that. It will just move it to something else. In fact, at campuses where Greek life has been eliminated, the fraternities and sororities often move underground, where they can't be managed as easily by the faculty. The damage gets worse, rather than better.
I will acknowledge that it happens - I'd never deny it, since it is in the news from time to time. But it's nowhere near as common as people think it is.
Thank you. And, I agree with you that it is better to keep the networks visible and "above ground". I also agree with Charles in his observation of the clearly visible. My concern is with "the power of the network"--ANY network. Today the most clearly powerful network is the NOW (National Organization of Women). The "Feminist Leadership" are a gruesome mob--but, they are obeyed and their decisions are executed without question by those in their obedient followers. They are terrifying--but, they began as sorority sisters! They learned how to organize while spending time in a sorority.
Any network can indeed cause problems IF the basis of its cohesion is related directly to its mere survival.
On the other hand, networks are essential for the survival of the species and the individual. Not all people like being a part of a group. I'm one of them. The fact I found a group of likeable people (not like-minded, we all tend to disagree and argue on a variety of topics from politics to horse racing and sports), is a testament to the value of these organizations.
I joined the Knights of Columbus, seeking a similar kind of camaraderie. For about a year, I thought I'd found the 'group' I was looking for. Turned out I was wrong. It wasn't so much I didn't like the people, I joined because the people who convinced me to join said they were apolitical and more social. After a year, I realized it was extremely political, on many levels.
I have enough politics at work. I don't need it in my day-to-day life. My fraternity have very little politics involved.
To give an example of what my fraternity politics were like, while we all had groups or friends we tended to bond with, I can distinctly remember a wedding a large number of us attended in Boston. About 50% of the house went. It was pre-cellphone.
We'd all split off into small groups, but all meet back at a location at given times to regroup, discuss what we'd done and what else we'd like to do. The groups would shift, add and subtract members, and everyone had a great time. I've been on several trips like this - where all the members have a basic framework we abide by, but then go about whatever we individually want to do.
I can't remember a single time when we deliberately went out of our way to hurt someone, even if someone hurt us. Except one. Beta Theta Pi - we really just didn't like them. So every night, on the way home from M Street, some of us would stop to urinate on the side of their house. It's just something we did because our two houses never got along. That's about the extent of it, though.
But remember, fraternities started as underground organizations. Mine was formed to oppose an above ground group which was controlling the academic and social life Bethany College.
So forcing them underground again isn't going to fix anything. Partying, drinking to excess, abuse of women - these have all happened at some fraternities. But ours has worked hard to manage and improve life for all people, even non-members. Certainly we've had failures, but that doesn't mean the network is failing. It means one part of it did, that's all.
As for hazing - I was not hazed. At all. Nothing. I'd have dropped out if I was. But I am fine with certain types of hazing.
My son's calisthenics at 5am? Fine. His nickname (which is, according to the school, "psychological hazing") was pretty funny, and made us all laugh. So I'm fine with that. Obstacle courses, pledge trips, and scavenger hunts? All technically hazing, but I'm fine with those.
Forcing people to drink or engaging in physical abuse? Not good. Demeaning and degrading pledges? Not good. The point of pledging is to build a bond between the pledges themselves, and the brothers. When you become abusive, you break that bond of trust and fellowship.
So while I understand your concerns with fraternities, I'm really going to stay on their side because I believe they do far more good than the bad non-members claim.
And, I would suspect that sororities are worse than fraternities. Women are RELENTLESS - if they get their knickers in a twist about another woman, they will be PISSED 50 years later.
They NEVER forgive or forget.
" They use the network because it is a fun power game and one for which they will never be held accountable. Sorry Bull Dog, but that is exactly how the union mafia, or the Chinese Red army, or Hitler's youth all became very effective. Same exact capability same exact system."
Quite true. Of course the same could be said, with equal truth or lack thereof, of any congress or group such as Masons, Baptists, race car drivers, fiddle players, etc.
At my smallish midwestern private U., '49'-53', frats were for those who needed support, usually the academic variety, and had the money to pay for it. I was offered a free ride by several of them during my 2d and 3d years to contribute my GPA to their reputation and tutoring to the needy bros. All I could see in it for me was a waste of my time, so I respectfully declined all invitations.
I was in a fraternity in college. Anyone who calls one a "frat" was not in one. In my day, it was the cheapest place to live and came with a social life built in. It was Phi Gamma Delta, which I note Justice Gorsuch is also a brother.
We used to be encouraged to bring girls to lunch in the house and while we had parties, most were away from the house as drinking was banned. We evaded that rule, but not with parties.
It was a good experience.
I couldn't agree with you more.
I was a member of Delta Tau Delta at the University of Oklahoma from 1964-68. My uncle had been a Delt at OU in the late 30's and had spoken well of the experience and the enduring friendships. OU had about 18,000 students then and Greek life was an attraction for an 18-year old's need for a social anchor.
We had about 130 members and pledges and many remain my best friends 50 years later. I was too young to appreciate it at the time, but the quality of the members was really remarkable--during my time in the Chapter, we had two Rhodes Scholars. The quarterback for OU, one of my pledge brothers, went on to medical school and became the first surgeon for the army's Delta Force. Close to half of my pledge class went on to medical or law school. Others were successful in business and academics. Nearly all have done well and have contributed to society in Oklahoma and elsewhere.
Ours was a dry house, perhaps the only one on campus, and that rule was generally observed. Oklahoma was still a dry state in the 60's, 3.2% beer, private clubs, etc. Drinking occurred in the parking lot behind the house and parties at other venues, of course, and there was a fair amount of overindulgence as is common everywhere among young men (and women) in and out of the Greek system. Too early for drugs. I'm sure there are some cases, but I'm not aware of any lasting problems with alcohol.
Hazing, such as it was, consisted of calisthentics, some unconventional but harmless, and substantial doses of criticism. I didn't enjoy it much, but no lasting harm. Today, I understand the pledge program lasts only weeks, instead of months, and consists of learning the fraternity history and traditions.
Our chapter was white, as was most of OU. 25 years later, my son's Delt chapter at the University of California at San Diego had hispanic, Asian and black members. Times had changed and fraternities, at least ours, changed willingly.
I wouldn't change a thing.