Potomac Fever is the blog of the Hamilton College Semester in Washington Program.
I am not a spokesperson for frats but I feel like I can take a lead role here. From experience, I do not disagree with a shred of information from this article. Fraternity guys are much more likely to abuse women, flat out. However, and this is up for debate, is whether this stems from the structure of a fraternity or if it derives from the male psyche on the whole. And moreover, if the latter is true, which I think it is, what will happen when frats aren't to blame? Personally, I do believe that the structure of fraternities make certain guys more prone to abuse women. My theory here is that guys in particular tend to have a pack attitude where culture supersedes individuality. If a guy is empowered by his “brothers” there is no telling what he will or wont do, even if the means rape. Maybe if it is not explicitly accepted, there is a degree of brotherhood where members feel that a group of guys will always “have their back”. While this is true if abuse is condoned, from experience the same can be said of the contrary. If abuse of women breaks the code of a pack of certain guys, drug use, grade standards, and athletic involvement are similar in this way, then certain individuals wont risk losing their friends. This shouldn't be hard to understand. However, the problem then isn't frats. Its the culture of men our age not to stand up against the abuse of women. Eliminating frats wont eliminate the pack mentality of guys and it certainly wont eliminate rape. Education needs to be the priority here and failing to see that, as this author does by blaming fraternities, prevents and prolongs meaningful change in curbing collegiate abuse of women.
Wouldn't be surprised if this op-ed became an issue at HC this week or next.
Some other things to consider are school size, school location, and existence of frat houses. At a school as big as UVA, someone who commits sexual assault might never have to see their victim again. At Hamilton, they would pretty much be forced to see eachother again. I also think that stuff like this might be more likely to happen at southern schools where the frat and man culture is more pronounced. The existence of frat houses also makes it easier for things like this to happen. They also provide a kind of shelter of secrecy that isn't provided at schools where they don't exist. Overall, I'd say I agree with a lot of what Dylan was saying but that there are other factors at play. I think in the absence of frats, sports teams could provide the "backup" to guys mistreating women.
I agree, Dylan, that fraternities are not entirely to blame and that there is a larger issue that needs to be addressed. Still, it seems to me that fraternities are exacerbating this problem. As you pointed out, the "brother" mentality of fraternities allows young men to do things that are outright wrong. I think this is especially dangerous in a college setting--freshman who join fraternities often do so because they feel insecure and are looking for a guaranteed social group. This vulnerability puts them at risk of compromising their self-respect, dignity, and morals. Why do young pledges allow themselves to be so brutally hazed by their frat brothers? Not only do they allow it, but they willingly subject themselves to it. I have a huge problem with the mentality that "they did it to us, so we do it to them" mentality that I often hear to justify hazing. What if rape victims adopted this mentality? Furthermore, the essence of fraternities and sororities is exclusion. You are accepted or rejected not based off your skill set or knowledge, as you would be if you were considered for a sports team or math league. Instead, you are accepted or rejected based off of your coolness, your personality, or your looks. The power of exclusion allows members of frats to adopt a mindset that they are above others, which I think contributes to the abuse of women.I am really not trying to say that fraternities are the source of the problem. Clearly they're not. But I feel strongly that there are many ways in which Greek life fuels the problem by providing both the justification and mentality necessary for young men to engage in such behavior.
I agree with you, Peter, mostly. I especially agree with your point about sports teams acting in similar ways if frats didn't exist. I disagree, however, with your notion that this is less of a problem at small, non-Southern schools. I can see why you'd say that having to see the victim again would deter many men from raping someone at a small school. But I know a girl who faced a situation eerily similar to the one described in this article, and she went to Stanford. While Stanford has housed frats, only a small portion of the student body is involved in Greek life, so I would definitely not say that Stanford is like a Southern school in that the "frat and man culture" is very pronounced. In fact, I'd say the opposite about Stanford. This girl I know quite well was sexually assaulted by a frat guy in a similar way to the girl in this article. She went through a lengthy judicial process to try to get the guy kicked out. Originally, he was forced to leave the school until the girl graduated, but after his parents complained, he was allowed back on campus with a restraining order. The order is entirely ineffective and he sees the girl all the time. I guess my point is that the assumptions your making are not always true. I don't think many schools have strict enough punishment for sexual assault. The power and influence of the perpetrator, their families, and their fraternities all play a role as well. And I don't think Hamilton is at all a safe haven when it comes to sexual assault just because of its size.
Yeah, agreed on family, and frat power. I didn't mean to give the impression that I think Hamilton is a total safe haven for women, but I do think it's much safer than other schools for some of the reasons I pointed out. The size plays a role, as do lack of frat houses. Frats are also not as powerful as at other schools. I want to go back to size for a second because I implied a couple of things there. I just don't think Hamilton has a macho culture like big, D1 powerhouse schools do, and I think this makes it a safer atmosphere. Also as someone in a fraternity, the stuff explained in this article just doesn't happen at Hamilton, atleast not in my frat. Yes, there is bragging about hookup culture, and so on, but nobody is saying "no means yes and yes means anal" or in any way encouraging assault on women.So, back to my original point. I think threat of sexual assault against women exists everywhere. That threat increases the larger and more southern the school (also on frat power on campus, and off, but I think this correlates with larger, more southern schools as well).
You lot agree too much. I take issue with this article as well as many of the things Maggie/Dylan said. First I would like to address what Dylan said. I think you made a good point about so-called “pack” attitude, but I think you severely overestimate its importance/power. I do not know anyone who will rape someone just because someone tells him it is okay to do so. I agree that college-aged men are much more likely to talk about women behind closed doors and make suggestive comments, but this does not translate into a systemic attitude of rape is okay. Going to the Yale University chant, “no means yes, yes means anal,” none of the pledges actually believe that (virtually no one actually believes that). I realize that that chant should have no place on campus and I can see how it would make women feel unsafe, but even if we were to classify this as verbal assault that is very different from physical rape. I think too many people are making the following argument: Bro’s talk about women like they are objects, therefore they see women as objects, therefore they have no moral qualms raping women. This is simply an abridgment of the facts and faulty causation. Maggie, you also find fault with the so-called brother mentality, but, like Dylan, I think you put too much emphasis on it. I am not going to pound a bro who just said he raped a girl, nor is anyone else. You say “freshman who join fraternities often do so because they feel insecure and are looking for a guaranteed social group.” Really? Because that is not why I joined a fraternity. What about the enormous benefits of being in a fraternity? The alumni connections, the charity work, and being the social drivers at most colleges (including Hamilton). What about building and strengthening ties with class years above and below you? I understand where you are coming from, but I think you have arrived here with a simplistic and stereotypical understanding of frats. You also misunderstand the idea behind hazing. It is not about just passing along the buck, many of the tasks involve building ties with your pledge class and learning the traditions and history of the fraternity. I do not want to get into a debate about hazing because I do not necessarily agree with many of the things fraternities do to pledges, but I do think pledging is an important part of the process. You say frats are built around exclusion, fair enough, but what about Sororities? Do you think because girls are in a Sorority they assume they are above (and hence able to abuse) men? No, of course not.I am all in favor of very strict penalties for rape or other sexual abuse. If a guy rapes a girl he should be expelled and sent to jail. I think it is ridiculous that a lot of men get off with virtually no punishments after the things they do. But I think it is wrong to try and turn this onto fraternities, especially with such little evidence. If we go by what the author of this article says, a quarter of all sexual abuse is perpetrated by fraternity brothers. What about the other 3 quarters? How is this specifically a frat problem? Slightly less than a quarter of all college men are in a fraternity so I do not see how you can attribute this to fraternities. Additionally, this author said she saw a frat house and dropped out of UVA? Give me a break. Who sees a building and immediately makes the decision to drop out. This is an article written by a woman who has extremely negative views on fraternities and yet has little justification (other than a horrible story that occurred over twenty years ago) explaining why.
Yeah, I switch to what Ian said.
1. About the "pack" attitude. You're over-simplifying it. I certainly wasn't saying that guys rape girls simply because their frat brothers say it's OK. Like you said, I don't think anyone in a fraternity ever says "it's OK to rape women". However, other behaviors that frats promote (such as drinking, hazing, objectifying women, etc.) combined with the loss of judgment in a party situation and, of course, the individual's personal characteristics all contribute to the act itself. I can see your frustration with the line of reasoning: "Bro’s talk about women like they are objects, therefore they see women as objects, therefore they have no moral qualms raping women." I understand that most of the women-bashing that goes on behind closed doors is of a joking manner and isn't something that "bros" really believe. Still, I have a hard time believing that these ideas do not seep into young male minds in any way. They may still understand that the "bro" mentality is wrong on an intellectual level, yet the mentality is ever-present through the parties they throw, their actions, and their words. You can't tell me this doesn't exist at Hamilton...So I'm not saying that frats tell their members that "rape is OK". They simply exacerbate a larger problem through promoting a mentality that has become too prevalent on college campuses and is detrimental to both men and women.2. About why people join frats/sororities. Sure, not everyone joins for the social benefits. But I do think that's an important part for most. You don't need to join a frat to establish alumni connections. One of the career center's main goals is to put students in touch with important alums. You don't need to join an exclusive group to use the career center's resources; unlike fraternities, it is open to helping everyone. And really? For the charity aspect? What made you think that you HAD to join a frat if you wanted to help people? I'm not even going to get into this because I'm pretty sure that one is obvious. And being the social drivers of the campus? You're right, somehow, a segment of student activities that only has the involvement of 20% of all students has managed to dominate the social scene. Is that a good thing? What if not all of us want the social scene to be dominated by drinking and hooking up? And for establishing ties: Join any other student group and you can establish ties with students of other class years. 3. Hazing makes you closer with your pledge class because you are forced to endure horrible, disgusting, and humiliating (if not actually dangerous) things with them. So yes, if you want to say it builds ties with your pledge class, sure it does. But I'm pretty sure there are less awful ways of doing that. 4. Exclusivity: Again, I'm not saying any one element of frats is the cause of sexual assault! My point about exclusion is that it was just another one of the many things that feeds into it. I think there is plenty of evidence to support that frats/sororities cause all kinds of problems for women and men. There may be some benefits, mainly the exclusive alumni connections for members, and maybe the charity work. But I think the negatives far outweigh the positives of these outdated institutions.
Map of deaths from hazing:http://www.bing.com/maps/?v=2&cp=38.015051~-96.69661&style=h&lvl=4&scene=1915478&cid=97FE2FE034ADBFEA!106
Ok, Maggie, I'm gonna unpack your argument using the numbers you used to keep it organized.1. I don't know what kind of "women-bashing" you think goes in the fratmosphere. People in fraternities don't just spend their time trying to make fun of women for no reason. If anything, people would talk about girls they've hooked up with, etc, and the same thing would happen with guy and their friends not in a frat, or even girls with their girlfriends. This isn't "bashing" and shouldn't be considered as so. What do you consider the "bro mentality"? I don't think guys think that having good friends who they can talk about anything with would be "intellectually wrong." Is it the chanting you have problems with? The general fun being had? And what is this about ideas "seeping into young male minds" like we are inferior and can't control our own thoughts and ideas? And who is to say guys are to blame for the campus "hook-up" mentality that you are lamenting? Girls can say no. Girls can stand up for themselves and eachother. Girls can have the confidence to brush off things that people say about them or their friends. Girls can even make fun of guys on their own if they really want to. What is stopping girls from doing these things that would command respect? I'm not saying it is all girls' fault but you can't blame the atmosphere solely on guys. 2. Yes, social benefits are a huge part of joining frats, but connected to 3, so is bonding with a group of friends in ways you wouldn't without a fraternity. On alumni networking, fraternity networks hook you up with people who were brothers from any number of other schools. The alumni connection is infinitely larger, and the career and alumni centers suck. If you don't want the social scene dominated by drinking and hooking up, then skip college. It's not something that fraternities are creating. And for establishing ties by joining any other student group. You want me to bond by attending a meeting once a week? I don't think you really understand pledging. Which brings me to...3. Pledging and hazing are not synonymous. Pledging is a large period of time, generally 8 weeks or more, where you and your pledge brothers are a team that have to complete a large number of grueling challenges put in front of you by the fraternity. This helps you bond because you all have the same hellish experience and get through it together by helping one another accomplish goals. Hazing is only a small part of that. What would you rather have, a ropes course? Nothing bonds friends together like the psychological and physical tests that pledging presents. Also, when was the last time you pledged a frat? You seem to be making large assumptions about things you know very little about.4. How are frats at Hamilton exclusive? Everyone is invited to every on campus event and party. Also, if you really want to join one, I'm sure you can find one that fits your needs and/or will accept you as a pledge.I think frats and sororities add a lot to campuses. The main factor is of course social, but who cares. My brother and sister both went to Williams college and the social scene there is horrendous because nothing ties it together. The Greek system acts as the perfect catalyst for a fun social scene that at Hamilton is open and available to everyone.
OK pledge High-C, I think you have had enough. Sweet rhetoric but I think you’re full of it. First, really? "The alumni connections, the charity work, and being the social drivers at most colleges (including Hamilton)."I find this extremely hard to believe. Name anything that your frat, whichever one it is you’re in again, does anything remotely close to charity work, alumni connections (not involving hazing/alcohol), or social contributions to Hamilton. Give me a break with that. I am sure you can come up with something but none of us will buy it for a second. (There are frats that do perform charity work but there are none at Hamilton that would be known for it).I am not saying that all people will “high-five” a brother who rapes a girl. Not at all. But there is the idea of protection, that we all know very well, that occurs with fraternities. There is certainly an idea that the frat is bigger than just one person (especially when an action of one individual can threaten the whole fraternity system). We can agree that Frats are not the whole problem, but you’re sounding as if they are blameless. "I am all in favor of very strict penalties for rape or other sexual abuse. If a guy rapes a girl he should be expelled and sent to jail. I think it is ridiculous that a lot of men get off with virtually no punishments after the things they do."You’re a great guy man. I commend your abomination of rapists but how about we get serious when we talk about this stuff. Like I said before, education on this issue, especially aimed at Fraternities would be beneficial for frats to be seen in a better light. Maybe if Frats could take the lead on anti-abuse messaging it would go a long way to reduce the abuse rates at colleges. There are some “feminists” that are trying to take away frats because they do not understand the good that CAN come from it but the longer frats try to fight people trying to make legit social change, the sooner they will abolished. Including, whatever frat you say exists at Hamilton.
Hamilton Against Hunger
This is a corollary to PBM, who I think made a lot of really good points. I believe that the argument over the merits of the article and the role fraternities have played in sexual abuse has gotten lost in your response. Instead, you have launched into an attack on why fraternities suck, which was not the topic of debate nor is it a good topic. Obviously some people do not like Greek Life, most of these people, like yourself, are not involved and instead rely on “stories” they have heard about the horrors of pledging and the disgusting things fraternities do. You accuse me of oversimplifying the “pack” attitude. Yet, you chalk up the behavior to “the individuals personal characteristics” combined with “drinking” and “objectifying women.” Where does the “pack” attitude come into play in any of this? You do not need to be in a frat to drink and this plague of objectifying women (which you are grossly over exaggerating) is hardly unique to fraternity brothers. So your recipe for rape is alcohol and “individual personal characteristics”? I would agree with that, but that mix has nothing to do specifically with fraternities. PBM covered the enormous advantages to alumni, and I will attempt to explain the charity side of the debate. I would never argue that I thought I HAD to join a fraternity to help people. I am simply saying that being in a fraternity raises your awareness of a bunch of different issues and you have both the funds and the labor needed to get things done. Being in a fraternity really helps raise a lot of money because your bros are more than willing to join with you in the AIDs run/walk, which my frat did last year and will do again this year, DX is throwing a party to raise funds and awareness of certain types of cancer. There is also the breast cancer campaign the sororities do. Do you need to be in Greek Life to help people? No. Does it help raise awareness, money, and with senior theses as a group of people will take an online quiz for a bro’s girlfriend’s psych project? Absolutely. The connections you build within fraternities are incredibly strong and while there are always dissenters, virtually everyone I know who is or was in a fraternity is a proud member of that fraternity.
Dylan, I just named a few charity acts brothers do in my last post, and there are others. I agree that there is the idea that frats are larger than the individual but in no way should you construe that to mean that if my friend rapes someone I am going to be like oh your in my frat, so thats cool. Of course I am going to defend one of my bros (usually) in a fight or conversation but rape is rape and I would be horrified if you, or anyone, actually condoned an act like rape simply because he was in your fraternity. As I said in my last post, by the author's own admission frats are responsible for 1/4 of rapes at parties. Lets get serious by educating men in this matter, not trying to target the "old boy network" simply because we think they are rich and arrogant. Are there problems with frats? For sure. Is it fair to paint them as the sole perpetrators of rape and male dominance? Hardly. So, yeah, lets "get serious" by identifying and punishing men who engage in sexual abuse. Not by making broad claims that have little basis in fact.
Immediately you are taking a fatalistic approach to this Ian. There seems to be, among a lot of die hard fratters, a need to consistently defend themselves against any accusation. Why fight something that can help? We all know frats perpetuate chauvinism, so why can’t we take imitative to make everyone’s life not only better because of SICK parties but parties that are SAFE too? If as you say, Frats throw all the parties, it would go a long way if they all were educated better about abuse and what we can do to stop it. Wouldn’t we agree that a little imitative to jump-start some women’s education is a better option than getting rid of frats entirely? And you’re right; nothing will stop every rape from happening but let’s give it a shot. If only ONE less person gets abused I think that’s meaningful change, not this whole quarter, half non-sense you are trying to absolve frats with.
Togas are great americans.
Obviously I agree that parties should be safe and I agree that steps should be taken to prevent sexual abuse. I am not trying to defend frats until the bitter end, I am simply trying to dispel common notions of what fraternities do. I never said Frats throw all the parties. In fact, while frats throw the big parties I think women are more at risk at smaller more intimate parties. I think men as a whole should work to stop sexual abuse. I do not see why Frats are singled out in particular. If you see someone abusing a girl (frat or non-frat) you should say something. I do not understand why Greek affiliation should matter in that scenario. I do not understand what you mean by “Wouldn’t we agree that a little imitative to jump-start some women’s education is a better option than getting rid of frats entirely?” It sounds like something I would agree to as I have never argued that I want to get rid of frats. I am not trying to absolve frats of anything. If they were the main problem/perpetrators of sexual abuse I would be all in favor of doing something about them. Finally, I agree with you that an extensive education campaign of frats would help reduce sexual abuse but only marginally. Education of all men and women would be far more effective.
"I do not see why Frats are singled out in particular."We know.
So you have better connections than someone equally well qualified because you were a part of the same fraternity. This is true, but is it fair? This person doesn't know you or your merits, all they know is that you may have both swallowed a goldfish as part of pledging or that you drank with your brothers in college. I don't see the good in this, except for personal gain that, once again, excludes others.And I should skip college because I don't want to drink and hookup? Is that what college is for? And I understand the point that frats are not solely responsible for the party/hookup culture. I COMPLETELY agree with that. Whether or not you think greek life dominates the social scene I think is irrelevant to the question of their contribution to sexual assault.And I fundamentally disagree that you need hazing to become close. If you need to walk across hot coals to have friends, I don't think those are the types of friends you should want to have. A ropes course sounds great.How are frats exclusive? That is the point of fraternities and sororities: to offer bids to only certain people based on whatever subjective criteria the group decides. Being invited to an annex party hosted by ATX in the annex is NOT the same as being in ATX... And yes, you can join ANY society you want. Just don't join Gamma Xi, or you'll be called ugly and fat, or PBX, or you'll be called a slut, or AD, because you'll be called a rich d-bag, or any of the ones for non-white people, because you're white.If you want to call me a feminist because I don't like the effect that greek life has had on our campus then go ahead. But this has nothing to do with feminism except that I think that sexual assault is just ONE of the ways that fraternities can have a negative effect. Also, it seems that all the other NESCAC schools seem to agree that fraternities and sororities are outdated and detrimental to a college campus. I hope you guys don't take this personally; my feelings have nothing to do with the specific individuals involved in greek life. I just don't think fraternities and sororities have enough of a good effect on campus to offset the bad.
Oh, and I ran the AIDS hike last year and volunteered at the blood drive...and I'm not even in a sorority!!!!
On your first point there, I don't think if I have a horrible GPA someone is going to give me a job just because I was in their fraternity. But if it makes me stand out among similarly qualified candidates, then I am happy with that. You seem to be railing against the connection culture in general not just as it relates to frats. Is it fair, no not really, but that's life.Hazing and pledging are different and I don't think you understand that. I am not going to go into my perceived differences between the two but we are working on two different levels. On the coals, as TJE so masterfully pointed out in youtube video on his facebook last year, walking over coals generally does not cause physical pain. The point of this activity, like many other pledging activities, is to form trust. This is a psychological challenge. And if you don't want to do something like that, good for you, don't pledge, you shouldn't be making decisions for anyone else. And on the ropes course, you clearly do not understand so we can just stop discussing it because you and I are working on fundamentally different levels because you have never pledged and do not understand the process whatsoever.On my exclusivity point I meant that if you want to be in a frat, you will find one that will take you. I didn't mean every frat is willing to accept everybody. I don't really understand your point on reputations, but if your going to join something, the only thing that should matter are the people in it, not its reputation.On your sexual assault connection to fraternities, I think that has been at least partially debunked by Ian, but your acting like women are completely powerless here. I am wholeheartedly against rape, but your blaming this hookup culture and rape thing all on guys when girls are at least partial enablers.My brother and sister went to Williams, where there are no frats, and there is subsequently no fun. The social scene there is lacking of any cohesion or good times so that is one of the many reasons I am against getting rid of them at Hamilton.I don't take what your saying personally, I just think your conception of what frat life is is highly distorted and not close to the reality of things, at least at Hamilton.And on your volunteerism, I don't mean to demean you in any way, but when an organization like a fraternity hosts something charitable, you have the entire fraternity (20-60 people) promoting the event, and all of the other people they are connected to. It also gives a recognizable name to a charitable event that could help draw more people towards it. That is different than just one person or a groups of friends doing the same.
Don't drag me into this PBM! What goes on Facebook, stays on Facebook.
I don't want to continue this, we obviously won't see eye-to-eye. But I'd like to point out the irony that your best evidence that greek life is the sole cause of a good social scene is your siblings' experience at Williams. You criticize my views because I am not in a sorority, thus I could not possibly understand what wonderful, charitable, character-building organizations they are when you are basing your claim off of 100% hearsay. You also are just as much not a girl as I am not in a frat, so maybe I would understand a little more about how the "bro" mentality affects women. I have never said that fraternities are solely responsible for sexual assault. As I have said from the beginning, they are simply a contributing factor. And then I went on to say that I think they bring more harm than good to a college campus.And I did the run with my acappella group and the blood drive with the equestrian team--so I also had a large group of people, a recognizable name, and many connections. You can't say that fraternities are the only way to effectively serve others.
Alright this is going to be my last post unless something else comes up. I don't care about sororities, I am talking about fraternities, and I don't want to defend sororities, but I would say I know more about them than hearsay seeing that many of my friends who are girls are members of sororities. Anyways, all of my arguments have been solely about fraternities, so if you construed them to include sororities, sorry, I don't want to include them in this. And I have friends at other NESCAC schools with similar complaints about social scenes, I was using Williams as an example. The same things can be said about Bowdoin and Middlebury.Now for your misunderstanding. I am saying you do not understand pledging because you cannot even distinguish between pledging and hazing which are different. I would like to juxtapose your idea of pledging with my reality of pledging because I think the two would be very different. I don't understand what your definition of the "bro" mentality is, so that is another part of our misunderstanding. If women are offended by it then they should stop hanging out with people in fraternities. And I would say that frats are a negligible factor in sexual assault on campuses like Hamilton. I don't know about other campuses.And I agree that frats are not the only effective way to serve others but using them as a base is effective and legitimate and should not be discounted in a discussion about the positives and negatives of fraternities.
Can we all agree that, while Frats may contribute to herd mentality, the issues are not fundamentally with Fraternities? Guys are stupid with and without fraternities--Hamilton is generally on par with its peer schools for alcohol related hospital visits, sexual assault, etc. Most of our peers have officially, though not practically, disbanded Greeks.The main issue I see with fraternities at Hamilton is the Spring pledge season. Let's face it, Freshmen have no idea which way is up. Yet it is nearly impossible to de-pledge later on. The sense I get is that there are many people who would have made a different decision if we had sophomore year pledging.
Nat- I completely agree. That's what I've been saying. Of course, frats do not create the issue. I'm only saying they help exacerbate it.And yes about pledge season. Ooops I meant hazing. No, pledging. Aren't they the same?!?!? Just kidding, PBM.
No frats = no fun!!!
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