When newly appointed Dartmouth College President James Wright announced two weeks ago that his institution would end its long Greek tradition, he sent a clarion call through the nation's universities. Premised on the noble goals of improving residential life and reducing alcohol abuse, this decision furthers a disturbing trend of social engineering prevailing among educational administrators.
Increasingly, these ivory tower pooh-bahs ignore students' interests and enforce an illiberal orthodoxy. Single-sex fraternities and sororities are bad, the argument goes, because they stifle social interaction, encourage anti-intellectual behavior and exacerbate the unsafe use of alcohol. Perhaps most importantly, Greek life is said to retard attempts at campus integration by separating men from women and excluding traditionally underrepresented groups. One wonders where thoughts of these goals are when pushing drinking into more exclusive and unsafe dorm parties or arranging housing based on ethnicity. As part of the aging Baby Boom, university administrators have turned free speech into speech codes and integration into self-segregation, while also becoming increasingly antsy about allowing the "fun" that they had while in college.
As first mentioned by Allan Bloom in his classic Closing of the American Mind, this nation's universities have long abandoned their in loco parentis role, leading students to believe that all lifestyle choices are equally valid. Last year's The Shadow University updates this idea-Alan Charles Kors and Harvey Silverglate argue that institutions of higher learning have gradually become reeducation camps. Where once parents could expect their progency to continue receiving moral guidance, Mom and Dad now are told to sign the checks and get out of the way so that junior can overcome 18 years of outmoded instruction. But while progressive brainwashing may be a new idea, the idea of persecuting the Greeks is an old one.
The Greek scene at Princeton was terminated by Woodrow Wilson at the turn of the century, but has enjoyed an underground rebirth in the past 20 years. Wilson also tried to suspend the non-residential "eating clubs" but alumni would not stand for it. Our club system has its flaws but stands strong with about three quarters of upper-classmen as members. In a story in The Dartmouth, the college's daily newspaper, one student noted that barring single-sex frats would give rise to their co-ed equivalents, along the lines of Princeton's modern eating clubs. Those of us at Princeton can only chuckle at this comment, seeing as we have never heard our clubs-usually portrayed as elitist dinosaurs from our university's all-male days-mentioned as a model for anything. Though I enjoy my club's camaraderie and convenience, it lacks something; a special sense of brotherhood that extends to other colleges and an alumni network that cannot be underestimated.
Never in my wildest college dreams did I think I would "go Greek," but as a junior I had the opportunity to join a truly unique fraternity. My fraternity, Phi Kappa Sigma, is one of the most diverse organizations on campus both in the politically correct and the real sense. We are white, black, Hispanic, Asian, Christian, Jew, Muslim, atheist, conservative, liberal and libertarian. We are residents of the Northeast, South, midwest, West, international students, immigrants and many-generational Americans.
We major in molecular biology, international relations, philosophy, economics and engineering. We are student leaders, jocks, nerds and party animals. Most of us are on financial aid. If there is one thing we all share, it is a commitment to hard work in school, service to the community, personal responsibility and the bonds of friendship among us: We are all brothers.
My fraternity chapter breaks the Animal House stereotype that edu-crats see as the root of most evil at America's colleges. A significant portion of our membership does not drink, and neither do we ever force anyone to engage in any activity that is physically harmful or mentally humiliating.
We do not demand exorbitant time commitments or charge outlandish dues. The only time we have gotten in trouble was when proctors, backed by deans, broke up a Leukemia Society fundraiser because we were "an outside organization soliciting funds." We are an example of the positive force that Greek organizations can play on college campuses if we are permitted and if people expect more from us than drunken debauchery.
At Princeton and elsewhere, allowing fraternities and sororities with different interests and goals to ply their trade without undue interference would surely contribute to the "diversity" we all seek. Without my fraternity, I would feel less connected to my college environment. I would not have a group of guys that glory in my success, console me in failure, laugh at me when I make a fool of myself and generally share in life's events, big and little. Joining a fraternity, the particular fraternity that suits my needs, was the one of the best decisions of my college career. Denying that opportunity to others is a mistake that will have repercussions beyond collegiate life, contributing to the fraying of society and to a further closing of the American mind.
If you value your institutions--not just final clubs, which I don't know enough about to take a stand on--and having a voice in decisions affecting your daily lives, please take the time to respond to both the Dartmouth and Harvard administrations. Ilya Shapiro is a senior at Princeton and a student at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.
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