An indictment of the entire fraternity system
Published: Wednesday, April 7, 2010
Updated: Wednesday, April 7, 2010 15:04
For those of you who don't know, the title of this piece is part of Otter's famous speech in the classic comedy "Animal House" (1978). For those who have seen it, you'll recognize that Otter is contesting his house's punishment for the actions of "a few, sick, twisted, individuals." Just like in "Animal House," the fraternities at Tufts are being held to an unfair standard in the community. While strongly criticized by many members of the Tufts community — students and administration alike — the Greek community is also one of Tufts' most valuable assets and is being judged unfairly by the community at large.
One of the chief issues among the Tufts fraternities is the continued criticism and special rules. As a member of a fraternity, I've heard every excuse in the book. Fraternities are believed to be misogynistic, promote sexual harassment of women, are biased against homosexuals and minorities and elitist. While I would love to address each of these arguments one by one, let me say that fraternities provide more than movies like "Animal House" or "Old School" (2003) would have you believe. In fact, this semester alone, every fraternity on campus has agreed to engage in philanthropic endeavors for local charities in addition to each house's normal philanthropic efforts, which include Haiti relief, the American Heart Association, the Jimmy V Foundation, Boys & Girls Clubs of America and many, many more.
One point that I find particularly irritating is the idea that fraternities are restrictive, especially during parties. Students are angry at the fact that they often are forced to wait at the door before entering, especially when they see other people admitted who arrived after them. To this point I have two responses. First of all, while many complain of long waits and supposedly discriminatory policies, students also complain of excessive heat, cramped space and long waits for access to bathrooms and refreshments. I assure you that not only is it nice to be able to move around once inside, but fraternities are also ever−worried about fire safety and regulations. Having a house that is too crowded is ample reason for the police to shut a party down, which means that no one gets to enjoy the party. Additionally, realize that many of the line−cutters are often members of the house, girlfriends of members or other invited guests. While fraternities attempt to be fair in admittance policies, those who are personally invited (or are paying dues to the house) should hold preference over random attendees. The same would be true at house parties if they were held to the same standard in terms of crowd control. This leads me to the focal point of this article: There is a severe double−standard between fraternity parties and parties held at houses or on−campus residences.
I was on my way to a party this past weekend with a close friend of mine in a Latin Way apartment. When I arrived I was surprised to see dozens of partygoers idling in the street next to the apartment complex. While I have no problem with party guests exiting for a smoke or to get away from the noise, this is issue number one at fraternities. If there is ever a crowd hanging around outside, the cops are sure to take notice.
Think of any one of the fraternity parties you may have attended recently that was broken up prematurely. Chances are the cops broke up the party because of crowd control. It seems logical that if keeping guests off the sidewalk or street is important for fraternities, it should be equally important that other parties should follow the same rules and guidelines. I understand that Tufts isn't necessarily liable for incidents that occur at parties that are held off campus, but certainly they would be forced to act if there was an incident in housing provided by the university, such as Latin Way.
As I ventured up the stairs to enter the party, I noticed two men standing at the door. One had a permanent marker in his hand, a notorious staple that validates entry and subsequent alcohol service. The second, however, had an item I am not used to seeing at comparable fraternity parties. He held a pouch in his hand, in which he was collecting a $1 entrance fee.
I realize that a single dollar is certainly a reasonable cover charge for the consumption of subsequently free alcohol, but the issue is not the price of admission. City ordinances strictly forbid selling alcohol without a license, and regardless of what your thoughts are on cover charges such as this, the cities of Somerville and Medford certainly think cover charges equate to selling alcohol. In addition, Tufts also forbids the selling of alcohol without the acquisition of a valid license and nixes cover charges to "cover expenses." The policy goes so far as to compel the Tufts police to reject an idea for an interfraternity fundraiser, where all partygoers would have to pay admission to every fraternity party for a given weekend, with all proceeds going to charity. Furthermore, the presidents of Tufts' fraternities have been warned against asking for any sort of charitable donation when alcohol is even present to avoid confusion with the law. If the administration feels like this is out of line, then certainly parties thrown by the average Jumbo should be held to the same standard.
Finally, fraternities are forced to register parties well in advance of hosting such events. While this is a minor inconvenience, even the slightest mistake can lead to the early closing of a party. I know this happened this past weekend at one house, causing an abrupt end before the party even really started. While it isn't necessarily prudent for every off−campus house to register a party whenever they host guests, the same issue arises at fraternities. If the total number of occupants exceeds roughly 50, the police have the right to come shut the party down. There are many houses on campus whose membership exceeds this number and therefore should hypothetically register a "dry party" every time they hold a meeting. Though I've thankfully never heard of a meeting being broken up, the flaw in Tufts policy is glaring.