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An indictment of the entire fraternity system

Published: Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Updated: Wednesday, April 7, 2010 15:04

Theta Chi

Dilys Ong/Tufts Daily

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.

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10 comments Log in to Comment

Tue Apr 13 2010 10:29
And here I was hoping for an ACTUAL indictment of the entire fraternity system.

Jeez. What a rip-off

Fri Apr 9 2010 13:57
yeah, sorry, you also wanted access to the house's old exam files. you'll excuse me if i discount your false outrage in the absence of any evidence to disprove my conjecture.

no one rushes any house with the intent to save the planet or help others. there are far more effective outlets to accomplish those goals. the social life is primary, the rest is secondary.

Fri Apr 9 2010 13:11
"you joined to party, and denying it is an insult to the collective intelligence of non-greeks."
How dare you presume to know why anyone joined their organization. THAT is an insult to the character and intelligence of greeks. YOU didn't join, don't pretend you understand why any of us did.
Thu Apr 8 2010 16:57
It is better to be silent and thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt. This op ed piece sounds like an elementary school kid wrote it. Check your national fraternities standards for hosting events with alcohol and then resubmit your op ed piece. If you can't be a true fraternity man, do everyone a favor and get out of the game. In other words, if you want to be treated like a GDI; be one.
Thu Apr 8 2010 08:10
yeah, what's the point of touting your philanthropy when it's forced on you as a member of the house? we all know you didn't join that house to do good deeds- you could have joined leonard carmicheal to do that. you joined to party, and denying it is an insult to the collective intelligence of non-greeks. it's great you do something positive, but don't pretend you do it out of the goodness of your hearts- you do it to counter the complaints you engender.

(and wtf is a dry party? pretty sure we all have freedom of assembly in this country)

Wed Apr 7 2010 22:41
As a former Greek, I'm sick of Greeks tooting their philanthropy horns at ear-shattering levels. Shut up. The vast majority of students (and people) do some form of charity work. It doesn't make you a better person (or even a good person), and it certainly doesn't cancel out the misogyny and homophobia that DOES EXIST in this very system.
Wed Apr 7 2010 22:14
The writer's argument is flawed in that he doesn't realize that the double standard exists because there actually are substantial differences between fraternity parties and other off/on campus parties. That is, fraternity parties are hosted by an organization, not an individual. Tufts fraternities are technically Tufts student organizations, which means that Tufts, as well as the fraternity chapters and nationals, has a greater legal responsibility for what occurs at fraternity parties than at off-campus parties. The administration has to regulate frat parties to a certain degree in order to cover itself should anything go wrong. As to on-campus apartment parties, these are extremely unlikely to draw the much larger number of attendees that fraternity parties host every weekend, so the same level of regulation is clearly not needed. In fact, if a Latin Way/Sophia/Hillsides party were to draw anywhere near the number of people that a frat party does, it would probably be shut down almost immediately, whereas a registered frat party would be given more lenience because the fraternity took the time to register the party, which in a practical sense just serves to give TUPD a heads up for the night. As to charging admission at non-frat parties, the party that the author attended was obviously not the norm; charging for parties hardly ever occurs at Tufts. This "double standard" has nothing to do with the supposed belief that Tufts fraternities are "misogynistic," "biased against homosexuals," etc.

Having been a member of a Tufts fraternity for 7 semesters, I've seen that both TUPD and the administration are generally supportive of the Greek Community, especially considering all the immediate and potential consequences that come with tolerating frat parties.

Wed Apr 7 2010 14:23
I have been to a number of non-frat parties that have been broken up because of their size/amount of people outside, most recently this weekend at Latin Way in fact. While it sucks that you cannot ask for donations like this party you went to because of the ever-watchful eye of TUPD, you can circumvent this issue: why not just stop throwing parties? Let's be honest- why has ever joined a fraternity just for the party scene anyways?
Wed Apr 7 2010 13:57
As one of the many average Jumbos who has passed the time griping about "the frats" (said with an angry tone, perhaps a rolling of the eyes or a grunt of one kind or another), I can honestly say that this was a well-reasoned piece which has made me rethink some of my opinions. Well done.
Wed Apr 7 2010 09:47

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