Fraternities should not be judged by the actions of a few

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February 12, 2008

12:43 PM

On behalf of the College’s fraternity system, I would like to take some time to respond to the ridiculous and insulting presuppositions that were presented in Max Fisher’s Jan. 29 column “Fraternity reputations stained by stereotypes.”

p. While I (and I’m sure the rest of the fraternity system) appreciated Fisher’s acknowledgement of our benefits to him personally — “my freshman year would have been much duller without it” — I should point out that the goal of fraternities is not to entertain freshmen. In fact, speaking as a fraternity man, I’d prefer not to have social events in our houses because of the negative effects these parties bring about: an absurd amount of trash and the possibility of theft from our rooms, to name a few. But the fact is that the structure of fraternities at this school inherently and necessarily leads to the kinds of problems that Fisher pointed to in his column.

p. As we are all aware, the social scene at the College leaves something to be desired; if you are not convinced of this, take a look at a College guide or two (most equate our “nightlife” with Wawa). For those newcomers to the College who want to actively meet new people and be social, Fraternity Row is probably the most logical place to go. And, of course, for fraternities to keep our places in the Units, we need new members to join our respective houses, so the relationship is symbiotic. However, this leads to a slew of potential problems.

p. With certain quotas that must be met for fraternities to stay on campus, there is a huge incentive to gain many additional members. And since the rush period lasts for only two weeks at the beginning of the semester, gaining a full assessment of a potential member is nearly impossible.

p. For this reason, I find it extremely unfair for Fisher’s article to place any blame on Beta Theta Pi as an organization for the actions of one of its members. Except for members of Beta, no one knows about their selection process (or those of any Greek organization for that matter) and the speculations Fisher puts forth about which character traits fraternities look for in potential members are unfounded. To suggest that a true understanding of a person’s character can be assessed by his actions during his first weeks at the College is ludicrous.

p. Unfortunately, fraternities must make big decisions based on very limited information when it comes to recruitment. But this is not to say that fraternities select potential members haphazardly — quite the contrary, actually. I am confident that during Will McClain’s rush period he did not exhibit any behaviors that would suggest embezzlement in his future. Perhaps we should be more concerned with the College’s admission of a student who would steal from a non-profit organization rather than question his admittance into a Greek organization after he matriculated.

p. To bash the fraternity system at the College based on a few isolated incidents is not only ridiculous, it is a prime example of uninformed and misleading journalism. McClain is many things besides a member of Beta. He is in the business school and he is involved in other organizations.

p. If we are going to hold Beta responsible for seeking the wrong character traits in its members, then shouldn’t we naturally assume that the Mason School of Business also seeks the wrong qualifications in its applicants?

p. Could we not accuse the Mason School of Business of being more to blame than any other group because of its faculty failing to teach McClain proper business ethics?

p. Or maybe we should point our fingers at McClain’s parents for not instilling good morals in him. In fact, let’s hold everyone with whom McClain has ever interacted partially responsible for this incident.

p. My point is that McClain’s unlawful (and frankly, despicable) actions are his own and no one else’s. And he will deal with the repercussions of those actions, which I am sure he is prepared to do. But it is fallacious to make generalizations about any organization based on isolated incidents involving its members.

p. Greek organizations have enormous positive impacts on our campus through long-lasting philanthropies and community service. For example, Phi Kappa Tau runs a very successful tutoring program in which many sorority members also participate. Beta’s College Charity Bowl and Pi Kappa Alpha’s annual wiffle ball tournament are additional examples of the positive impact that fraternities have on campus.

p. While, of course, actions like those of McClain and others cited in Fisher’s column tarnish the fraternity image, they in no way cast shadows over the positive social and philanthropic actions of the system as a whole.

p. __Dan Kirschen, a brother of Phi Kappa Tau, is a junior at the College.__

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