20 March 2014

I highly recommend this report on fraternities

For those of you getting ready to send Junior off to college, there is an eye-opening essay by Caitlin Flanagan in the most recent issue of The Atlantic.  "The Dark Power of Fraternities" discusses the love-hate relationship that colleges and universities have with fraternities (they save the schools millions in student housing costs, but they have limited or no control over the activities there).
Across the country, kids fall—disastrously—from the upper heights of fraternity houses with some regularity. They tumble from the open windows they are trying to urinate out of, slip off roofs, lose their grasp on drainpipes, misjudge the width of fire-escape landings. On February 25, 2012, a student at the University of California at Berkeley attempted to climb down the drainpipe of the Phi Gamma Delta house, fell, and suffered devastating injuries; on April 14 of the same year, a 21-year-old student at Gannon University, in Pennsylvania, died after a fall from the second-floor balcony of the Alpha Phi Delta house the night before; on May 13, a Cornell student was airlifted to a trauma center after falling from the fire escape at Delta Chi; on October 13, a student at James Madison University fell from the roof of the three-story Delta Chi house and was airlifted to the University of Virginia hospital; on December 1, a 19-year-old woman fell eight feet from the Sigma Alpha Mu house at Penn State.
What is far more interesting (and important) than the catalogue of problems is the complexities of legal responsibility (or lack of same).  Generally, universities are NOT responsible for these incidents.  NOR are the fraternities.  Often it is the students themselves (or their families back home) who will be held financially responsible for another students death or injury.

If you're sending a kid to college, read the article.


  1. You are so right. I read this article and it spells out the disaster that fraternities can be.
    I highly recommend reading it.

  2. Multiple Choice: Dave lives in a condo in a small town in the mountains. If he were to fall from his roof in a drunken stupor, who would be to blame?
    A. The condo complex
    B. The small town
    C. The mountains
    D. None of the above, because correlation does not equal causation

  3. There are many reasons for the tragedies listed in that article - all of which happen all the time independent of a fraternity. Fraternities simply offer a name and face for assigning blame and lawsuits.

    Rather than encouraging parents to read an article and educate their kids to avoid fraternities, maybe we could encourage parents to educate themselves and kids to make the best choices they can with regard to their own behavior.

    But that's crazy. It's much easier to just blame some greek letters because we all saw Animal House.

  4. That's definitely the most important part of that essay and should be essential reading for every parent sending a kid to college. Fraternities, which bank on the Hollywood stereotypes (and typically the reality) that they are places that will get you alcohol and girls, built a complicated legal and insurance structure that is designed to move the blame for any of the activities that just happen to occur there onto the kid or more likely their already-saddled-with-college-debt parents. The example of how that twisted legal structure led a university to blame one of its own students for getting raped at a fraternity was horrifying.

  5. And this research is not subject to false statements?

    If hazing is mandatory expulsion, I am pretty sure the story of falling down the stairs is an excellent option.

    Works for parents, why not pledges?


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