As a member of a fraternity, I am well aware of the prejudice surrounding us. We drink, smoke pot, party too hard, are womanizers, and have one thing on our mind: Who are we taking home with us tonight? Signing papers to join a fraternity, in some cases, is like signing your dignity away. It turns you into a new person by simply having the tag of “frat boy” attached to your name.Generally, the stereotype is not a good one. Does that make all of us who have chosen to take our college experience to a new level “frat boys?”
Simply put, yes. With incidents of hazing rampant and the proverbial “Animal House” image firmly attached to our duties of running an organization, there is little hope for us to disarm this stereotype.
As members of a Greek community, we take part in many events that impact those less fortunate in a lot of ways. Canning for Camp Dreamcatcher, a day-camp for children affected by AIDS is our main charity here at West Chester University. Greek members spend countless hours throughout the year attempting to reach the $2,500 plateau that we are required to raise by canning and taking part in other community service events. We clean parks in the West Chester area and each organization has a specific charity that they raise money for.
The question remains: Does this matter? The answer – no. Ask the pledge who was beaten at LSU in March of 2004, or Matthew Carrington of Cal State Chico, who died while being forced to drink massive amounts of water and do physical exercises as part of a hazing ritual. Or maybe ask Adrien Hiedman, also a student at Chico, who died of alcohol poisoning while pledging a fraternity 2000.
When events like this transpire, the canning, the park cleanups and the philanthropic events mean nothing. It’s the hypocritical standard that fraternities and sororities have set for themselves. We act shocked, but with the way we act, can we really blame the media for the image they have given us? Is it not us, as members of these organizations that commit the heinous acts that we chalk up to tradition? Do we have a right to be shocked that we are portrayed this way?
We have yet to earn the right to be offended by the stereotype we have been given because we have yet to take necessary steps to stop it. Pledging continues. It still involves alcohol, it still involves abuse, and it still involves humiliation. Have we bought into the idea of brotherhood, or have we simply bought into the idea of a tradition that no longer works? We take the lives of “pledges” into our own hands, and we have the responsibility to practice what we preach: We are your brothers, and we care about you.
Until we, the curators of the Greek system, begin actually being caretakers for those that we wish to join organization, we will continue to be known as “frat boys,” and in some cases, murderers. It is an unfortunate stigma we must carry, but we have brought this upon ourselves. Until this happens, everyone will love the frat party, but no one will love the frat.
John DiSpaldo is a practicum writer for The Quad.