When the Silent Frat Boy Speaks

Confessions of an Ivy League Frat Boy: a title one might associate with a clever novel or the latest movie in a plethora of college-themed flicks to come out in theatres. Yet despite its catchy and humorous title, it actually refers to a recent article written by Janet Reitman in Rolling Stone.

I have to admit that even though I was intrigued by this week’s FIG assignment, the idea of reading a fifteen-page article on Frat boys seemed a little overwhelming. Right from the beginning, though, I realized that this article was well worthy of the fifteen-page spread it covered and that the issue being presented in it was definitely something to spend time reading.

Reitman’s opening paragraph had me laughing out loud (you know, what is commonly referred to as LOL-ing). Her distinct use of imagery depicted a precise indication in my mind of what the story’s main interviewee, Andrew Lohse, and the stereotype that followed him, would be like.

As my reading continued, I found the accounts that Lohse told to be disgusting and inhuman. The rituals described in the piece, such as nudity and evoking physical illness, triggered me to remember Eli Wiesel’s personal narrative of the events of the Holocaust in his book, Night. To compare hazing to the tragedy of the Holocaust is a huge leap, and I realize that completely. What I mean, is that I was intrigued to find similar patterns occurring, and yet rarely any action taking place. Which I believe the article epitomizes when it quotes Lohse saying, “Fraternity life is at the core of the college’s human and cultural dysfunctions.”

While the underlining issue in the article is hazing, I think it subtly points towards another, and perhaps greater, issue on campus: alumni and administrative action towards hazing.

Reitman quotes one alumni as simply stating, “if you don’t want to be initiated, don’t pledge.”

…which is absolutely ridiculous. The only sure-fire way to avoid hazing may be to disregard fraternities or sororities all together, but that doesn’t make it the solution. The article mentions on numerous occasions the benefits that joining a sorority or fraternity can bring to a person. People have seen dramatic advantages socially, politically, emotionally, and financially by becoming a member of one of these distinct organizations. There seems, at least to me, to be a world-wide consensus among fraternity and sorority members that their organizations are a very positive thing.

Even Lohse admitted, “deciding which fraternity to pledge is the most important political decision a Dartmouth man will make.”

Therefore, it makes sense that there are a strong number of alumni, current students, and administrators that want to slip Dartmouth’s dark Greek life under the hushed covers.

Or does it?

Reitman quotes a then-sophomore Dartmouth student, Becca Rothfeld, as she disguises the way things work at the college: “People don’t really talk about things at Dartmouth, let alone argue or get outraged about them.”

As an Ivy League school, Dartmouth stands in a tight-circle of historically renowned academics. These institutions pride themselves on their rich history, astounding faculty, and academic successes, which would lead someone to believe that they would facilitate in-depth discussion.

Not only do these institutions embody C.S. Lewis’ idea of the Inner Ring, it wouldn’t surprise me to find out they teach on Lewis’ ideas in their classrooms. Dartmouth’s lack of discussion on the topic of hazing provides a perplexing complication that is contradictory to the stereotype that one associates with a college of its stature.

Dartmouth college president, Jim Yong Kim, is cited in the article as having said, “I barely have any power,” in a previous interview. To say that the president has little power is hugely significant. It made me question whether he actually holds power or is simply failing to use it.

Lohse’s decision to utilize various media outlets to tell his story was something I found very interesting. I think that his ability to get the story out and eventually produce a memoir shows how he was accepted into Dartmouth in the first place. Even though there’s a lot of discrepancies surrounding Lohse’s credibility as a person or any personal motives he might have, the situation is still extremely important and it’s pretty pathetic that a suspended student is doing more to help the situation than the administration.

“No one has physically died at Dartmouth, yet, but the system destroys the souls of hundreds of students every year,” a very powerful quote by Bill Sjogren states in the article.

The issue is definitely one that needs to be resolved, and something that needs to be discussed more.

With MU’s Greek life population as prevalent as it is, around twenty-five percent, this issue wasn’t something completely foreign. As I read Reitman’s piece, I couldn’t help but wonder if any similarities could be found between Dartmouth and MU. In no way am I accusing MU of implementing hazing. I don’t belong to a sorority and have no research or inclination to believe in this is true. I’m still curious, however, as to how prevalent these issues are across the country.

The piece was by far a very eye-opening experience. I felt that I was sufficiently educated on the issue at hand and found Reitman’s style to be very appealing. It made me question a lot about the stereotypes that surround fraternities. I only pray that the issue is resolved and Dartmouth can use the influence it holds as a member of an Ivy League to inspire other institutions around the country to do the same.

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