Sunday, May 14, 2017

Colleges should supervise hazing instead of trying to ban it

     Last year, when my younger son told me he was joining a fraternity, I was pleased, but had one concern.
     "Good, I said. "I'm proud of you. Just don't let them kill you during the hazing," I said.
     "Dad," he replied. "Frats don't haze anymore. It's banned."
    "Of course it is," I said. "So when they're not hazing you, don't let them kill you. Just say, 'I'm sorry, but my father forbids me doing this.' You can blame me."
     That conversation came back last week, as charges were filed over a horrific incident at Penn State. Eighteen members of Beta Theta Pi were charged with manslaughter and other crimes for letting pledge Timothy J. Piazza, 19, die after drinking excessively, falling down stairs, and then being neglected for 12 hours.
     When I was his age, fraternities were a mystery. "You spend 18 years under the thumb of your parents," I'd say. "You finally get a taste of freedom and what's the first thing you do? Run to join an organization that demands you crawl across the quad at midnight, blindfolded, rolling an egg with your nose."
     Belonging to a frat wasn't a point of pride, it was an indictment. I felt this so strongly, I put a frat paddle in my freshman dorm window, bearing a decal showing a coat of arms— a knight holding his thumb to his nose and waggling his fingers, blowing a raspberry—and the letters GDI, meaning "God Damn Independent."

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  1. A nice surprise to see the column in the Sunday paper.

    1. It was supposed to run Friday, but there were concerns late in the day Thursday and it got held.

  2. Mny years ago, I deactivated from my sorority (nearly unheard of back then) after living in the house. Hazing consisted mainly of humiliating the pledges while the sisters got drunk. The atmosphere was not conducive to growing mentally or intellectually. One daughter thrived in a sorority, the other remained independent (both at large state universities). I'm glad I let them make their own choices. Today they are both well-rounded, smart, beautiful women.

  3. "The value of groups" might also be account for the existence of gangs, if not for their predominance in poorer neighborhoods. By categorically demonizing gangs per se, society has lost the chance to rescue gang members from drug trafficking, violence and coercive recruiting, while failing to effectively promote alternatives. I think there are many more tragedies to be found in gang life than in fraternities.


  4. Presumably this Whittieresqeu moral from one of Thurber's fables don't apply to the Steinberg household: 'The saddest words of pen or tongue, are wisdom's wasted on the young."

    The young man seems entirely capable of making up his own mind.


  5. I was much too solitary to even consider joining a frat, but my sister pledged Kappa Alpha Theta, one of the leading sororities at Northwestern, or anywhere else. It was loaded with rich, good looking girls, any one of whose fathers probably made more in a month than ours did in a year.

    My sis brought what I like to think was some much-needed perspective to the place. Once they were discussing whether to upgrade the basement quarters of the live-in cook/maid, or use the money for a new TV. They were about to go for the TV when my sister shamed them into spending the money on the person who fed and cleaned up after them every day.

    Tom: Thurber also said (in a fable about turkeys), "Youth will be served, often stuffed with chestnuts."


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