With colleges across the country back in session now, millions of freshman are figuring out how to navigate a new world. If you’re one of them, you’re likely wondering what you should major in, how long it’ll be until your roommate’s every word and move drives you nuts, how to navigate a confusing campus, and how not to be pummeled by classes that are more challenging than you ever thought possible. If you’re a guy, you might be wondering if you should join a fraternity.
The answer is no. And I say that as a recently graduated fraternity alum.
Fraternities are organizations plagued by racism, misogyny, homophobia, and hypermasculinity that put on a good enough front and maintain a wall of secrecy to continue without addressing these issues. And that’s to say nothing of hazing, which is constantly talked about and frowned upon, but nowhere near being eliminated. While fraternities draw young male students in (officially) with promises of brotherhood, service, leadership development and (unofficially) with a four-year party experience that can’t be topped by any other social group, the benefits of joining these chapters are outweighed by these problems.
For much of my time as an undergrad, I didn’t have a problem with my fraternity. I thought we were different and resented the stereotyping of all fraternities, down to the use of the word “frat.” Then I moved into the house and surrounded myself with more than 80 of my brothers for the duration of my senior year. Seeing and hearing what happens on a daily basis opened my eyes and made me realize that this was no different than most other fraternities.
It was easy to focus on the positive things when I was only around for the parties, brotherhood retreats, and community service events, but those were superficial. Day-to-day, away from the public, you realize the unchecked privilege enjoyed by a marginally diverse group of males (there are nine non-white faces out of 120 on our most recent composite) fortunate enough to go to university and join a fraternity. Behind closed doors, which can only be opened with a code given to brothers, is a safe space to shamelessly engage in intolerant behavior. No one faces repercussions for dropping the n-word or calling women sluts. Sure, someone might speak up about it, like I’ve tried to, but they’ll be written off as a "liberal pussy." Living in this oppressive environment made me regret ever becoming a part of it and sent me into the worst bout of depression of my life. I only came out of it with the help of a school therapist who happened to be a fraternity alum who also cares deeply about social issues, Zoloft, and the release date of graduation just weeks away.
I know plenty of people in my fraternity who didn’t exhibit these troubling characteristics, and we were successful in raising thousands of dollars for many charitable endeavors. But the prevalence of less savory behavior overshadows the good, and fraternities shouldn’t be cast in a positive light until they take more proactive steps toward eliminating the ugliness than saying, “Yeah, but look at this nice thing we did over here.”
If you're truly concerned about the disadvantages everyone who isn't a white male faces, you shouldn’t join a fraternity. Once a brother asked me at lunch if I was ever going to write about how horrible fraternities are. I guess the answer is yes. Here are 10 Reasons You Shouldn’t Join a Fraternity, From a Fraternity Alum.