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MIT Fraternity Brothers Don't Follow Stereotypical Animal House Portrayal

Guest column by Lanny R. Chiu

It is difficult to categorize my exact reaction upon first reading the column by Stacey E. Blau '98 ["Hypocritical Fraternities Embarrass," Feb. 25] of The Tech. Shock, anger, disbelief - these feelings undoubtedly comprise my initial reaction, but I think that it was a lingering distress that was most apparent after the initial shock faded.

Despair that despite everything that my fraternity has done for myself and the community around us, intelligent people like Blau still stereotype us and assume all our energy is invested in the type of lewd and lascivious behavior contained in her piece. It is easy to stereotype people as drunken misogynists; it is easy to say that because of a few isolated incidents that all fraternities are an embarrassment to MIT. What is difficult is trying to get a more nuanced understanding of fraternities, what is hard is trying to understand what brotherhood means to one-quarter of the MIT population.

Brotherhood is a word that Blau says with a touch of contempt. She assumes that because of a few anecdotal incidents that all fraternities care about is drinking and womanizing and that the brothers' pin that I wear means nothing more than entrance into an exclusive drinking club. But everything that I have seen in my short time at MIT refutes this claim in the actions that my brothers and I engage in everyday. But, I shall try to address at least some of her more outrageous claims.

Blau seems intent on painting a picture of fraternities as morasses of immorality; the kind of places where drinking and womanizing is encouraged above all else. I could point out the numerous examples of community service and civic pride which my house engages in every year, and I could mention all the selfless actions that I have seen my brothers engage in. But, I don't think that is necessary to refute her claim.

I believe that all I have to do is mention two of my best friends in the house; men of the highest moral and intellectual caliber whom I have never heard a bad word spoken of: Matthew S. Duplessie '99 and Seth S. Kessler '99. For any of you who don't know these two individuals, it is certainly your loss. Duplessie is a man that I simply cannot say a bad word about. He is caring, funny, gets along with everybody and is well respected in the house. He chooses not to drink, and yet somehow he manages to get along with the cast of Animal House. Kessler is another one of my best friends in the house. He is probably the hardest worker I have ever met, and also one of the most fun-loving. He has never touched a drop. He also, magically, seems to live in an environment full of the drunken and outrageous behavior Blau so ignorantly assumes is our primary activity.

Blau also seems to think that the alcohol which is ever-present in our systems has dulled our creative side and that the extent of our house character is shown in our choice of house alcohol. She goes on to say, "But at least dormitories can boast some personality. What is the fraternity equivalent of the murals in Senior House? Is it Delta Kappa Epsilon's rush week beer can display?" Although I admit that I haven't personally seen every fraternity house on campus, I can claim that her statement is patently untrue about the house that I live in. When I read that all I could remember was the hours of arduous works my pledge brothers and myself spent in remodeling a room in our house, the wonderfully artistic mural - yes some fraternities do have murals - that decorate many of the rooms in our house, and the many times I have seen brothers laboring to make their rooms distinctive. Are fraternities as bland as Blau seems to think? I only know that the one I am proud to live in is not.

While all of these obvious points hurt me, the greatest injury done was not insinuations of our house social activities or the distinctiveness of our living quarters. What hurt the most is the realization that Blau doesn't understand what brotherhood is all about.

Brotherhood is not, as Blau seems to believe, some sort of euphemism for drinking and wild behavior. Brotherhood cannot be found at the bottom of a keg of Cider Jack. Brotherhood, to me, is the realization that I can rely on 30 people for anything. I can have difficulties in school, and the house will be more than happy to find me a tutor. I can have difficulties with my parents, and I have 30 people ready to comfort me. Life at MIT is hard, and my fraternity provides an unparalleled support system for dealing with our daily stresses. I was really struck by the comment that many of the brothers made to me after I pledged: When they went home for break, they often made the mistake of calling our fraternity house home. After all, doesn't the place that you were reared in have more importance than just a college residence, just another dorm?

But now I understand their feelings, now I understand what it means to call somebody you met only a few months ago brother and have it mean something more than the superficial sentiment Blau seems to assign it. I understand what it means to count on somebody for everything, and have them hold you in the same regard.

I could go on and on about everything that I have learned living in this wonderful place, but what I was really puzzled by was Blau's inability to see an obvious point. If all fraternities were about was the wild behavior she depicted, then why would our alumni association raise over a million dollars to improve our house? Why would brothers choose to stay in the house when the times got rough, instead of leaving for some bar where the beer would be cheaper? What is the brotherhood that can bind a disparate group of 30 guys together?