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Frat Bashing Shows Prejudice, Ignorance

Guest column by Wallace B. Davis

I've never been one to become angry over something that the media presents but turns out to be a self-serving pile of "tripe," to quote the column by Stacey E. Blau '98 ["Hypocritical Fraternities Embarrass MIT," Feb. 25]. I generally ignore it, or laugh at their stupidity, however, one thing that will always inspire my wrath is prejudice and ignorance. I wonder how many students at MIT would approve of Blau if she made sweeping generalizations about an ethnic group, especially the type of unsubstantiated second-hand rhetoric that she insists applies to fraternities.

Students living in fraternities, sororities, and independent living groups account for 30 percent of MIT's student population, the same percentage that Asians make up. I doubt the student body of MIT would be happy if Blau wrote an article accusing an ethnic group of being drunken, over-sexed slobs.

Blau states that she has never been to a fraternity party. Then how, may I ask, can she possibly pretend to know all about what goes on there? Yes, I will admit that drinking does occur at the parties of many fraternities. I have even been to some with the intention of drinking to take my mind off problems that I have had, but I've also been cold sober at the end of parties at which I have had a wonderful time. Contrary to popular belief, you can have a coherent conversation at a party at Sigma Phi Epsilon or any one of the 38 FSILGs.

When it comes to the sexual activity of members of fraternities, Blau, once more, has no clue about what the truth really is. Sure, some guys in fraternities have a lot of sex. So do a lot of the guys in the dorms. It may surprise Blau to learn that many members of fraternities actually seek out monogamous relationships, just like a "normal" MIT student would do. I would even conjecture that there are men in fraternities who, by choice, are still virgins. Blau villainizes Delta Kappa Epsilon for printing a picture of three women in low-cut dresses. I wonder if the guys there really tied the girls up and then put the dresses on them or if the ladies in question wore them because they felt good in them.

Rape is also not a problem in my house or any other that I know of. If anything, rape has the potential to be a bigger problem in the dorms. Dorms don't get shut down and their charters taken away for a mere accusation of rape. Fraternities can. It is for this reason that every brother in a fraternity keeps a watchful eye over his brothers and the women at a party. A fraternity party is probably one of the safest places for a female college student to go to dance, drink if she wishes, and have a good time.

There are sex and drugs and alcohol abuse all over campus and all over Boston. In one article ["Senior House Unhappy with Changes," Oct. 1, 1996], Christopher H. Barron '97, a Senior House resident, was quoted on recent renovations to his dormitory: "It doesn't feel like a place where you can get drunk and puke on a Thursday anymore." Blau even admits that in her article. She says that is not the point. But it is.

She says that fraternities lack the personality of dorms. Honestly, many of the dorms at MIT remind me of prisons or housing projects. In contrast, the room in which I live has murals on three out of four walls, painted by brothers who took pride in their house, and wished to contribute a little of their own personality to it. Fraternity houses reflect upon the personalities of those who live there, and the history of Boston (many houses were built before or immediately after the turn of the century).

Dormitories, however, reflect upon the ideas of an architect, or the creativity of a few students, now long gone, who took the initiative to try to brighten what was, to them, a dreary dorm existence. I'm not saying that fraternities are better than dorms, though I found them to be so, which is why I pledged, but that fraternities do have a personality, given to them by the predominately happy brothers who live there.

Blau says that fraternities "make a pretty grand pretense of being societies of upstanding brotherhood." It is not pretense. I am close to the brothers of my fraternity, whom I have known only six months. I would do anything for my brothers, including give my life to same theirs. I wonder if Blau could ever say that about anyone she has ever known.

Fraternities were founded on, survive through, and will continue to grow because of brotherhood. There are several fraternities that allow any MIT student into their parties, so social life is obviously not the only reason to pledge. Nobody likes having to clean their own house, so I bet that's not it. It is a lot easier to "get laid" if you have a single than if you share a room with one of your closest friends, and there are very few singles in most fraternity houses. So what could it be? Hey, maybe it is for the brotherhood that fraternities provide that so many MIT students elect to live in a fraternity. So, is it any wonder that 30 percent of MIT students live in an FSILG?

I am saddened to see the way of life that I love so dearly be distorted and perverted in the manner of Blau's column. Blau routinely contradicts herself - every "fact" is preceded or followed by qualifiers such as "I've heard" or "seems," and is also guilty of repeatedly skewing or taking out of context most of the quotes found in her article.

When it comes to the Lambda Chi Alpha president falling down the elevator shaft, at least his brothers took care of him, rather than simply not paying attention and walking by like several dorm residents did when an MIT student was badly beaten outside the Cambridgeport Saloon. Fraternities take care of their own, even when someone, through bad judgement has too much to drink and becomes ill. When was the last time that a dorm resident gave that kind of attention to a friend? As for me, the only "vomit trail" I'm leaving is the one leading to the bathroom after reading this inane, useless, and wholly untrue column.