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Uninformed Column Unfairly Judges Fraternity Life

Guest column by Christopher M. R. Rezek

I seriously disagree with the contention by Stacey E. Blau '98 that fraternities are "one of MIT's most embarrassing sides" ["Hypocritical Fraternities Embarrass MIT," Feb. 25], and I will never be convinced otherwise by someone who has never even taken the time to come and meet us and find out what we are really like.

She has almost no first-hand information about fraternities, yet she criticizes them quite freely. I recognize the importance of secondary sources, but Blau declined to make even a token visit to a frat house or a frat party. Doing that would have given more credibility to her views and even might have changed some of them. I extend an open invitation to Blau to visit our house, during a party or otherwise. Perhaps we will be able to convince her that her ideas are rooted in prejudice and not in fact. If we cannot, at least she will have a better idea of what it is that she is criticizing and have a legitimate basis for doing so.

I'll address the questions in Blau's column:

Is it really true that frat life is about service? The brothers of many fraternities contribute substantial amounts of time to community service, including Links, City Days, the Serv-a-thon, and serving at local soup kitchens.

About brotherhood? Brotherhood is not an empty word used for propaganda; it combines into a single word what my experience has shown fraternities to be about: trust, respect, and cooperation.

Friendships that last a lifetime? While conceding that I do not share that kind of bond with all of my brothers, and that I do share it with people outside this building, there are many brothers whom I plan to be friends with for as long as I live.

Or is it about parties? We have one party a month, as well as various other social functions, including a dinner (once a term) when we invite faculty members to our house to read and listen to literature.

Drinking? Approximately one-third of the brothers of this fraternity choose not to consume alcohol. There are always several members trained to deal with drinking abuse in evidence at our parties, and our social chairs are required to be sober during social functions.

Women? (She called them "sorority chicks") I admit that some of the brothers of this fraternity have (gasp) had sex with women, but there are also homosexual and bisexual brothers, and I have yet to meet anyone who joined solely (or even primarily) because of sex, of any variety.

What about Blau's example of hazing? The pledges were asked to get the signatures of some arbitrary number of girls "on some part of their bodies." Basically, the brothers of Zeta Psi were challenging their pledges (who, like many MIT freshmen, tend not to be social animals) to go up to women and talk to them, and obtain minimal evidence that they had done so. Is this hazing? Definitely not by law, which restricts the term "hazing" to activities that cause substantial harm (mental, physical, or spiritual). This caused no harm to any of the pledges, and I am sure that they (and the vast majority of the women they approached) enjoyed the activity, silly though it was. Blau says herself that "[the pledges] said, beamingly, that it was for their fraternity." Do they sound like they were being hazed? Or like a bunch of guys being encouraged to develop some social skills and self-confidence? Members of fraternities are not interested in amusing ourselves at the expense of our pledges or producing pledges that can parrot cliches about brotherhood; we are interested in helping them improve themselves and discover what brotherhood means to them as individuals.

Fraternities are by no means perfect. Not every brother makes a significant contribution to community service. Brotherhood means different things to different brothers and different fraternities. Some people graduate and never look back. Parties, drinking, and women mean more to some than to others. Some brothers enjoy making life difficult for pledges. But these are the exceptions, not the rule. I speak from my own experience. I know the people that live here.