The war on fraternities is one of the longest-running conflicts on campus, and the most active front in that war is the current media campaign against hazing, triggered by the lurid charges of former Dartmouth student Andrew Lohse. In an op-ed in his college newspaper, The Dartmouth, and later in a long Rolling Stone article, “Confessions of an Ivy League Frat Boy,” Lohse described SAE pledges as swimming in a kiddie pool full of fecal matter, vomiting blood after chugging cups of vinegar, and dining on “vomlets” that combined eggs and upchuck–all supposedly part of the SAE hazing ritual.
The Rolling Stone article was a media sensation, but there are
problems with Lohse’s scatological/vomitological catalogue of horrors.
Lack of corroboration, for one. So far, no one else reports seeing the
indignities as he described them. However, 27 SAE members–Lohse
included–were brought up on charges by Dartmouth’s Undergraduate
Judicial Affairs Office.
Continue reading The Politics of Campus Hazing
This past Monday I delivered a speech at the Delta Kappa Epsilon house at Wesleyan University. I had been invited to speak by DKE and another fraternity at Wesleyan, Beta Theta Pi, because I had written an op-ed article in June for the Los Angeles Times titled “War Waged on College Fraternities.” That was the theme of my Wesleyan speech, too. I had expected the audience to consist mostly of “Deke” and Beta brothers plus other members of Wesleyan’s tiny Greek-letter community who felt beleaguered by efforts of university administrators to regulate and restrict their activities, and calls by activists to put fraternities out of business altogether. But my speech had been advertised in the student newspaper. The room where I spoke–the former ballroom, now all-purpose party room, of the worn nineteenth-century mansion that served as DKE’s house–was packed with an overflow crowd of some 75 young people. At least half of them were non-fraternity members, many of whom had never set foot inside a fraternity house. From them I learned something: how thoroughly college students, at least students at elite colleges such as Wesleyan, have absorbed and internalized all of the negative things–especially about fraternities as supposed hotbeds of sexual assault–that professors and administrators have been harping on for at least two decades. There seemed to be a consensus that university authorities weren’t tough enough in clamping down on Greek-letter societies.
Continue reading Politely Demonizing Men at Wesleyan
In his comment on my Sept. 19 essay, “The Feminist War Against Fraternities,” Duke Cheston has abandoned the argument he made in a Sept. 13 essay for the Pope Canter that college fraternities are incubators of rape–and hence should be abolished. Indeed, he quotes with approval from Heather Mac Donald’s “The Campus Rape Myth,” her 2008 article for the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal in which she effectively demolished the assumption–dear to the hearts of feminists–that rape is widespread on college campuses in the first place. Mac Donald dug behind that oft-repeated Women’s Center statistic–that one out of every four college women becomes a rape or attempted-rape victim by the time she reaches age 25–and discovered that it was based on a single faulty study commissioned by Ms. magazine in 1987 whose lead researcher had simply concluded on her own that certain kinds of sexual encounters reported to her by her female informants constituted rape. Some 42 percent of those supposed victims went on to have sex again with their supposed assailants. It goes without saying, then, that there can’t be too many rapes committed by fraternity men–because there aren’t too many rapes (as defined in the criminal legal system) committed by college men, period.
Continue reading A Riposte
The Pope Center’s Duke Cheston has issued what is essentially a call for the abolition of college fraternities, adding a conservative battle cry to a war which hitherto has been largely waged by liberals: feminists, political correctness-besotted campus administrators, and, lately, the Obama administration’s Education Department. In an essay for the Pope Center’s website he wrote: “For the sake of students…colleges should find a way to drastically change fraternity culture–and soon–or get rid of them.” Cheston argues that fraternities, widely regarded as incubuators of binge drinking and–at least in the minds of some feminists (and, apparently Cheston himself)–a campus culture of rape. Citing an incident in which a college friend had shrugged off an alleged rape committed by one of the friend’s fraternity brothers, Cheston wrote: “joining a fraternity had encouraged my friend to think that rape wasn’t that bad.”
Cheston also links to an op-ed article I wrote in June for the Los Angeles Times in which I decried a “scorched-earth war against college fraternities” that I said threatened the freedom of speech and association, not just of members of Greek societies but of all college students. “Left out of Allen’s analysis, however,” Cheston wrote, “is the question of whether or not fraternities are a net positive influence on students.”
Continue reading The Feminist War on Fraternities
By Harvey Silverglate and Kyle Smeallie
The Department of Education is currently investigating Yale University for allegedly maintaining a sexually hostile environment. No one can deny that the New Haven Ivy is in a difficult position. To wit, Yale enacted changes last month to lower the standard of proof in sexual assault cases, and last week, College Dean Mary Miller announced that a fraternity would be banned for five years, a result of an October 2010 incident in which pledges shouted sexually-graphic chants. Yale, by all appearances, is capitulating to federal pressure. It didn’t have to. Here’s how Yale President Richard Levin could have stood tall, on behalf of educators and liberal arts institutions everywhere, in the face of Washington’s unwelcome–and ultimately destructive
Dear Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Russlynn Ali:
Allow me to introduce myself. I am Richard Levin, President of Yale University. I’ve been at the helm of this great institution since 1993, making me currently the longest-tenured president in the Ivy League. As a long-time observer of higher education, and one who has praised its historical autonomy from the public sector, I feel an obligation to express my concern about recent developments from your office.
I’m writing today in response to a Title IX civil rights complaint for gender discrimination that your office has filed against my university, as well as a “Dear Colleague” letter sent by you last month to nearly every college and university,both of which concern the adjudication of sexual harassment allegations in higher education.
Continue reading What Yale’s President Should Have Said about the Frat Boys
Delta Kappa Epsilon–the “Dekes”–whose pledges’ allegedly sexist chant during a hazing ritual at Yale last October so offended campus feminists that the U.S. Department of Education’s civil rights office is now conducting a full-blown investigation of Yale for sexual harassment under Title IX of the federal Civil Rights Act.
They were marched blindfolded through the Old Campus–“No means yes, and yes means anal!” One of the other allegations in the 30-page complaint that triggered
the investigation filed by 16 Yale alumni (12 of them women): a “Preseason Scouting Report” e-mail that some Yalies had circulated rating 53 incoming freshman women according to how many beers it would take to have sex with them. The complaint charged that Yale, by failing to respond sufficiently to such outrages, and by failing to respond sufficiently to a 2007 petition by 150 students in Yale’s medical school accusing professors and fellow students of groping, intimidating, verbally abusing them, and raping them failed to “eliminate a hostile sexual environment.” Should Yale be found in violation of Title IX, which forbids sex discrimination by educational institutions, it stands to lose some $500 million annually in federal funds.
The whole idea of Yale, these days one of the most politically correct institutions of higher learning in America, maintaining a “hostile sexual environment” seems in itself ludicrous. Indeed, although as of Monday Yale administrators said they had not read the alumni complaint, Yale Dean Mary Miller promptly issued a statement and said, “Yale has a deep commitment to gender equity.” Yet there are two very serious and disturbing issues that the Education Department raises. The first is a free-speech issue. Whether or not the Deke pledges’ chant was funny or, boorish and in poor taste it is not surprising that Yale, whose 1975 Woodward Report codifies broad guarantees of freedom of expression on campus, chose not to discipline the fraternity or any of its members merely for saying things that offended other students. Should the Education Department deem Yale’s failure to punish the pledge chants or the “Preseason Scouting” e-mails a violation of civil rights laws, it will effectively impose a draconian federal speech code upon not only Yale, but all college campuses. Students will have to watch what they say and fear what they write lest some protected group seek severe disciplinary reprisals.
Continue reading The Coming War on Fraternities
The academic gender wars are back in the news, with the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights announcing an investigation into a Title IX complaint against Yale University. Sixteen current and former Yale students claim that the university discriminates against women by allowing a sexually hostile environment to flourish. Is there really a problem with the sexual climate at Yale? And if so, is it much more of a two-way street than the complainants allege?
An evaluation of the charges is complicated by the fact that the specifics have not been publicly released. Some details, however, can be gleaned from the complainants’ statements as well as a Huffington Post article by Yale research fellow Claire Gordon, a former director of the Yale Women’s Center who declined to co-sign the complaint but summarized the draft.
Gordon paints a shocking picture of virulent misogyny: fraternity pledges shouting chants that celebrate rape and necrophilia; pledges from another frat chanting “Dick, dick, dick” outside the Women’s Center — so intimidating a female staffer that she had to go in through the back door — and having themselves photographed with a sign that reads “We love Yale sluts”; an email circulated among athletes and fraternity members rating 53 female freshmen on how many beers a man would need to drink to have sex with them. All this outrageous behavior, Gordon and the complainants assert, is treated as little more than boys-will-be-boys hijinks.
Continue reading The Yale Sex Harassment Controversy
Regulars at FIRE’s must-read blog, The Torch, already know the ugly details of events at California-San Diego. A fraternity held an off-campus party that was at best tasteless and at worst racist. Appearing on a student-run TV station (which is funded by the student government through student fees), a student satirical organization defended the party in language, The Torch drily noted, “that many persons on campus found highly offensive.”
The university response, however, was nothing short of extraordinary. UCSD president Marye Anne Fox—acting under pressure from various California state legislators—has threatened disciplinary actions against the students involved in planning the party. (That Fox’s administration has elected to use a judicial code that was modified because its overly broad nature appears not to have worried the UCSD powers that be.) Even more incredibly, the student government president—working in concert with the university’s counsel and other university administrators—has frozen funding to all student media organizations. This assault on the First Amendment drew public rebuke from both FIRE and the ACLU, but appears not to have troubled either Fox or her defenders.
The general outlines of the UCSD case should come as little surprise to close observers of contemporary higher education. Regardless of how offensive the student conduct was (and, in this case, it was pretty offensive), the abusive reaction of those with power at the university is far, far more troubling. In the name of promoting “diversity,” Fox and her administration seem intent on massively violating due process for her own institution’s students and ignoring the requirements that the First Amendment imposes on any public college or university.
Saturday, the New York Times brought its attention to events at the San Diego campus. The First Amendment issue received one sentence in reporter Randal Archibold’s article: “The student association has suspended financing to all campus media while it studies what to do about the program about the party.” The article ignored the protests against this draconian action. Likewise the Times saw fit to gloss over the civil liberties angle, blandly observing, “The administration is still investigating the Compton Cookout, and whether students can or should be sanctioned.”
Continue reading The Times Does San Diego
A few weeks ago, the Delta Phi fraternity at Hamilton College distributed on campus fliers welcoming students to attend “the 53rd annual Mexican Night” party. The invitation, which was intended to be symbolic of spring-break excursions to Cancun and other vacation spots south of the border, contained the image of a Trojan Horse in the shape of a Mexican pinata towering over an armed guard in front of a stout U. S. border fence. The words “Proper Documentation Required,” a spoof of the usual language for proper identification at parties that serve alcohol, ran to the left of the image. In a flash, student activists and their faculty allies had mobilized in ginned-up outrage to protest this latest alleged example of institutionalized racism and to demand action by the administration and trustees on a laundry list of particulars that includes a speech code (masked as a “social honor code”), mandatory diversity courses, and the establishment of a multi-million dollar cultural education center to provide “safe spaces” for aggrieved student groups. Administrators competed with each other to see how artistically they could grovel to protesting students. Acting President Joseph Urgo and the college’s “diversity ombudsman” called the fraternity to account and pressured its leaders to cancel the party. In an all-campus email, Urgo claimed to have extracted from the contrite fraternity leadership an expansive confession that the image not only “hurt and offended many members of the Hamilton community,” but that it “trivializes a contemporary political crisis and reduces the complex history and culture of Mexico to a simple stereotype.”
Urgo and other administrators then joined protesting faculty and protesting students in holding a candlelight vigil. Speeches, poetry, and spiritual songs of the Kumbaya variety expressed feelings of solidarity with the disrespected, vulnerable, and marginalized on campus and around the world. Fraternity leaders rained apologies from all directions to no avail. The dean of students, standing in like a kind of sacrificial lamb, bleated enough mea culpas to elicit God’s forgiveness of a rash of mortal sins. Unforgiving students, however, led by a group called the Social Justice Initiative, followed by commandeering another faculty meeting. Looking anything but vulnerable and threatened, they seized the microphone and threateningly wagged the finger of blame at college officials for their “lack of response” and “lack of action” to the fraternity’s benightedness. Dozens of sympathetic faculty, including leaders of the Diversity and Social Justice Project, signed on to a proposed resolution that would signal to posterity “Our profound appreciation and affection… for our international students and students of color who may have felt marginalized by recent events on campus.” The faculty eventually passed overwhelmingly a resolution that supported the creation of a cultural education center on campus, that urged—Hamilton College’s recently imposed open curriculum notwithstanding—mandatory “educational and programmatic initiatives” to intensify diversity training, and that directed administrators to expand the powers of existing harassment and grievance boards to “raise critical awareness of different forms of harassment.” Stay tuned, for the full extent of the concessions by the guilt-stricken have yet to be determined.
Continue reading War Over A Trojan Horse
Princeton is taking a cue from fraternity practice and indentured servitude in urging freshmen to become “thesis buddies” for seniors – essentially, asking them to perform work for them. Princeton Seniors face a considerable thesis requirement, and Whitman, the new residential college, has come up with a convenient solution to their potential labor troubles: impress the freshmen into service. This isn’t theoretical, they’re talking about labor, specifically – Ivygate printed the email announcing the program. Here are some choice bits:
Each participating Whitman senior will be assigned 2 underclassmen who will be “on call” during the final thesis push. If you are working away in your room and feel like you need a midnight snack all you have to do is contact your thesis buddy and he/she will bring you a hot dog and a red bull or whatever else you need to burn the midnight oil.
Obviously, the idea isn’t to take advantage of your buddy, but to have him or her help out in a pinch. Other examples of acceptable duties include: taking care of a load of laundry, picking up/dropping off some library books, or proofreading a chapter for typos. Unacceptable duties would include: attending a class in your stead, cleaning your room, doing your homework, or getting your thesis bound.
How do you sign up?
How do you sign up, indeed! Princeton – bringing Tom Brown and Roald Dahl’s schooldays to an American College near you – for $44,200 a year.