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Debate: Should colleges ban fraternities?

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Background and context

Arguments

Pro

  • College fraternities are based on exclusion. "Schools Are Culpable." The New York Times. May 6th, 2011: "College fraternities are built on exclusion. For nearly 200 years fraternities have been exclusive organizations for men who want to spend time with others like themselves: usually straight white men. Men in these organizations have identified with what sets them apart from those they exclude, their manhood. Fraternal masculinity has, for at least 80 years, valorized athletics, alcohol abuse and sex with women, while disdaining intellectual inquiry for its own sake (colleges’ ostensible purpose)."
Elizabeth Armstrong, an associate professor of sociology and organizational studies at the University of Michigan. "How Fraternities Dominate." The New York Times. May 6th, 2011: "In addition to their negative effect on gender relations and sexual climate, fraternities are frequently exclusive on the basis of class, race, sexual orientation and national origin."
  • Most fraternities are openly hostile toward women. "Schools Are Culpable." The New York Times. May 6th, 2011: "In the 20th century some fraternities became quite organized in their hostility toward women, with protests against coeducation, and coordinated ostracism of the first classes of female students; one 1960s California fraternity sponsored “Hate Women Week” on campus. [...] Do all fraternity men behave this way? Of course not. But have fraternity men, as a group, been the most organized and vocal in creating a hostile climate for female students on campuses? The historical record says yes."
  • Fraternities organized around sexual exploitation of women. "Schools Are Culpable." The New York Times. May 6th, 2011: "By the 1980s, a number of studies have shown that there was a widespread movement among fraternities toward alcohol-fueled sexual aggression and assault, whereby victimized women are understood as vehicles for men¹s pleasure and bonding. While statistics on the incidence of sexual assault are notoriously unreliable, over the past 30 years psychologists, anthropologists, sociologists and educators have continued to document alarming trends in pressure to have sex among fraternity men, coerce it from unwilling women through the use of alcohol, and report about it afterward to the assembled brotherhood. While statistics on the incidence of sexual assault are notoriously unreliable, over the past 30 years psychologists, anthropologists, sociologists and educators have continued to document alarming trends in pressure to have sex among fraternity men, coerce it from unwilling women through the use of alcohol, and report about it afterward to the assembled brotherhood."
  • Colleges culpable if they allow misogynous fraternities. "Schools Are Culpable." The New York Times. May 6th, 2011: "if colleges support organizations promoting these attitudes, they tacitly condone them as well, encouraging men to believe there is a place for such beliefs on campus. The colleges themselves are thus culpable, which is precisely the point of the suit lodged against Yale."
  • Frats control supply of alcohol to minors and social scene. Elizabeth Armstrong, an associate professor of sociology and organizational studies at the University of Michigan. "How Fraternities Dominate." The New York Times. May 6th, 2011: "While concerns about legal liability have led colleges and universities to vigilantly police alcohol consumption and public intoxication in university-owned housing, fraternities have mostly been spared such scrutiny. As a result, these organizations often monopolize the supply of alcohol to under-aged students. Fraternity dominance of the social scene of many campuses heightens risks for young women. As party hosts, fraternity men often control the space — establishing party themes that encourage women to wear provocative clothing, making and distributing the drinks, controlling the door, and sometimes even preventing women from leaving."
  • Fraternity membership can boost academic pay and salaries. Jeffrey DeSimone. "The Role of Drinking." The New York Times. May 6th, 2011: "fraternities might actually convey benefits on members and even their host institutions. While fraternity membership has been associated with cheating on exams and poor academic performance, other evidence suggests that fraternity members declare majors earlier, obtain higher-paying entry-level jobs and donate more to their alma maters. Anecdotally, simply requiring a higher G.P.A. to permit membership than simply to remain academically eligible might boost school performance among current and would-be fraternity members."

Con

  • Banning fraternities won't end masculine domineering. Charles Eberly. "Unfairly Singled Out." New York Times Room for Debate. May 5, 2011: "The hegemonic masculinity widely reflected in current American society and embedded in contemporary undergraduate men, including many who are members of college fraternities, was thoroughly examined in 'Guyland,' a 2008 book by Michael Kimmel. Banning college fraternities will not eliminate the underlying hegemonic masculinity in American society, nor will banning fraternities end college student sexual assaults."
  • Most opponents were never actually in fraternities. Charles Eberly. "Unfairly Singled Out." New York Times Room for Debate. May 5, 2011: "Much of the research on the college fraternity is conducted by people who are not members of the organizations. Fraternity proponents can demonstrate with solid empirical evidence that the positive outcomes of the fraternity experience far outweigh the sensational, negative incidents that get notice in the media. Some researchers are in the process of doing just that."
  • Frats need faculty mentors, not ban. Charles Eberly. "Unfairly Singled Out." New York Times Room for Debate. May 5, 2011: "As for the role of the drinking culture on college campuses, it is far more complex than just addressing that segment associated with fraternity membership. Severely regulating fraternity member group or individual behavior, or members of other student organizations, is a knee-jerk response to a much bigger issue that faculty members face on American campuses. Faculty members are not rewarded for working with students outside the classroom, and those who do are discouraged by their department chairs. As one vice president of academic affairs once told me, "If I were advising a young faculty member about using his time advising a student group, I would tell him the time he spent with the group could have been better spent researching and preparing another article for publication." Few campus fraternity chapters have faculty members as advisers. Until students have role models among the faculty who are willing to walk with the students on their turf, wrestle with the personal issues students face outside the classroom as they mature, and come back week after week to support them, very little will change."
  • Controversy hides all the good coming from frats. Charles Eberly. "Unfairly Singled Out." New York Times Room for Debate. May 5, 2011: "negative consequences surrounding the actions of fraternity and sorority members seem to be highlighted with far greater frequency than the positive outcomes associated with membership. Typical of the latter are examples from a fraternity chapter I counsel at Eastern Illinois University. One member who is graduating with a master's in school counseling developed a program on healthy men's development that is presented to all new members of the college's fraternity system each year, and another brother created a charity to support a local children's advocacy center. Yet a third is running marathons in all 50 states to support suicide prevention in memory of a brother who committed suicide in 2008. The chapter is planning a fund raising drive to construct a wishing well on campus in coordination with another fraternity chapter that lost brothers in a bus accident, with the contributions going to the children’s advocacy center."
  • Effects of alcohol use similar on frat and non-frat members. Jeffrey DeSimone. "The Role of Drinking." The New York Times. May 6th, 2011: "My research shows that fraternity membership does indeed contribute to increased binge and frequent drinking and intoxication, including consequences such as hangovers, forgetting or regretting actions, missing classes and arguing with friends. Why banning fraternities might do more harm than good. However, for most types and effects of alcohol use, only a small fraction of the gap between fraternity members and non-members is actually caused by fraternity membership. Specifically, for most drinking behavior, only 10 to 20 percent of the difference between members and non-members is plausibly attributable to being in a fraternity. Most of these differences, therefore, would persist even in the absence of fraternities, to which many pledges are attracted precisely because members engage in alcohol-related behavior in which pledges already participate."
  • Banning frats would not solve main problem of binge drinking. Jeffrey DeSimone. "The Role of Drinking." The New York Times. May 6th, 2011: "although fraternities should not be protected from societal, campus or their own rules, eliminating fraternities altogether would reduce negative consequences of drinking by a substantially smaller amount than proponents might hope, and would potentially be harmful in some respects."
  • Bad behavior common among non-fraternity members too. Georgianna Martin. "Ethics 101 for New Members." New York Times Room for Debate. May 6th, 2011: "There was no excuse for the lewd, disrespectful and offensive behavior exhibited by members of the Delta Kappa Epsilon Fraternity at Yale, nor is there an excuse for any aggressive, violent or harassing behavior perpetrated by a fraternity member or any individual toward another. However, to presume that non-fraternity members are immune from such behavior is misleading. In the recent article in The Wall Street Journal, the writer Caitlin Flanagan posed and answered a question, 'Can the mere presence of slur-chanting fraternity men really create an environment that robs young women of equal opportunity to education? Yes, it can.' I agree with her. But football players, all-male floors in a college residence hall, and male fans or spectators at any college recreational event can and do exhibit the same behavior. Focusing on the removal of fraternities from university campuses fails to address the root of the issue -- that sexism persists and is part of the fabric of university campus cultures."

Pro/con sources

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Con

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