My article last week on the Total Frat Move website was the most read in thefraternityadvisor.com’s two years. It received a wide range of comments, and David Stollman, co-founder of Campuspeak, offered his opinion on one of them. It is very insightful and gives a needed perspective on fraternal values. Thank you David.
You take the site (Total Frat Move) way too seriously. If you don’t like it then don’t visit it. I bet you’re a balanced man chapter advisor too. You see, the great thing about this country is the freedom we have to say what we want and do what we want. People like you who try to impose their views on others should leave this country. Hazing, partying, hooking up with girls, etc, happen but no one takes the site as seriously as you do. Opinions are like a man’s private part. It’s cool that you have your own opinion, but once you start whipping it out and putting it in our face it becomes stupid. Chug bleach sir.
Adam is right. Sort of. First, I agree that Freedom of Speech is a wonderful thing. Saying and doing what we want within the law is amazing. Among even more important things, it allows fraternities to exist and grow. I suggest readers do a little research sometime and learn more about how the First Amendment specifically applies to fraternities. Here are some good article to get you started. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/greg-lukianoff/fraternities-and-free-spe_b_912673.html & http://thefire.org/article/7292.html) To summarize we must stand for something of value to society not just in word, but deed to retain the “selectivity” rights we claim.
For example, something that I’m sure TFM fans would care about is that standing for something more than “social” is what allows us to retain our single sex status. We have an exemption to Title IX (of the Federal Educational Amendment of 1972) which would otherwise require us to allow women to be full members. Incidentally, little sister programs like those existing frequently in the South are the single biggest threat to a fraternity remaining male only. Also something many TFM’ers fail to realize.
Back to the question of standing for something. Adam could create an exclusive fraternity for almost any purpose he wants as it is more than just “social.” Some purposes would be prohibited though. One exception would be hazing which in most states is specifically illegal. (And, in the other states the hazing practices that he would likely want to promote are each listed as illegal but called something else: assault, kidnapping, torture, etc.). He can recruit others in the very legal endeavor of promoting his values within his campus community. This is true even if we don’t like his values. Just as the Klan, or any group can so long as they don’t promote, or specifically engage in illegal activity. It would be like Adam decided to start a NAMBLA chapter at his college. Most of us wouldn’t agree with what they stand for – but as long as he doesn’t cross the line into illegal, he has every legal right to do it. (That is so long as he isn’t breaking any university policies or conduct codes which he likely would be. But the increasing limits on the freedom of association on colleges today is a different topic.)
But, here is the problem. The live and let live attitude he wants doesn’t work for the simple fact that Adam isn’t creating a NEW fraternity with which he get’s to choose the stated purpose. He JOINED one that already exists and he is looking to CHANGE what that fraternity is about. (Or, possibly joined a chapter that changed before he got there.) He joined a franchise of a national or international organization whose principles and stated values were established long before he was alive. That fraternity was welcomed to his campus based on those values. (Also, possibly before he was alive.) For example my fraternity Sigma Phi Epsilon is about Virtue, Diligence, and Brotherly Love. If I don’t want to be in a fraternity about those things I can quit and start my own fraternity. I can’t CHANGE what Sig Ep is about and make it about Natty Light, Heroine, and Sex. (Unless done through our national convention. Can you IMAGINE the discussion on THAT vote?!) Fraternities are a franchise just like Holiday Inn, or McDonalds and doesn’t get to decide what they are about once they join the company.
Picture it. A mall rents a storefront to a McDonalds franchise. For years they sell burgers and all is well. One year a new manager, let’s call him… Adam takes over and finds there is a lot of profit in porn. Next to the cash register he places some magazines. Then some videos. He even inserts DVDs into the Happy Meals making some call them REALLY Happy Meals. Soon, more and more videos are there and fewer and fewer burgers. The management of the mall warns them that their lease will not be renewed if things don’t change back. They don’t, and the store is closed. Adam calls a press conference and yells at the management for infringing upon his First Amendment rights! “This is an outrage! If people are offended by our material they don’t have to walk into our store!”
Pretty out there huh? Yeah. A McDonalds would never allow a franchise to stray so far from what they are supposed to be about. Outrageous to think that someone could blame the mall’s management for deciding what stores they want. In our country Universities have the ability to decide what student organizations they recognize. Public ones have less freedom to decide than private ones. Just like local zoning laws would allow for the porn store in some places but restrict it in others. Private colleges, just like privately owned malls can just say no thanks.
TFM’ers prove that our national fraternities have a lot of quality control problems because what is found on campuses isn’t always what they say their franchises are supposed to be.
Are there some funny things on there? Certainly. But, by and large what I have found are things that are the epitome of what is WRONG with fraternities today and what will end the invitation to remain on the American college campus. More private colleges are just saying no thanks, and public ones are pushing the limits of control as far as they can. Does TFM have a legal right to exist? Sure. But let’s be clear – that isn’t the question here. We are simply talking about whether it is good for fraternities or not.
I’m all for a good party. But, when it becomes what you stand for and call it your “purpose” rather than just allowing a social life to be one of many “benefits” you provide, you aren’t a fraternity anymore. You are a bar. And, if that is what you want to be, Great! Go ahead and be that. Get your house re-zoned and get a liquor license. Have a great time and drink a beer for me. Just stop saying you’re a fraternity.
What Adam doesn’t understand is that opinionated people like me aren’t trying to stick OUR values in his face. Adam, we are putting YOUR fraternity’s values in your face, and… we’re calling you a hypocrite. I’m willing to bet that what your chapter really values, or what you want it to value, is contrary to the actual oath you swore. Yes, that oath you swore at initiation means something. It would be like enlisting in the Army, swearing an oath to follow the orders of your superior officers but then thinking you get to choose which orders to follow based on your personal desires. You tell me what fraternity you call your own, and I’ll find a brother who actually knows its real purpose from YOUR OWN ritual. They can tell you it isn’t about hazing, partying and hooking up with girls. I dare you to come out of the shadows and take my challenge. Tell us all your school and fraternity. OWN your beliefs and stand up like a man for them. Honest people can disagree. I disagree with what you say your fraternity is supposed to be. OR, maybe I’m misunderstanding what you say your fraternity should be. Either way, prove me wrong.
Just like Adam, we all have a choice to either to believe that fraternity really IS what they portray through the media & sites like TFM – and think that is OK. Or, we can evaluate what fraternity SHOULD be about even if all chapter aren’t yet there. If we decided it should be about more than the stereotype, we can’t accept members of our chapters trying to live up to that image and in doing so change what we are. It seems like many TFM’ers want to fight for some embattled right to hold unpopular opinions just because we dislike liberal politics, conformity, or political correctness, or whatever establishment they deem oppressive. I can understand that desire. But those things can be fought elsewhere. Leave fraternities alone.
Unfortunately, I am betting that instead of an informed, intelligent debate about the true purpose of fraternity, Adam and his TFM friends will take the impotent approach of bashing me (even more) from a cowardly little hole.
First off, I would like to apologize for the chug bleach remark. While that is how I truly felt, a gentleman must conduct himself better when dealing with another gentleman (I had also had a little too much whiskey). I am glad that we both agree with the importance of the First Amendment; the belief that men can stand up against each other and disagree is what makes America the greatest country in the world. You are also right on the social aspect, and especially regarding little sisters and Fraternities. The Greek Life Office of the university where I finished my bachelor’s degree promoted “big” and “little” sisters for Fraternity men. That social construct almost single-handedly tore the Greek system apart. The guys that used that social tool were guys that didn’t have the social capabilities to talk to girls on their own. So when an 18 year old freshman girl would just get through her pledge process a guy (usually a junior or a senior) would give her a jersey with her letters, in his Fraternity’s colors, and in essence brainwash her into only hanging out with him and his brothers. The guys would usually bad-mouth other Fraternities to their “little sisters” and try to sleep with them. Needless to say it brought more gossip and drama to the Greek community then almost anything else.
Personally, I am not a fan of you student “developers.” From my analysis many of these “enlightened” men were marginalized from the mainstream guys in their Fraternity during their undergraduate experience. While the “studs” of their Fraternity went on to do big things and make significant moves in the corporate world, the student developers decided to stay around the college and be a “role model” to young men joining their Fraternity. It’s kind of like the kids that graduated high school and stayed /working there instead of going to college. Many of you stayed around to turn the Fraternity into what you always thought it should be, but is it what the founding fathers wanted?
Many of these student developers majored in things like “higher education,” and their world is full of very liberal and idealistic theories that sound so good on paper, but when applied in the real world create a culture of entitlement and a false sense of self-importance. Why is this a bad thing? Well it’s hard for many of you to understand, many of you guys have your hearts in the right place, but remember that you’re already established and have paid your dues. So when you only bring your “enlightened” opinions to the table, you are not preparing these young men for the real world.
And that real world… let me tell you, it sucks right now and it’s only getting worse. Young men now need to be prepared for it, because it’s only going to get harder in their lifetimes. The economy will get worse before it gets better; we won’t have social security and we will eventually be burdened with significantly higher taxes (we can’t borrow from China forever), there will be more wars, and competition in the job market will be the most cut-throat it has ever been (thanks to how colleges just give away Political Science degrees). To add onto that, there are a few hundred million young people in Asia who have higher grades then us in math, science, and even speak and write in English better than the average American. We are in for some hard times. Also, I could point out to a plethora of studies and statistics that show that students with 2-year technical degrees are making more than university graduates, while accumulating almost zero debt in the process. Universities and Fraternities that were once elite bastions of success are now watering down their exclusiveness.
What confuses me the most about you student developers and over-analyzing psychologists, is that the more of you that surface, the more problems we have. Our population grows dumber as “higher education” degrees are being given out more now, than ever in history. Students are having more and more problems, and you guys always find a way of fixing it by labeling it some new and creative name that you “coined” and giving the student an idealistic way of fixing it. You all do students a disservice, because instead of treating them like men, you pamper them and tell them everything will be nice and easy. In essence, your type has helped usher in the “Participation Trophy Generation.” I believe in tough love, and that is my right. The REAL WORLD does not care about any issues and all that future bosses care about the bottom line, not about how sensitive and understanding they can be to their subordinates.
Character Building is NOT Hazing
Let us also make one thing straight though, I am NOT a fan of hazing. What is “hazing” these days though? Your type considers scavenger hunts, forced dress/memorization, push-ups, bows & tows, and blindfolding to be “hazing.” I would have to disagree with you. What I consider to be hazing and highly inappropriate is making pledges do things that you would never do, things such as, but not limited to: forced binge drinking, sex acts, crimes, etc. In my pledge process I was broken down, but built back up, and the most important thing I learned in the process was to lose my pride and realize that I am nothing significant to this world.
You see, when an 18-year-old kid comes into college he most likely is on cloud nine with his pride and arrogance shooting through the roof. The purpose of his pledge process should be to break him down and show him there is a hierarchy, an order, and that he must pay his dues and respect the people that came before him. I was taught this, I was broken down, and I was built back up in a way where I lost all my pride and understood that at the beginning of any life endeavor I take, I will always be a pledge.
Losing the Pride
The first internship I had as an undergraduate was for a Unified Combatant Command that reported directly to the Department of Defense. I had a Top Secret Security Clearance, and got to engage in national security matters that most people couldn’t even fathom. Many students who got internships such as this thought they had reached “self-actualization,” but because of my pledge process I knew that I would have to pay my dues once again. I was once again a pledge, and for the first few months it was worse then my actual pledgeship, but thankfully I did what was asked with no hesitation and outperformed my peers. The internship resulted in many job offers and national fellowships in National Security Studies.
As a Graduate student I have been paid to go to an institution that is one of the best in the nation. This is because as a pledge I was taught that I’m not shit, and that respect must be earned and I must sacrifice to earn it. It’s funny that you mentioned about enlisting in the Army, because I did that in August. In a few months I will be taking a job with the United States Army, and once again I will be a pledge. You may think a young man with a Masters degree would be going in as an officer, wrong. I will be going in enlisted 18X (Special Forces Recruit), because to be a great soldier I must be a great pledge, and when one goes in enlisted, he is a pledge. Will it suck? Yes. Will I be a better soldier and leader because of it? YES. It’s not about the money or seniority, it’s about being the best, and to do that one must experience hell. Pride must be checked at the door.
Only God Has The Right To Judge
Quit finding somewhere or something to blame and put the blame on the idiot committing the act. On the website Total Frat Move there are stupid posts regarding hazing and drugs, but it’s just humorous “guy talk.” No one sees something on the site and does it just to be cool. You pointing the finger at Total Frat Move is similar to what many people did with the music artists Eminem and Marilyn Manson after the Columbine massacre. Instead of disciplining the idiots involved, you point the finger and judge someone else for the deficiencies of the idiots who messed up. Fraternity men across the nation did stupid things before the Internet existed, and if Total Frat Move were to shut down tomorrow there would continue to be idiots that make stupid decisions. It’s “guy talk,” and any real man knows it’s nothing more than satire.
If you’re a Fraternal gentleman, then I’m quite positive your ritual in some way, shape, or form has something Biblical tied into it. So you should know that to judge others goes against the Bible. I urge you to look at Twitter accounts such as “Elevator Talk at Goldman Sachs.” Those men practically run world economies, but they still push the envelope with their “guy talk.” Me, I drink a couple times a month and I DON’T care about “slampieces” or drugs, but when guys get around each other we push the envelope with our rhetoric, and if you never have then I question your sexuality. My friends who frequent the site are very intelligent and successful men who have their heads on straight, but they check out the site every once in a while to unwind and get a good laugh.
If you look at professional sports such as the NFL, you will see rookies getting “hazed” (and these rookies are millionaires’). I pray every day that you “enlightened” student developers never set your sights and opinions on the U.S. military, because they really “haze.” If my Sergeants go easy on me they will be doing me a disservice and I may lose my life because of it when I’m on the battlefield. The best companies, organizations, teams, etc all “haze” and make you pay your dues, many times worse than pledgeship. So by treating college men as precious puppies you are only setting them up for a very rude awakening.
RELAX and Confront the Real Problem
Take a deep breath and realize that overcoming stereotypes will make us better men. Fraternity men will be stereotyped negatively as long as we remain exclusive and our rituals remain secret. There is nothing wrong with being stereotyped. On almost every occasion once people get to know me I change their perception and they lose that stereotype they once had. After college we are all equal anyways, but we hope that what we learned in our pledgeship and Fraternal experience gave us the tools to climb the ladder more quickly and maneuver swiftly through hardships and problems. A Fraternity gentleman will be stereotyped by the ignorant no matter how nice he is and how much community service or philanthropy his Fraternity did. To point the finger at others is the most dangerous thing one can do, but if you really want to point your finger at a problem (this will come as a shock) then point at the National Headquarters of many Fraternities.
In my analysis, National Fraternity headquarters are becoming the biggest threat to the superiority and sanctity of Fraternities everywhere. They are putting chapters at every school they can and are pushing their chapters to grow as large as possible. Why? Well for more money of course. I love capitalism, but our respective national HQs should not. By aggressively expanding and promoting awards such as “100+ man Chapter” awards, they are watering down the experience every member has. It shouldn’t be about quantity, it should be about quality. That is where the main problem lies. Instead of having solid chapters around 50-60 men that can be properly molded and taught, the norm is quickly becoming 100-200 men chapters that almost mimic gangs with no direction, meaning, or sense of true brotherhood.
So in conclusion David, I think we both believe what a Fraternity should be, we just have different methods of getting there. Myself, along with many of my “TFM friends” idolize the men who came before us and built empires out of nothing. We idolize our fathers who fought in Vietnam, our grandfathers who fought in World War II, and all the men that built this great country with nothing more than ambition. Have you stopped to think that many of the guys who get on Total Frat Move do so just to vent? I love laughing at the site, but when I was Vice President of my Fraternity we had the highest philanthropy and community service numbers in our history. All I want is for Fraternities to have that prestige and superiority they once had before they became a mainstream product. We just have different ways of getting there. Outsiders or “GDIs” as the TFM site-goers would call them will always dislike us. Why? Because they didn’t get a bid or they didn’t have the money for dues. Remember, no one regrets going Greek, but there are many people in this world who look back and regret NOT going Greek. With success comes hatred from the masses. Want an example? Look no further than Tim Tebow.