Entering Binghamton University as a freshman, it came as no surprise that I was bombarded with promises of having the best time of my life, eternal friendship and the possibility to be part of “something real.” Obviously, these offers were intriguing. It was not until I saw many of my friends more stressed with pledge work than actual schoolwork that I started debating what it means to be in a fraternity.
Eventually, all these groups bestowed the same rehearsed sales pitch saying, “I’m going to be real with you bro, once you’re a brother with us, you’re a brother for life.” The mere price of such benevolent brotherhood is only one’s pride and dignity. Though they claim to care about honorable traits such as unity, tradition and true friendship, most fraternities in our generation are more concerned with which group can throw the best parties and which group can get the hottest or the most girls. A “brother’s” worth and glory are only defined by the amount of liquor he can consume and his blood alcohol content, instead of his character.
Freshman year is composed of stress, anxiety, uncertainty and the first glimpse of what it’s like to be on our own. Therefore, many freshmen pups look for a quick fix and shortcut to become the big boss dog on campus. However, putting ourselves out there socially for the public to judge can be more frightening than any exam. Consequently, cool upperclassmen decorated in Greek letters and armed with Frisbees seem to present the solution to making friends without having to do it on our own.
Fraternities thus become the disguise that students use to recreate themselves into what they presume is a better and more socially acceptable person in order to escape the loneliness of being a new person in a new place far away from home.
While pledging is not necessarily a bad way to make friends, the unnecessary, unsafe and repugnant trials and tasks that pledges must endure in the initiation process should be condemned. Hazing will not train or mold you into a gladiator. Pledging and hazing will only entertain a power fetish for those whom you wish to call your brothers. Making friends and creating eternal bonds come not from abuse and embarrassment but from trust and compassion. It takes time and patience, but it’s certainly better than having to scrub floors by hand and kiss feet.
Indeed the primary reason students join fraternities is because they want to have fun. Still, it’s no secret here at BU that the frat parties are lacking in their fun aptitude. The music is so loud no one can hear each other talk, and the houses are so crowded and hot that by the end of the night you’ve got to go home and shower just from sweating. Furthermore, if you’re not in the fraternity and you possess male genitalia, you will always have to pay to get in. If you were thinking of getting a beverage, you’ll have to spontaneously grow breasts and long hair. Hence, in many cases, the only use a fraternity can serve is in teaching a pledge to sufficiently hand wash floors and kiss feet while responding to the alias of mule or pet.
Some might argue that fraternities help you find beneficial connections in the professional world. Certainly there are pre-professional fraternities that lend credibility to this argument. Although I am only a freshman and have little insight into the operations of the workforce, I can only presume that receiving good grades, getting involved in extracurricular activities, like clubs and student government, and perhaps even finding a job while in school will also help. Drinking with your friends and partying till the sun comes up, in contrast, won’t land you in an office on Wall Street overlooking the New York City skyline.
Please do not mistake this as an attempt to discredit all the good that fraternities do through charity work and for the school as a whole. Nor am I trying to categorize all fraternities as one in the same or assert that the friendships made in fraternities are not genuine. I am simply suggesting that many people join fraternities for the wrong reasons. Many of the fraternities I have been to revealed their pledge process and made it clear that redundant hazing is not their way or intent. Instead they utilize creative character-building challenges that allow you to bond naturally with your fellow pledges and can only be described as the most fun thing you will never want to do again, but will be glad you did. This is the direction in which all frats should strive to go.
In the end, if a fraternity is the right choice for you, by all means go for it — just make sure you are doing it for the right reasons. Fraternities can’t magically get you laid, make you sprout muscles or buy you friends, but some of them can surely make your college experience worthwhile. And please, if you are accepted, implore your newfound family to reduce the price for males entering their parties and to stop discriminating with the refreshments.