The oldest fraternity is believed to be the Phi Beta Kappa Society, which was founded at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, in 1776. The first American fraternity came into being for literary and social purposes, ostensibly designed to promote fellowship, but it soon became better known for the high-jinks of its members. Fraternities mushroomed over the years, much to the distaste of college authorities, who disliked both their secretive nature and the behavior of their members. Now there are 74 fraternities in the US, with approximately 5,500 chapters and more than 350,000 undergraduate members.
Fraternity mission statements talk about leadership, philanthropy, community service, character and brotherhood, but if you ask the average student what the word ‘frat’ means, their answer is usually drinking. Greek organizations foster a culture of drinking on campus. Their members not only drink in higher quantities, they do so much more frequently, thereby setting a norm for heavy drinking. Fraternities have long-been known for their boisterous excesses, but there has a been call for a re-evaluation of the whole fraternity system after members at one university posted nude photographs of an unconscious woman online and others were recorded taking part in racist chanting. Then there is Timothy Piazza, 19, of Readington Township, N.J., who died after being fed 18 alcoholic drinks in less than 90 minutes at a Penn State Beta Theta Pi fraternity, after stumbling and severely injuring himself.
Tim Piazza a sophomore spent the early-morning hours of February 3, 2017 curled up in pain, clutching his head and trying to stand. He was forced to drink a toxic amount of alcohol in an alleged hazing ritual known as ‘the gauntlet’, according to a grand jury report. He then tumbled headfirst down a flight of stairs. A total of 27 defendants, including the 26 fraternity members and the Beta Theta Pi chapter itself are now facing charges in his death, and the fraternity has since been banned by the university. Since the Timothy Piazza hazing, at least three other fraternity pledges have died at campuses across the country. Hazing or alcohol abuse is suspected to have played a factor in each of them.
Student safety is not being made a priority as this disturbingly persistent pattern of fraternity misconduct continues leading to assaults injuries and deaths. When the foolish stupidness of hazing ends up being murder, manslaughter, or assault and battery, it should no longer be viewed as a boys-being-boys activity. So-called ‘frat houses’ lie at the heart of American college culture and were celebrated in the film Animal House, starring John Belushi, but the advent of social media means that behavior which was once only witnessed by friends behind closed doors, is now being broadcast on the internet.
Written for Linda G Hill Life in progress January 2, 2018 #JusJoJan Daily Prompt “Boisterous” suggested by Dan Antion.