Rants, Recipes and Ramblings

The Drinking Is Killing, and Fraternities Should Be Banned

The Drinking Is Killing, and Fraternities Should Be Banned

Mike Gallagher
Thursday, Feb. 1, 2001

My Answer to His Column:
Another kid dies from alcohol poisoning, an 18-year-old who apparently downed a pint of whiskey. It happened last week in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, just the latest in an ever-growing list of senseless deaths of young people who think they’re doing the adult thing by drinking like, well, only a child would. But what’s most infuriating about these deaths is that they occur at fraternity houses all over colleges and universities in America. And we still resist endorsing a nationwide ban of fraternities. The only people who would challenge my belief that its time to ban college fraternities are those who are proud, glorious alumni of Tappa Kegga Brew or some other goofy frat. They’ll try and argue that fraternities really do a lot of good in the community, that they’re social groups that encourage membership in the local Big Brothers chapter or the American Red Cross. But we all know what fraternities REALLY are: places where underage kids are encouraged to drink heavily. Animal houses that thrive on wild keg parties and strange, homoerotic activities that are conducted under the guise of “pledging” (“Thank you, sir, may I have another?”). They are just generally lousy environments for impressionable young kids who are supposedly trying to get an expensive college education. Our culture has a strange double standard when it comes to alcohol. We have numerous activist groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving who want a “zero tolerance” policy toward the deadly combination of drinking and driving. And yet thousands of parents cheerfully and willingly watch their 18-year-old sons pledge to a fraternity, a group that will encourage binge drinking by way of never-ending keg parties and beer bashes, any kind of excuse to get a bunch of 18-, 19-, 20- and 21-year-olds together to get drunk. There’s a family in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, this week faced with the unthinkable task of burying their terrific 18-year-old kid. A young man who figured he was supposed to guzzle a pint of whiskey while watching a basketball game on a Saturday night in a frat house because that’s what 18-year-old kids in frat houses do. It’s time we wake up and realize what fraternities are all about. Shame on any college or university that allows them on campus. And maybe it’s not too much to hope that the death of this 18-year-old boy will get the attention of other parents who are faced with the prospect of allowing their son to join a fraternity. They need to just say no. Mike Gallagher’s talk show is now heard on nearly 200 radio stations. Mr. Gallagher,Generally I agree with the points of your columns – however the current rant that you have released is not worthy of your talents.  When you rail against the fraternity system you do so as if all your research was accomplished by watching reruns of National Lampoons Animal House on Comedy Central or is colored through glasses that may be fogged with personal animus that seems as if you may have been “black-balled” by a fraternity in your own past.When I first read your column on this subject I called my wife into the room and read it to her as an example of a “conservative” columnist practicing what “liberal” columnist routinely do  talking out of both sides of their face and trying to use emotion rather than logic to make their argument.  In your case, that would be absolving an adult (the unfortunate 18 year old in your column) of any personal responsibility.  Nowhere in your column do you say that he was forced to drink this bottle of alcohol, you do not even try and make the case that peer pressure (which I think is just a cop out for doing something that one knows to be wrong) was brought to bear.The Fraternity system has indeed had its ups and downs over the nearly last century and a half but to blame binge drinking on it is quite disingenuous and intellectually dishonest.  I would venture to guess that less than 20 campuses in the US still allow kegs to be consumed at campus parties and very few Fraternities (if any) allow their consumption on fraternity property.Binge drinking is a problem that plagues the entire college system (even campuses without fraternities how do you explain that phenomenon?), not just the “frats” as you pejoratively called them, and is in fact helped along with the seeming willing assistance of University administrations.  To see the real problem I would ask for you to do two things. #1 Conduct a simple survey of campus newspapers (which are controlled and funded by the University) for a period of two weeks.  What will strike you is the amount of advertisements for bars and other purveyors of alcohol related activities. Universities have shown a disturbing willingness to control editorial content in campus newspapers (in violation of the 1st Amendment) when it suits their purposes but they do not show the same restraint in which businesses they allow to purchase advertisements (which they can reject without constitutional infringements.)Now accepting that college students are like other people (a difficult proposition at best) I think we can accept that Monday through Friday should be relegated to the pursuit of “constructive” endeavors.  Be it study and learning for the student or increasing productivity for those in the work force.  We can also accept that beginning on Friday night and proceeding across the weekend that other legal pursuits are appropriate.  We can attend parties, go to sporting events and movies and even attend the Church of their choice (although “liberals” may take issue with that last one). As part of your examination on item one you will naturally find yourself wondering about item #2.  Which is the amount of advertising in campus newspapers and on campus property for “Thursday Late Nights”  These are advertisements from local bars to draw the “kids” as you call these young adults into their legal establishments to begin the weekend early.  If the “kids” are out in the bars on Thursday you have to wonder how they are functioning in class on Friday.  Well the answer is that many Monday-Wednesday-Friday classes essentially have become Monday-Wednesday classes with even the Professors taking Friday off or having surrendered to this new reality by never having tests on Fridays if they do show up for class.I am the Chapter Advisor for the Sigma Chi Fraternity at Arizona State University (a traditional “party” school) and I can attest that while some of what you say is true the thrust of your column has no basis in our reality.  While alcohol consumption on campus and in the Fraternity system does occur to levels that many of us find unacceptable (I personally have never had a single alcoholic drink in my entire 36 years) and would venture to guess that you would be surprised at what most of the guys in the House drink during the week.  For meals you do not see bottles or cans of alcohol but rather kool-aid and most evening while the guys are studying (yes it does still happen occasionally) you will see guys swigging gallon jugs of spring water that has never been through a moon shiners still.You pooh-pooh the efforts of Fraternities to raise money for charity (the ASU Chapter donated almost $3,000 to the Children’s Miracle Network last year in addition to other organizations), but I challenge you to find another campus organization that does as much. Additionally you miss the biggest benefit that these young adults learn through their apparent alcoholic haze and that is responsibility.  How many other “kids” their age are responsible for running a $250,000 business.  That is the typical budget.  You have to keep the lights on, pay the telephone bill, pay the mortgage, repair the property, buy the food, hire the cook, pay the cable company, make sure the trash man is collecting the garbage and the hundred other things that have to get taken care of on a weekly basis.  The men in a fraternity have to deal with all of this while still maintaining grades oh did I forget to mention that the fraternity grade point average at ASU (remember we are a party school) exceeds the All Men’s Average for the entire campus.If you think that almost all campus organizations do not have social activities involving alcohol you are sorely mistaken.To use your logic the parents should “just say no” to sending their kids to college because we now know that the University itself encourages the consumption of alcohol.  As a Chapter Advisor and a Father my heart goes out to the family of the young man in your column, however it appears that this “terrific” young man did not learn much in the way of personal responsibility or restraint during the 18 years he spent living with his parents.

David W. Riddle

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