“Shutter Fraternities for Young Women’s Good” or “Make Generalizations Based on Hand-Picked Incidents”

A recent story in the Journal‘s Life and Culture section caught my eye with its audacious headline. And The article, titled “Shutter Fraternities for Young Women’s Good” lives up to its name. In it, the author argues that, due to both tragic individual anecdotes and carefully chosen statistics, the time has come to abolish all-male college fraternities, as they are simply malignant entities, especially to the health of college women.

The author’s strategy for convincing the reader is as follows:

1. Tell a heartbreaking story about a gang rape that occurred during the 1980s at UVA.

2. Denigrate fraternities as “dedicated to quelling young men’s anxiety about submitting themselves to four years of sissy-pants book learning by providing them with a variety of he-man activities: drinking, drugging, ESPN watching and the sexual mistreatment of women.”

3. Cite relevant negative statistics.

4.Tell a positive personal personal story about never having stepped in a fraternity

And after all this her conclusion is that fraternities should be abolished entirely. Frankly, the only relevant arguments within her piece stem from the statistics. The other heart-rending anecdotes, which work only to appeal to the readers’ baser instincts, are irrelevant to the arguments. They are tragic and deserve to be treated with gravity. Yet anecdotes do not a pattern make.

As for the statistics, they certainly do not reflect well on men like myself who are members of fraternities. Indeed, if the statistics are to be believed, fraternity men are more likely to sexually assault women. That is unacceptable.

But it is hardly grounds to call for the abolition of fraternities entirely. Should fraternity men be better educated about sexual assault and the dangers of drinking? Definitely. But to say they should be abolished is a leap by which I cannot abide. It is as if any group prone to destructive behavior should be done away with. Perhaps men in the Army are also more likely to commit sexual assault than those not (this is purely hypothetical); does this mean the Army should be destroyed? Clearly not.

If the ongoing discussion about sexual assault at Dartmouth has proven anything, it is that all involved parties could benefit from better education on the issue. But abolish the Greek system? Now that is just too far.

–Benjamin M. Riley