The Spectacle of Andrew Lohse

Andrew Lohse: nothing has changed.

Andrew Lohse: nothing has changed.

On Tuesday, February 10, Andrew Lohse was back in Hanover. After speaking earlier in the week to a freshman writing course that read his controversial memoir, Confessions of an Ivy League Frat Boy, he again presented his ideas to the greater public by hosting a reading and Q&A session at the appropriately named Left Bank Books. Lohse read choice bits from his book, including the now-infamous excerpts about the alleged “vomlette” and kiddie pool incidents. Subsequently, he discussed the book as it relates to the Greek system, Moving Dartmouth Forward, and his current “activism” while fielding questions from an audience comprised mostly of supporters and fans.

Beyond all else, Lohse’s performance at Left Bank Books demonstrated his lack of emotional maturity and his lack of personal growth since taking time off from the College. In Confessions of an Ivy League Frat Boy, Lohse fails to take personal responsibility for his mistakes, preferring to blame the Greek system and more specifically his fraternity for his downward spiral. Years after the incidents described in his memoir, Lohse is sticking to the same, tired talking points. Lohse chose to read about the beginnings of his cocaine usage, portraying a narrative of overwhelming peer pressure and his apparent lack of choice. At no time during the two-hour event did he acknowledge or even consider the notion that he might be the one responsible for his personal failings.

While his delivery of the text was perfectly acceptable–in that he read clearly and at an appropriate volume and pace–hearing Lohse’s words from his own mouth simply underscores the vast deficiencies in his writing. He happens to have a juvenile writing style and thought process unbefitting of his status as an English major (a status he seems quite proud of, given the demonstrated contempt he shows for those on the corporate track). His incomprehensible metaphors, bizarre rhetorical flourishes, painful profanity, and strained efforts to appear conversational reveal a charlatan struggling to sound credible. When read aloud, Confessions of an Ivy League Frat Boy sounds as crass and facile as ever.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Lohse had many words to say but little of value to contribute to discourse about the Greek system. Lohse fancies himself an activist and was introduced as one at the beginning of the event. Yet this description of him is too charitable; he is simply not a credible advocate for change. In this writing and in person, he conveys a poorly concealed air of presumptuousness that is only amplified by his failed attempts at self-deprecation. Despite his lack of any real expertise, he spoke as the definitive authority on what the College must do to solve its social ills, namely make the Greek system coeducational. In reality, there is nothing that gives special authority to Lohse over the vast majority of students, affiliated and unaffiliated, who have had positive experiences with the Greek system.

Lohse’s lack of credibility became increasingly clear throughout the question and answer session. He demonstrated a fundamental lack of understanding on the issues and addressed any potential counterpoints in an extremely superficial way. According to Lohse, the only reason to keep a Greek system is to keep the donations flowing. He then countered with evidence that schools such as Middlebury have abolished their Greek systems without a significant decline in donations.

The problem with Lohse’s contention is that he sidesteps the real argument in favor of the Greek system; Greek supporters argue that there are many positives that extend far beyond promoting alumni loyalty, including fostering closer bonds in addition to academic and professional success. When questioned about the issues of exclusivity and sexual assault at peer institutions, Lohse brushed these aside, labeling our fraternity system as an inherently exclusive and sexist institution masquerading as an inclusive one. Lohse also failed to cite any proof that eliminating the Greek system will actually solve problems such as sexual assault, and his answers were mostly devoid of any evidence whatsoever, except the one or two times he mentioned a nameless study that found this or that. Thus, his testimony rested solely on his personal story, which is of questionable accuracy.

Lohse’s agenda also became clear in his question and answer session. He trivialized conservatives as the “dusty corner of Dartmouth”–wearing Indian head ties to represent their “angst.” Referencing isolated hazing in the U.S. Navy, he suggested that fraternal initiation rituals have negative, militaristic connotations, a claim that not only reveals limited knowledge of military psychology but also refuses to acknowledge that fraternities provide a unique outlet for male bonding in higher education. Moreover, Lohse’s political undertones demonize the financial sector, correlating experiences of SAE pledges to hearsay purportedly from first-year J.P. Morgan analysts. He alleges that Dartmouth fraternities are part of a corporate pipeline promoting chauvinistic ideals, but this rationale fails to recognize that community service and philanthropy are ubiquitous in both institutions.

Further eroding Lohse’s credibility are the straw men he musters in his portrayal of his detractors. We are unsure if Lohse is delusional, but his belief that he has broad support is out of touch with reality. He portrayed most of his critics as either masochists who enjoy eating vomlettes or fringe reactionaries (alluding to Joe Rago’s critical book review in the Wall Street Journal). Rather than address countervailing opinions, Lohse simply writes them off. The fact that Lohse happens to be personally profiting from his lurid tale also does not help his case. It is glaringly obvious that Lohse’s sweeping, emotionalized diatribes are chiefly for publicity’s sake and should be taken with a healthy dose of skepticism. All in all, his espousal of abolishing the Greek system as we know it comes across as convenient and expedient, as well as poorly thought out. Perhaps, as Shakespeare once wrote, Lohse’s so-called activism can be best described as “a tale, told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

John A. Steward also contributed to this article.