For the record

I take many different perspectives and opinions for many different reasons in class and on the blog.  Unless I specify something is my most deeply held opinion, don’t read too much into anything.  I do this to 1) spark discussion;2) Push a range of opinions; 3) Obscure my own views so you don’t think you have me “figured out;”4) I am figuring out my own thoughts.

Since I am watching my course evaluations, employment security, and reputation evaporate in front of my eyes (maybe), let me state for the record.

1) I think the CC report was framed in response to a crisis.  So, to fault it for not emphasizing the positive is like complaining that the Gulf Oil SPill commission didn’t talk about how beautiful the beaches of FL are.

2) The data in the CC report is mostly sound.  There may be problems of representation in the qualitative data.  More data is useful.  An appendix or second report with more student input and also updates would be useful.  But to reject the issues it raises due to some flaws in data is misguided.

3) I do not see the Greek organizations as “evil” or “the devil.”  There are important differences in sororities and fraternities.  Those must be considered.  However, a social system that is by design about creating scarcity and inclusion-exclusion dynamics will affect individuals and the context that shapes behavior.  It is a profound socializing experience.  Also, the Greek system as is seems most central in shaping access to alcohol and relationships/sexual encounters. To tell me it is most centrally about GPAs or philanthropy or making friends, especially for the fraternities (because of their access to space more than gender, I think) just does not seem honest.  It seems like a rationalization.

3.5) To whit, as good management students who I expect to have good social scientist skills, you must be able to step outside of this system and see how it affects individuals and the context of behavior.

4) The argument that Bucknell “must” have the Greek system as is for anyone to have “fun” seems laughably flawed to me.

4) Being a non-athlete, independent seems like a pretty grim social experience here.

5) I know of no conspiracy among faculty to ban the Greek system.  Although, I did forget that the “possibility” of banning it was in the report.

6) The ways that Bucknell dances around the legal drinking age, being a residential college, trying to be responsive to students, and trying not to piss off alumni makes for some odd organizational policies and routine behaviors.  The whole system seems to either be a cause or an accelerating factor in the extension of adolesence.  We are becoming the helicopter university as an extension of helicopter parents.  I, personally, do not like it.  I want to be able to treat you always as adults and if not equals, at least peers in the class and community who have many common causes.

7) Binge drinking is a problem.  I wonder about alcoholism.

8) Sexual behaviors are a problem.

9) There are seven bars in Lewisburg, not three.

10) As a junior faculty member, I already feel too pulled into all of this discussion.  Between my own family and doing research, what happens with the Greek system, with engagement, with campus climate, with gender dynamics, and all of that is jsut not somethign I have much control over or can invest much in.

11) I think too much is asked of student athletes.

12) I find it tragic that I have advised at least five or six students in the last three years who were great individuals who left because they did not see a life for themselves here that would be good if they chose not to go Greek.

13) There should be more hand-holding.

14) There should be more weird haircuts, body piercings, tatoos, and peculiar fashion choices.

15) You all are too risk averse about life and too risk tolerant about what you put in your bodies.

16) I enjoy all of you as people; however, some of the behaviors I see or read about are appalling or horrifying.

17) I went to a small(er) more in the middle of nowhere that was ALWAYS non-Greek and we had lots of fun.  I am not saying that Bucknell will or should become more like that place (Carelton if you care).

18) I think it is weird you talk about grades so much.  I almost never talked about grades in college.

19) All students should go abroad.

20) THreats to withhold donations as alumni to help other students get an education here are like drinking-extortion.  Your total education, for EVERYONE is higher than the sticker price.  You stand on the shoulders of those who came before and this place is about education.  Whether or not you get a damn mug or whether or not some administrator strikes you as an ass is like 1% of what this place is about and the 99% is about what you are learning.  TO deny what has been given to you over this crap is petty.  To threaten to is petty.

21) At the end of the day, i wish I could get the Bobby McFerrin song “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” playing in your heads all the time.  Life is good, short, and sweet.  You are blessed to be in a place where learning, knowledge, community, and exploration are at your fingertips.  That is what matters.  There is always beer.

3rd Times the Charm

This past weekend was my 3rd House Party experience on this campus. I was unable to attend my sophomore year due to athletics. Each year has been a relatively different experience. My freshman year seemed the more common House Party in that I visited the fraternity houses, watched some bands, obtained the free food given out by faculty, and in general had a great time. I did not overdo it, and many of my friends and fellow students seemed to follow that. Last year’s House Party was different, there was a lot more “uptightness”; it was nearly impossible to get into the fraternities after 8pm, and I mostly just walked around with friends and hung out. No hardcore partying seemed to occur for me. It was not necessarily less fun, but the nature of the weekend had changed. It seemed, to me at least, less about having a fun,carefree time and more like someone watching over your shoulder to make sure you didn’t overdo things. There seemed less trust. I expected little to change for this year’s celebrations and therefore decided to forgo the buying the the wristwrap that would allow me access to fraternities and their activities. I stayed downhill the entire weekend. I hung out with friends, mostly in my gateway. I didn’t go nuts as some might have, but neither was I abstaining from the celebrations. I was a lot less stressed this year and the trust issue became moot. This seemed the best way for me personally to enjoy House Party. It is a weekend of great excitement and energy. I especially enjoyed the mini carnival held with the games and free food.

I would admit that some cannot contain their excitement and wish to celebrate and release their stresses and tend to over-do it a little. But overall I believe the number of these cases might be a little over-exaggerated. Yes there are the select few who take things to a physically dangerous level, and they are held accountable. Personally, I think that with more restrictions on how persons can access the fraternities the more of these extreme cases there are. Most of them I would bet come from persons imbibing in their own dorm rooms. At a fraternity the ability for a person to reach such dangerous levels of intoxication is limited due to others being able to simply stop serving them. So perhaps the best way to eradicate such dangerous behavior is actually to persuade everyone to go out to the fraternities instead of staying in. Perhaps my thinking is flawed, but students will still find a way to drink even if House Party is eradicated, just channel that to safer places.

As to the rest of the 2011 report, I have noticed a definite increase in the amount of non-Greek activities and intellectual talks in the last two years. Diversity is still a problem on campus but I believe it can be overcome. Making persons feel comfortable on campus is a task I feel the students themselves need to uptake. Such activities such as the canoe battleship need to occur more often. Activities that are fun, open to non-Greeks, and incorporate the entire campus are sorely needed. Everyone I know loves BU After Dark. It might have lost its luster over the years, but I still go. maybe it’s time to revamp it, have it more often. Again the mini-carnival was a blast, have that again. Things like this could occur more often and many people attend. I saw dozens of non-Greeks at the Kenan Thompson show. There was smores and soup, and it was a fun time. It would be interesting to see that data about when are the weekends with the most hospitalizations, and what activities the campus has that weekend. Perhaps to cut down on the alcohol abuse we simply need more wholesome distractions.

“Alex Talks About A Lot of Things,” or “Read The Last Paragraph and Write a Damn Comment”

(trigger warning!)

I won’t start off with my original disclaimer that I’m ambivalent towards Greek life. I deleted it when I realized that it would be a lie. I’m not ambivalent, I’m just not fully for or against it, and I’ll ask you to keep that in mind. I like to drink, I like to party, I like sex. They’re all great things! But I have more than one friend who has been raped at a party because people assumed that they both were voluntarily dancing with each other. If you can still say that we don’t have a problem, then quit reading now, write a snarky comment, and rate me one star. Then go to your room to think about what you’ve done.

Many people are surprised to learn that I actually rushed sophomore year. I was actually perfectly open to the idea of joining something if it felt right, but nothing did. In fact, I ended up not joining a fraternity because something felt pointedly not right about the entire thing; not that any of the guys were fake or I had a problem with what was going on, it just didn’t sit right. I finally figured out why later that year: my biggest problem with Greek life is that (for the most part) fraternities and sororities are groups that exist for the purpose of being a group.

Yes, they do philanthropy. Yes, GPAs are higher on average in many cases. I get that, but the primary purpose of any Greek organization is to exist. I can’t keep track of the number of times I’ve heard that “such and such has been around since whenever” or that “we were the first fraternity to have ______.” Awesome- that’s legitimately really cool! So, what were you doing back in _____ when you were the first group to accept _______? (We’ll disregard the objectification where you devalued that piece of his identity and claimed it as an object to show off and move on because that’s a different issue).

Like, how is that more/less/as notable as the fact that Bucknell opened classes to women in 1883?

And, to you, anonymous friends who tried to convince me that I’m wrong, don’t fucking try and tell me that you joined a frat because they do community service.  They participate in the Adopt-A-Highway program. So did my high school’s German Club, and the high school kids whined about it a hell of a lot less than some of your frat brothers. I’m not here to discredit the work that anyone here does, and I’m well aware that the philanthropy and service were deciding factors for many happy greek members- they were part of that for me too!!

But I will argue that those lead people to choose which specific group they wanted to join, and don’t usually actually induce people to join one in the first place. People make that decision because they want to be part of a group. I have no problem with this, I truly don’t. It’s not always a bad thing, and I know a great number of people that need that social support, but I’m not one of them.

With that said, my problem is what comes from having campus life dominated by groups that pride themselves on being that particular group, because it leaves little room for anything else. For some people, no other extracurricular activity will ever really get priority over their frat/sorority- I mean, they don’t need to!

For example, why would I need to go see the show at Uptown if I don’t really know anyone else that’s going and my brothers are all hanging out at the house? Also, I have to miss my radio show this week because I have to help clean the basement and I don’t want to deal with the guys I live and eat with being pissed because I blew them off for something that they’re not involved in.

You know what? From his perspective, that makes total sense and I won’t argue that our fictional Bucknellian is wrong in any way. But yeah, that really sucks for me, who has to fill the airtime that I thought would be occupied, and I have to apologize to Frankie Muniz, because he was playing in the band at Uptown and 7 people were there. That’s not even accounting for the fact that I personally put in a week’s worth of work to get the sound and lights ready for a kick-ass show.


Not Pictured: Anything I Have a Problem With

To Bucknell’s credit -sincerely, this makes me super happy– I’ve never been maliciously excluded because I’m not a Brother anywhere. That happens a lot at other places, and we largely have an incredibly accepting student body. Kudos. But that doesn’t mean I’ve not been excluded not on purpose. Yes, it was my choice not to join a frat. I made it quite purposefully, and I don’t regret it. It was NOT, however, my choice to have to scramble for a new roommate when one of our group (since freshman year!) was told last-minute that he would have to live in his frat’s house. It was not my choice to fail to come to his room to console him after a bad breakup because his frat was having something or other and I couldn’t come in without waiting in line outside. It was not my choice to be asked what was wrong with me when I mentioned offhand that I wasn’t Greek.

Removing Greek life from campus would not necessarily better the campus climate at all. Lessing the group mentality associated with it, however, would make the biggest difference of anything. One of the neat initiatives that Bucknell has taken was the SpeakUP program, which hopes to combat alarming rates of sexual abuse by talking about the “bystander effect,” where people assume that someone else will take action. It all comes from Groupthink (no, I’m not accusing frats/sororities of Orwellian nightmare fuel!) and the fact that as a big group of people, individuals let more things slide than they normally would. We all have friends that are great as long as they’re not with some other friends of theirs, and I’m talking about the same concept.

How else would you objectification of our females surrounding frat parties? I’ve heard countless guys (that I normally know to be kind, caring, and thoughtful toward people of all gender) tell some poor freshman that he “needs more girls” to get into a party. The response? Usually “I should go find more!” Yes, everybody, let’s go collect girls! It’s basically like an Easter egg hunt, right? We’ll just pick up a few more so that the frat brothers have a better chance of getting laid. I won’t keep going with this because it’s a different discussion, and I’ll start getting actually bitter if keep on it right now.

Look, I’ve said a lot of things. I’ve been accusatory, overly general, and probably a bit too negative. If I’ve offended you, then I’m probably sorry, depending on what it was that you took issue with. But I’m sick of hearing these 5 things:

  1. There’s nothing else to do!
  2. I actually joined for the philanthropy.
  3. Students should just drink less! They aren’t forced to do anything.
  4. Well, it was your choice to not join a frat…
  5. Greek life isn’t the problem! Bucknell just needs a scapegoat! The organizations are nothing but helpful.

Each of these is right on at least some level, but they each all disregard a lot of commonly accepted facts of life, and belie a lack of perspective that I find, frankly, quite concerning. Maybe “minimizing the dominance of Greek life on campus” isn’t really about forcing Greek life to shrink or do less things or have less parties and less freedom. Maybe it means we need to lessen the dominance that it has over each of our individual lives, because there’s a world out there and we’re fucking missing it.