Nothing is in vogue right now quite like bashing fraternities. After all, fraternities are all exclusive, wealthy and masculine; therefore, they must be evil, right?
Despite the increasingly negative public perception of fraternities, Yale boasts as many fraternities as ever. Here’s a thought — perhaps fraternities do provide some value.
A frequent complaint lobbed against fraternities is that they are exclusively male and “breed toxic masculinity.” Fraternities are all male for a reason — it begets brotherhood. I know, I know — the phrase has become cliche at this point, but hundreds of Yale men believe it to be true (if you don’t fall into this camp, think about how hard at Yale it is to form intimate friendships). Upon entering Yale, many Yalies lack the connection to a larger group they had while in high school, leading them to rush fraternities (and sororities). Many fraternity brothers cultivated these relationships by participating in groups like high school sports teams, yet lacked the ability to continue at the varsity level in college. Others look to expand their friend group and meet people across class years. Regardless, fraternities foster the tight-knit relationships that Yale men held in high school, but are hard to find at Yale outside of sports teams.
Moreover, I challenge those who criticize Yale fraternity parties to step outside the Yale bubble and look at frat parties at other schools. Harvard’s final clubs, for instance, are infamous for only admitting women into their parties. Back home, I have visited my friends at Salisbury University, where even women are required to pay for their admission into parties, or at the very least bring their own alcohol. Yale fraternity parties are infinitely more progressive and inclusive than their counterparts across the nation. Upon visiting Yale, my male friends (who attend Maryland public universities, such as Salisbury, Towson and the University of Maryland) were shocked to learn that they could gain entrance to most fraternity parties, as long as the building was not at capacity. By contrast, most fraternities in the United States flat-out deny admission to most men unless the man in question knows a brother, or is accompanied by numerous attractive women. Yale fraternity parties are not exclusive — on the other hand, they readily provide a free social space to the entire undergraduate population. Many frequently wonder why fraternity houses at Yale are in such poor shape — it is because the brotherhood pays money out of its own pocket to host open parties, assuming the legal responsibility that goes along with hosting a party at its home.
Of course, fraternities are not perfect. Sexual conduct is a problem at Yale, and some fraternity brothers have committed horrible deeds. This is where public attention and pressure are necessary. As evidenced by recent news, fraternities are serious about punishing brothers who commit sexual assault, even resorting to expulsion from the fraternity when Yale only opts to suspend the student. More than ever before, fraternities realize that their reputation rests on the individual actions of their members.
Yale fraternities are adopting new policies to ensure their parties are as safe as possible. Third-party bouncers, better lighting, bottled water and female bartenders are all voluntary measures adopted by fraternities to improve safety at their parties. Skeptics claim that these measures are only done as a matter of self-preservation in the face of public scandal; however, due to the fact that sexual assault cases are kept anonymous, fraternities rarely learn about the crime before the public does. It is naive to think that abolishing fraternities would somehow reform the wicked individuals who perpetrate sexual assault, or seriously curb their access to alcohol (according to a 2016 Yale College Council report, suite parties are the most common party venue at Yale).
If single-sex organizations are inherently bad, then sports teams and sororities should be abolished along with fraternities, but activist groups like Engender opt for the easy punching bag of criticizing fraternities over intellectual consistency. Fraternities and sororities are both beholden to national policies that maintain they are single-sex organizations, yet only fraternities have been pressured to disassociate from nationals and become co-ed. If sororities disassociated, they would also be free to host their own parties — assuming they actually want to host parties, which is not a given.
If fraternities are so awful, why do so many Yalies continue to attend their parties? Yale’s lenient alcohol policies allow for anyone who has the time and money to throw their own parties in their suite. Alternatively, if just a fraction of the 181 people that like Engender’s Facebook page seriously believe in its mission, Engender could easily form its own coed fraternity. Unfortunately, critics of fraternities favor writing strongly worded columns in the News as opposed to realizing their social vision for Yale.
Grant Richardson is a junior in Davenport College. Contact him at email@example.com .