Monday, May 8, 2017

The fraternity system needs to change now.

What in the world are fraternities good for?

It's actually a question. 

Yes, I will respectfully listen to your answer, but you are going to have a hard time convincing me of anything good in light of what we learned from State College last week.

Back in February, Nineteen-year-old Tim Piazza was just celebrating being initiated into Beta Theta Pi at Penn State.  He and some other initiates were 'running the gauntlet' - an activity that included guzzling beer, wine and vodka.  Receipts from the house show that thousands were spent on alcohol.  Thousands spent on alcohol from the model fraternity at Penn State because of its strict rules that stated members were to be expelled if they drank.

They obviously were lying.  

With his blood alcohol level at .36, Piazza fell down a flight of stairs and hit his head.  He was taken to a couch and he laid there unresponsive just after midnight.  Security cameras show 'brothers' pointing and laughing and eventually pushing away the only person who was adamant about taking him to the hospital.  

Instead, he laid there for 12 hours.  

Twelve hours.  Twelve hours of hand-wringing and arguing about what to do next.  Twelve hours of worrying about how this would look and what it would mean legally for the rest of the 'brothers.'

Piazza attempted to get up multiple times and through the night but kept falling and hitting his head.  Fraternity 'brothers' even loaded a backpack with books and laid it on his chest to keep him from moving.

Early the next morning Piazza fell down the basement steps and laid on the floor before fraternity 'brothers' brought him back to the couch and agonized about their next steps for almost an hour.

At that point, they googled how to cover up their negligence and sent Group Me texts to everyone in the house to get rid of the alcohol and clean up the blood.  Then they took him to the hospital.  

He died the next morning.

I went to Penn State.  I have been at those fraternities.  It is a miracle that we don't have more of these incidents happen every semester.

I am not saying every fraternity or every fraternity member is a liar or guilty of involuntary manslaughter.  I am saying that the fraternity system I saw at Penn State is a breeding ground for this kind of negligence (and I've said nothing of the pernicious and often times predatory sexual practices employed by fraternities).  

This is usually where those who support the fraternity system talk about how community minded these organizations can be and to look at how much good frats do in events like THON.  

I agree - fraternities have some great sides to them.  They can bring out some of the best in young adults.  It just seems like over and over again we wind up in situations like this where alcohol plays such a devastating role in a young person's life.

So let's do something.  Let's focus on the good and get rid of the bad.

Get rid of the fraternity house.

Let's get rid of frat houses that hide parties like this.  There is no way that Tim Piazza would be dead today if he was lying on the floor of a dorm lobby.  Too many eyes would have seen it and done the right thing.  It is under the cover of these frat houses that this kind of thing happens. 

So get rid of the house.  Keep the frat.  You can still have THON.  You can still do all the community work.  You can even have the parties - you just have to have them where everyone else can see what it going on.  Accountability.  That way you can't have the privacy of getting someone so drunk they can't say no.  That way you can't haze young initiates.  That way you don't have to rely on frightened nineteen-year-olds to do the right thing in the middle of the night.

My guess is that if you got rid of the houses, you would destroy the system.

Which tells me it never was about 'the community' in the first place.

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