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The War on Frats

  • August 01, 2020

Today, according to Vanderbilt, more than 35 percent of the nearly 7,000 undergraduates there belong to a Greek life organization, which are housed in 25 on-campus buildings. But there is a historical precedent for students walking out of their fraternities and sororities. During the civil rights movement in the 1960s, students rejected Greek life as a bastion of reactionary politics and racism, and dropped their affiliation en masse. Some local chapters disbanded.

In 1968, a group of student activists occupied a Columbia University administration building during a protest. According to the historian Paul Cronin, these students faced off in a violent clash with a counterrevolutionary group calling itself the Majority Coalition, which consisted mainly of conservative athletes and fraternity brothers. (“A row of clean-shaven white men, mostly wearing jackets and ties, punched away as students and outsiders tried to bash through what they called the Jock Line,” Mr. Cronin wrote in Politico.)

One of those in the Majority Coalition is the current attorney general, William P. Barr, who belonged to the Sigma Nu fraternity.

Attorney General Barr is far from the only powerful government figure with Greek ties. Eighteen United States presidents, both Democratic and Republican, have belonged to fraternities, along with scores of other politicians and titans of industry. Vanderbilt fraternity alumni include William Bain, the co-founder of the consultancy giant Bain Company, the Republican Senator Lamar Alexander and the Democratic governor of Kentucky, Andy Beshear.

The promise of networking connections and camaraderie is a large part of the draw. At many schools, fraternities and sororities run the social scene and throw the biggest parties. Since 1984, when the drinking age rose to 21 nationwide, fraternities became the “unofficial bartenders” of many campuses, Mr. Hechinger said.

But with the pandemic preventing many students from going back to campus in the fall, Greek organizations have less to offer in a social sense. Fraternity and sorority dues, about 50 percent of which often go to the national organizations, are harder to justify.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/01/style/abolish-greek-life-college-frat-racism.html

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