February 22, 2014

SO CAITLIN FLANAGAN HAS A PIECE ABOUT the “Dark Power of Fraternities.” But it’s really three pieces. One, which I found interesting as a law professor, is about how fraternities and insurance companies try to deal with liability. Another, which seems rather obvious, has to do with fraternities’ alumni support giving them leverage with the university.

The third, which is the least convincing, uses a single episode in which a town ne’er-do-well crashed a fraternity party and raped a student as the capstone proof that fraternities have a big rape problem. Maybe they do, but this doesn’t prove it. People are raped in dormitories and libraries, often by town ne’er-do-wells who shouldn’t be there, without people talking about how libraries have a big rape problem that reflects badly on their institutional character.

But this bit seems quite correct:

In 1984 Congress passed the National Minimum Drinking Age Act, with the ultimate result of raising the legal drinking age to 21 in all 50 states. This change moved college partying away from bars and college-sponsored events and toward private houses—an ideal situation for fraternities. When these advances were combined with the evergreen fraternity traditions of violent hazing and brawling among rival frats, the scene quickly became wildly dangerous.

She also has some good observations on the fetishization of college in general. But overall, the piece doesn’t deliver insight commensurate with its length.

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