The history of fraternities on American college campuses stretches nearly as far back as the beginning of higher education in the U.S. The organizations have changed and evolved over centuries, but their basic missions of building leaders and creating bonds that last a lifetime remain. We consider the pros and cons of frat life for both the organizations and universities.

Guests

  • Tyler Daniels senior, George Washington University; intern, WAMU
  • Matt Supple Director of Fraternity & Sorority Life, University of Maryland
  • Caitlin Flanagan writer, The Atlantic; author, 'Girl Land' and 'To Hell With All That'

Transcript

  • 12:24:37

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIWhether they bring to mind raucous toga parties or young men performing community service, fraternities are a major part of life on many American college campuses. And for both better and worse, the groups have become inextricably linked to university administrations nationwide, with successful alumni funneling lots of dollars to school coffers, and problems, ranging from the boneheaded to the occasionally criminal, grabbing headlines. Here to talk about the ups and downs of fraternity life on campus is Caitlin Flanagan.

  • 12:25:08

    MR. KOJO NNAMDICaitlin Flanagan is a contributor to The Atlantic where she had a recent cover story on fraternities. She's also author of the books, "Girl Land," and "To Hell With All That." She joins us by phone from Los Angeles. Caitlin Flanagan, thank you for joining us.

  • 12:25:22

    MS. CAITLIN FLANAGANThanks so much for having me.

  • 12:25:24

    NNAMDIJoining us in studio is Tyler Daniels. He's a senior at George Washington University and part of Greek life on campus there. He's also an intern with WAMU's Metro Connection and formerly with this show. Tyler, good to see you.

  • 12:25:36

    MR. TYLER DANIELSThank you for having me, Kojo.

  • 12:25:38

    NNAMDIAlso with us is Matt Supple. He is director of Fraternity & Sorority Life at the University of Maryland. Matt Supple joins us by phone. Matt, thank you for joining us.

  • 12:25:47

    MR. MATT SUPPLEAbsolutely, Kojo. Thanks for inviting me.

  • 12:25:49

    NNAMDIIf you have questions or comments for this conversation, give us a call at 800-433-8850. Did you belong to a fraternity when you were in college? Do you belong now? Give us a call. Share your experience. Caitlin, I'll begin with you. Much of so-called Greek life, membership in fraternities and sororities, centers around tradition. Just how far back does this tradition go in the U.S.? And where does the term Greek life come from?

  • 12:26:15

    FLANAGANWell, those are great questions. The kind of fraternity life that we're talking about now in this conversation, you know, the social fraternities, that extends back to the 19th century. And there was an idea that -- talk about the male side of it, the fraternity side -- there was an idea, as colleges really got going as a widespread event for American men in sort of the early 19th century, there was an idea among men that there was something sort of suspect and even feminizing about going to college.

  • 12:26:43

    FLANAGANThere was so much time studying and sitting around and being in the library and writing essays. And was this somehow a threat to their very masculinity? Was there something feminine about those occupations? And so these secret clubs started to spring up. And they gave them grand Greek-lettered names. And there was the idea that you could kind of be a man in these clubs. And you could drink and you could smoke and there was a lot of -- which were things you couldn't do in college life back then, because college life sprang out of religious training.

  • 12:27:13

    FLANAGANAnd in the very earliest accounts of fraternity life, these clubs, they were going to brothels and talking openly about it. And they were also doing very good things, I mean, not that those things are necessarily bad, any of those things. But they were certainly outrageous things for college life. And there was always this idea that the fraternity experience was a way to express masculinity that maybe wasn't so accepted in college life.

  • 12:27:39

    FLANAGANAnd I think, even to this day, as much as life has certainly changed since the early 19th century, there's still an idea that within the Greek life for men, and fraternity life, there's a way to kind of be male and be masculine that maybe isn't as welcome in other areas of college life. And from it springs lots and lots of good things, and from it also can spring very damaging things.

  • 12:28:03

    NNAMDIMatt Supple, there are many different kinds of fraternities. What distinction should be made among them and are there any sort of universal similarities?

  • 12:28:12

    SUPPLESure. There are certainly social organizations like what we were talking about. There are certainly academic and other types of fraternities and sororities. Most of them center on the idea of a single sex, either all men or all women, although there certainly are coed organizations out there. And the two types typically fall into service or social. And certainly they're not mutually exclusive for either organization, but some will have more of a service bend and some will have more of a social bend.

  • 12:28:47

    NNAMDIMatt, you just hosted a centennial celebration of Greek life on the University of Maryland campus this past week. And what are the lasting benefits of membership, both for members and for community organizations?

  • 12:28:58

    SUPPLESure. You'll hear certainly lots of universities talk about the incredible bond that forms between students and fraternal or sorority organization. The commitment back to the university -- we all know that involvement keeps students on campus and retains them and graduates them at higher rates. And fraternities and sororities do a great job of providing opportunities for students to find a home away from home, to find a group of peers who frequently share the same likes and dislikes and interests and values.

  • 12:29:32

    SUPPLEAnd we talk a lot in our community about scholarship, leadership and service and this idea of brotherhood and sisterhood, that we are all striving to uphold these core values that our founders hit upon 240 years ago and trying to live those out in a daily fashion.

  • 12:29:55

    NNAMDITyler, as a young man on a modern college campus, what encouraged you to join a fraternity. And how did you decide which one was for you?

  • 12:30:03

    DANIELSSure. The first thing I would like to say is that I know that -- I don't know, I'm not entirely sure of the history of Greek life and I know we heard a little bit about it -- but I didn't join because I wanted to drink and smoke. And I didn't join because I think I had a threat to my masculinity. I actually didn't really know much about Greek life before I came to college. And really the only thing I knew about it was from common cultures, things like "Animal House" and movies like that and "American Pie."

  • 12:30:33

    DANIELSAnd when I came to school, I never really considered joining Greek life until one of my roommates, my floor-mates in my freshman hall encouraged me to come out to the first night of rush for my specific fraternity, Sigma Chi. And I went out and I went in with an open mind. But like I said, I really didn't know much about the process. And I wound up liking the group of individuals in that chapter. I found, and one of the things they told me, was what they look for, what they seek, is people with similar principles and ideals -- people who are likeminded, but not necessarily clone copies of each other.

  • 12:31:09

    DANIELSAnd that's kind of why I decided to join my fraternity. I didn't actually rush any other fraternity. I thought I'd fit into mine, but I think there's fraternities for lots of types of people.

  • 12:31:21

    NNAMDIDid your parents have any concerns about your membership, or was it something that they encouraged?

  • 12:31:25

    DANIELSIt is actually something they encouraged. Both my parents went to universities and both were involved in Greek life in very different schools. And they both encouraged me. They told me of all the benefits they had. And they thought that I was an adult. And they thought they completely 100 percent supported the decision. And they know -- they know of the risks that were associated with it. And they knew that -- they had confidence that I would make a right decision, make responsible decisions.

  • 12:31:55

    NNAMDISo they don't know about the heaving drinking and smoking that you've been -- no I kid you. Matt used to -- Tyler used to be our intern. We kid him all the time. Matt, as there are different kinds of fraternities, there are different kinds of campuses. How does the important influences of these organizations vary depending on where they're located?

  • 12:32:15

    SUPPLEWell, I think you are certainly right, Kojo. There are different approaches to working with fraternities and sororities. I'm lucky to be at one of the institutions in the country that values fraternity and sorority and the development that they can provide. And so we have 20 staff who work with fraternities and sororities -- 8 full-time staff and 12 graduate students. And our approach is that working with our organizations to help them life out their values is no different than the approach you take with the residence halls or with other student organizations on campus.

  • 12:32:50

    SUPPLEThat part of the college experience is striking out on your own, finding out who you are, making mistakes, learning from those mistakes and trying to become a better person. And certainly we believe that fraternities and sororities are fundamentally sound, provided they have a core commitment to their founding values.

  • 12:33:14

    NNAMDI800-433-8850 is the number to call. If you have children on a college campus now, tell us what kinds of conversations you have had with them about Greek life. 800-433-8850. Or you can send email to kojo@wamu.org. Caitlin Flanagan, when and how did the relationship between frats and campus administrators change from being a kind of secret counterculture to one that is more part of the universities themselves?

  • 12:33:44

    FLANAGANWell, that's a great question. It mainly happened during the middle of the 20th century. And there's sort of this idea -- I always think of the line from "The Godfather," that you want to keep your friends close, but your enemies even closer. And when we think about what's going on at American University right now, in terms of a frat that was completely banished. You know, the university made a decision, we're not going to put this fraternity on suspension. We're not going to give them sanctions. We're going to banish them. They're behavior is so outrageous, they have no role to play.

  • 12:34:16

    FLANAGANWhen a college does that and says we're not going to have any formal relationship with a frat, we can certainly understand why they would do it. And on the one level, it makes brilliant, brilliant reasonable sense. On the other hand, the law of unintended consequences can kick in. And suddenly the frat that's banished can suddenly seem, to some students, the outlaw frat, the secret frat, the mysterious frat. And suddenly -- and I know that to say frat instead of fraternity is a -- can be a pejorative, so I should say fraternity instead of frat.

  • 12:34:48

    FLANAGANBut the fraternity that is outlawed by the campus can come to have the very cachet that was initially what started fraternities in the first place -- a true secret club, a true club that doesn't have to in any way conform to the rules of the office of Greek life, the rules of risk management, et cetera. And so there can be this kind of paradoxical situation where, by banishing a fraternity, you give it the very cachet it could never have gotten when it when through the main channels of office of Greek life. And as we heard at the University of Maryland, a 20-person staff that's making sure that core values are being lived out.

  • 12:35:27

    FLANAGANAnd so you can have a very dangerous situation that can evolve when a university does the sound action of saying you guys are out of control. We're not going to have a relationship with you. Very tough question for college administrators to answer.

  • 12:35:41

    NNAMDIIs that why it's such a vexing question, but seems very simple on the surface, that most people ask -- why don't colleges get rid of the bad fraternities?

  • 12:35:50

    FLANAGANExactly.

  • 12:35:50

    NNAMDIThat's a very difficult thing to do, isn't it?

  • 12:35:52

    FLANAGANExactly. It's the first thing people say. They hear -- and again, the bad things that happen at fraternities -- I did a year-long investigation and I'm here to tell you I truly believe they're the minority, they are the smaller number of what's going on. A lot of what's going on in fraternity life in America is very upstanding. And the core values are really excellent values for young men to have.

  • 12:36:15

    FLANAGANBut on the other hand, the vexing problem is, when a fraternity gets out of control, if you end the relationship with them, you're going to oftentimes -- and what's going on at American University, people have asked me a lot recently, does it shock you? And I say it doesn't shock me at all. After a year of studying this, I've seen the exact same thing happen over and over and over again. When you cut these organizations lose, they become less like a fraternity and more like a gang.

  • 12:36:42

    SUPPLEYou know, I would certainly add to what Caitlin is saying...

  • 12:36:44

    NNAMDIThis is Matt Supple.

  • 12:36:45

    SUPPLEI would certainly add to what Caitlin is saying. The idea of a true secret club, from back in the days when fraternities and sororities were founded, the students that have these underground organizations now, aren't after that same kind of experience as the founders were. They are much more gang like, in that they have usually been -- lost recognition by the university and been closed and had their charter removed by the national because of their unwillingness to follow the rules and to abide by whatever risk management policies govern them.

  • 12:37:21

    SUPPLEAnd so what we have are more bad members of organizations that churn the culture into a bad fraternity. And once that fraternity culture goes bad, it's really difficult to turn that back around. And so certainly we emphasize a lot, even in the fraternal movement now, the idea of bystander intervention -- the idea of focusing more on brotherhood and less on this nebulous sense of what values are and what the organization's value. Because undergraduate students these days have a lot of distractions, certainly more perhaps than they did back in the days when their organizations were founded.

  • 12:37:59

    SUPPLEAnd so trying to instill in them the ability to intervene when their peers are making bad decisions, so that the culture of the organization doesn't start to collapse, is incredibly important.

  • 12:38:11

    NNAMDII know the American University students that we talked to, who were familiar with the band or unrecognized group Epsilon Iota or EI, certainly talked about it as if it was more like a gang than any kind of fraternity. But, Tyler Daniels, I'm interested, as you have moved around campus at George Washington University, have you observed the phenomenon that Caitlin was talking about, that people who tend to be attracted to rogue fraternities, tend to be attracted to them because they feel somehow that they are hipper, if you will, than a recognized fraternity.

  • 12:38:44

    DANIELSYeah, I can answer that. I think, first of all, that Greek life on every college campus is different. And so when I say I think that at my school we don't actually really have any mainstream, unrecognized fraternities -- I know if you go on my school's website it says there are -- there's this and that fraternity that are unrecognized, but I've never even heard of them. And I don't know -- I couldn't tell you a single person in it. I consider myself to be very active in the Greek community, and within my school, only recognized chapters kind of gain that credibility.

  • 12:39:20

    DANIELSAnd once a chapter kind of loses its recognition, if a chapter has been kicked off campus -- there have been chapters kicked off my school's campus in the past 20 years -- they generally just kind of tend to wither away.

  • 12:39:34

    NNAMDIAs opposed to becoming more attractive.

  • 12:39:36

    DANIELSRight, yeah. So I would think that they're not attractive. Because mostly, within my school, the Greek community is very close knit and chapters work with each other all the time through philanthropies. And fraternities and sororities work together and the inter-fraternity council and the Pan-Hellenic Association, the governing councils work together. And if you're not recognized by the school, then you can't participate in any of that.

  • 12:39:58

    DANIELSAnd if you're not recognized by the school then you can't participate in any of that. And so it's really not an appealing motive because you really can't participate in the Greek process at the school. You're really just kind of in your own external club.

  • 12:40:14

    NNAMDIHere is Caroline, in Washington, D.C. Caroline, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:40:18

    CAROLINEYes. Thank you. Very interesting show and a really important discussion that I think is long overdue and needs to continue. I have a very negative view of fraternities, based on my own experience. In 1976 I was a freshman at the University of Maryland. And I dated a guy who was a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity. And somebody on this show earlier said something about the values of scholarship.

  • 12:40:51

    CAROLINELet me tell you there was nothing about scholarships having to do with this fraternity. It was all about partying and heavy drinking and worse. The overt and celebrated racism and sexism and anti-Semitism that I witnessed was just absolutely abhorrent. There was one occasion at Christmas time where they had a Christmas tree set up in the living room that was decked out in swastikas and black Nazi symbols and Hail Hitler's.

  • 12:41:30

    CAROLINEIt was really abhorrent. Maybe things have changed since that time, but I doubt it. I think they're an anachronism and we ought to give serious thought to do doing away with them.

  • 12:41:42

    NNAMDICaroline, you kept dating this guy?

  • 12:41:47

    CAROLINENo, I didn't.

  • 12:41:48

    NNAMDIOkay.

  • 12:41:49

    CAROLINEI moved on.

  • 12:41:50

    NNAMDIMatt Supple, can you tell us anything about if that fraternity exists today and what it's like?

  • 12:41:55

    SUPPLEAbsolutely. Sigma Chi Fraternity is back at the University of Maryland. They were closed for a period of time from 2002 for a number of years. And, Caroline, I certainly apologize that that was your experience. Again, part of what we talk about is the culture of the organization and when things go unchallenged by members. I would guess, even back in 1976 when you were dating a Sigma Chi, that there were still some really great men in that fraternity who just hadn't found their voice and hadn't found a way to stand up to their peers in a way that could change the culture.

  • 12:42:28

    SUPPLEIt's not to say that the fraternity deserved to continue to exist. And again, at the University of Maryland and lots of campuses across the country, we spend a great deal of time trying to identify what patterns of behavior exist in an organization, how to shift culture back toward the founding values, and if it's unsalvageable, working with the national organization to close them and bring them back later and have a fresh start.

  • 12:42:51

    DANIELSAnd I'd also like to jump in on this. I'm actually in Sigma Chi at George Washington. And, Caroline, the behavior you described to me just sounds absolutely deplorable and disgusting. And I can assure that my chapter, and I really hope that every other Sigma Chi chapter, is nothing like that. I, myself, am multi-racial. I'm Asian and Caucasian. My chapter includes people of all races and ethnicities and religions.

  • 12:43:19

    DANIELSWe celebrate Passover. We celebrate all major religious holidays. We have different sects of our fraternity. And we embrace each other's diversity and we're strengthened by that diversity. And I also think -- kind of just going off what Matt was saying -- it is a matter of schools and individuals within fraternities of speaking up against these type of cultures. And universities simply cannot tolerate these kind of cultures. And I think a lot of things have changed in the country since the '70s, especially at universities.

  • 12:43:56

    FLANAGANYou know what? I want to jump in as the one woman participant in the conversation. A lot has changed in fraternity life since the '70s, but I have to say very clearly, as much as I've written a great deal in support of fraternity life and my essay has been very well received. I was surprised by the fraternity community and the fraternity industry. And I was appreciative of that. But I have to say -- I'm a little younger than Caroline -- there was a tremendous amount of rape and sexual assault in the fraternities when I went to college at the University of Virginia in the 1980s.

  • 12:44:30

    FLANAGANAnd that has not changed. And we can't -- we cannot disavow that. And I'm still looking at -- this was a year-long investigation, of all the crates of research I'm looking at in my office, there's a whole crate that consists of nothing but accounts, compelling, riveting, heartbreaking accounts of sexual assaults in fraternities in America in the last five years alone. Now, they did not all go through the legal process.

  • 12:44:59

    FLANAGANSome were civil cases, some are accounts that just surfaced and women talked about them so I can't say by any respect it's a crate full of convictions of rapists -- far from it. But I recently received from the University of Virginia -- you were talking about how at University of Maryland and elsewhere we are invited to stay close to our colleges through our Greek affiliations. And I was in a sorority. And I was sent a postcard reminding me to visit my sorority or any Greek house that I was associated with.

  • 12:45:27

    FLANAGANAnd on the front of the postcard were the pictures of all the fraternity houses at the University of Virginia. And at five of them I knew women who were raped in those houses. I personally knew them. So I just have to put out there, as grim and awful as it is, that there's a lot of sexual assault of young women that to this day hasn't changed. And on the numbers, I don't see one bit of change in sexual assaults at fraternity houses from the '70s to today. I just have to say that.

  • 12:45:54

    NNAMDIGot to take a short break. You'll hold that thought for a second, Matt Supple and Tyler Daniels. We'll be coming back. If you have called, stay on the line. We'll try to get to your call. The number is 800-433-8850. To what extent do you think it's a college or university's responsibility to monitor the behavior of fraternities? 800-433-8850. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

  • 12:48:08

    NNAMDIWelcome back to our conversation on fraternities on campus and off. We're talking with Tyler Daniels. He's a senior at George Washington University and part of Greek life on campus there. He's also an intern with WAMU 88.5's "Metro Connection," and formally with this show. He joins us in studio. Joining us by telephone is Matt Supple, director of Fraternity and Sorority Life at the University of Maryland. And Caitlin Flanagan. She is a contributor to The Atlantic, where she had a recent cover story on fraternities.

  • 12:48:35

    NNAMDIShe's also author of the books, "Girl Land," and "To Hell With All That." We invited your calls at 800-433-8850. Caitlin, you named four horsemen of the student life apocalypse the fraternities, fairly or not, are often tied to. Let's take the first two together in the context of liability. How have fraternities protected themselves from problems that arise in their houses involving either or both alcohol and sexual assaults? And how does that compare in terms of both alcohol and sexual assaults to what happens on campuses generally, outside of the fraternity experience?

  • 12:49:16

    FLANAGANOutside of the fraternity, right. Well, you know, if you ask any campus president, college president in America, I don't care what kind of college it is, you ask him or her what the number one problem on the college is and that person is going to say alcohol, binge drinking. This age 21 law is just unworkable on the college campuses. The campuses have no way of being part of kids' drinking decisions because they can't allow kids to drink.

  • 12:49:40

    FLANAGANSo there's no more having a glass of wine with a faculty member after a reading. There's no more, you know, the keg of beer on Friday afternoons, where, you know, faculty and students are mingling around. There's no modeling of any other kind of drinking except binge drinking. And the fraternity life is the only place on campus that has that sort of illegals system for the service of alcohol that's run by undergraduates, some of them under age 21.

  • 12:50:08

    FLANAGANSo it's a very -- drinking has really been pushed underground. And one of the places it's been pushed to is the fraternity house. You know, sororities aren't allowed to serve alcohol. They're not allowed to have parties. So if you're in the Greek life, that -- and even if you're outside the Greek life -- the place where there's going to be a big party and there's going to be alcohol is the fraternity houses.

  • 12:50:27

    NNAMDII'm curious. Why aren't sororities allowed to do the same thing?

  • 12:50:30

    FLANAGANYou know, because the sororities -- it used to be because of an old sexist idea that the women shouldn't be drinking, the young college ladies shouldn't be drinking. And now the -- in this kind of paradoxical, funny way, the sororities on the one hand would like to get rid of that because it's a sexist rule.

  • 12:50:47

    FLANAGANOn the other hand, their liability is next to nothing compared to the fraternities. When you're not having huge parties with tons of alcohol, your liability insurance rates drop down to close to zero compared to the fraternities. So that's another paradox of modern life. And what the…

  • 12:51:03

    NNAMDII'd like to -- go ahead, please. And then I'd like to hear from both Matt and Tyler on this.

  • 12:51:08

    FLANAGANWell, what the fraternities have had to do is to find a way to indemnify themselves against the bad behavior of individual members. They're very clear to individual members, you're going to be dropped from the fraternity and you're going to lose your fraternity insurance if you misbehave, if you don't follow the risk management policies. But very often the kids do misbehave and what ends up happening are very expensive lawsuits that often fall to mom and dad to pay for.

  • 12:51:34

    FLANAGANSo there are a lot of parents who encourage their sons to join fraternities, but when there's a lawsuit, guess who's paying for it. Not the fraternity insurance they paid into, but the parents' homeowner's insurance pays out the claim. So there's a lot of issues parents need to think about when they do decide to agree that their kid will join the fraternity. Because, yes, he's a man. Yes, he's 18, but guess whose homeowner's insurance is going to get tapped if something goes wrong. His parents.

  • 12:52:00

    NNAMDITyler Daniels?

  • 12:52:01

    DANIELSYeah, well, I would also like to respond to Caitlin's concern you issued about sexual assaults and fraternity life on campus. And I would like to add to that conversation that sexual assault is not -- go hand in hand with fraternity life. And sexual assaults on college campuses happen everywhere, regardless of fraternity life, in and outside. And the members of fraternity life, this is a very, very small amount. And it's an absolute terrible thing.

  • 12:52:31

    DANIELSAnd my fraternity works specifically with against sexual assault campaigns. We participate in philanthropies. And if you look on campus, I think, moreover -- I know, Caitlin, in your article you mention that Bloomberg called to end Greek life on all campuses. I think if you end fraternity life, these issues are still going to exist.

  • 12:52:54

    DANIELSAnd I think if you look at -- just look at examples of bands and sports teams and clubs, I think it's a matter of young individuals, who are between the ages of 18 and 21, going off for the first time and whether they're in a fraternity or whether they're in a club or a band or a sports organization, there will be bad people doing horrible things. And I think you kind of have to address the larger issue at hand.

  • 12:53:20

    NNAMDIMatt Supple?

  • 12:53:21

    SUPPLEYeah, I think that you're both right, Caitlin and Tyler. And for me I think it comes down to a culture of accountability. I think so much of this conversation hinges on whether or not the behavior that we're talking about, binge drinking, sexual assault, hazing, we called the four horsemen at the University of Maryland -- drugs would be our fourth, not Boomers who have become helicopter parents. But for us it's a culture of accountability. If those kinds of acts aren't challenged from the moment they rise up in the organization, then there's a chance that the entire community can be poisoned by them.

  • 12:53:56

    SUPPLEAnd so, again, part of the challenge and benefit of fraternities and sororities is this idea of alumni involvement. The ability of adults to be engaged in weekly meetings with these undergraduates to help them stay on course, if you will. We have had fantastic experience. Sigma Chi is a great example of when they return to campus they have fantastic alumni advisors who are involved in the organization, probably not the person that Caroline was dating back in 1976. And certainly parents have become much more involved.

  • 12:54:31

    SUPPLEThere's an active parent organization in Sigma Chi. So much though, that we just hosted our annual awards program and Sigma Chi Fraternity won our top chapter in the Interfraternity Council. So I think this idea of accountability is really at the heart of every one of these issues. Where there is a lacking of peer accountability, I think those kinds of things have the…

  • 12:54:54

    NNAMDIRunning out of time, so I'd like to get in Joan, in Annandale, Va. Joan, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:55:01

    JOANOh, thank you so much for taking my call. And I'm really glad that you're focusing on the alcohol issue because I think that is one of the main draws to join a frat. I went to school in the '80s at Georgetown University, and we didn't even have Greek life. And there still is no Greek life there. And let me tell you, we didn't miss it. And, of course, the drinking age was 18. So we had a pub on campus, which normalized drinking.

  • 12:55:21

    JOANYou could go have a pitcher of beer with your friend. And people didn't really get out of control because you were in a contained place. Or if you were in your lounge, you know, on your dorm floor -- you couldn't really get as out of control as kids do now. My son graduated from college last year and ironically he joined Sigma Chi at his university, against my wishes. And, you know, I think the drinking was chaotic and it was crazy.

  • 12:55:44

    JOANAnd I think that the reason he joined was because he really felt there was a social void on campus. And a lot of that was driven by alcohol, that if you wanted to go where the parties were, it was the upperclassmen and it was off campus and that's where the frats were. And I think that, you know, if there is a popular Greek life on campus, I think it's kind of a sign that the universities are not addressing the social needs of their students. And I really recommend that most universities bring back some kind of a student pub for those that are over 21.

  • 12:56:13

    NNAMDIThank you very much for your call, Joan. I'd like to address this to all of because we are running out of time, very quickly. But, Caitlin, I'll start with you. College students are generally speaking no longer legally or practically kids. How do the dueling impulses to protect them and allow them freedom come into to stark relief when we look at the incidences that occur on occasion in frat houses?

  • 12:56:35

    FLANAGANWell, you're exactly right. You know, kids -- just because they go to college doesn't mean that they lose their constitutional rights. And they have a constitutionally implied right to the freedom of association. They can join any club they want, you know. When they leave campus they can join the Elks club, they can join the Friends of the Library at a local public library. They can join the Ku Klux Klan if they want to, so long as there's not illegal activity going on.

  • 12:57:02

    FLANAGANThese students have the right to the freedom of the association. They're over 18, they're adults, and that legal issue absolutely plays into every other thing that takes place in the context of they are legal adults. They've come from a very sheltered home experience. Especially kids going to expensive colleges like American University. They probably had a lot of very careful, thoughtful parenting, they probably had a lot more safeguards in place then they realized they did because their kids. And then they get to college, freshman year…

  • 12:57:30

    NNAMDIRunning…

  • 12:57:30

    FLANAGAN…can be dangerous.

  • 12:57:31

    NNAMDIRunning out of time. Tyler, you've got about 30 seconds.

  • 12:57:33

    DANIELSYeah, well, I think that to combat or to kind of inform young adults, you have to talk to chapters, you have to talk to university, you have to talk to alumni and you have to talk to new students interested in joining. You want people to make informed decisions. And I agree with Matt's characterization, you need everyone to be accountable. And I think if you create a culture of accountability, then you can help combat some of these issues.

  • 12:58:01

    NNAMDII'm afraid that's all the time we have. Tyler Daniels is a senior at George Washington University and part of Greek life on campus here. He's also an intern with WAMU 88.5's "Metro Connection," and formally with this show. Tyler, thank you for joining us.

  • 12:58:13

    DANIELSThank you, Kojo.

  • 12:58:14

    NNAMDIMatt Supple is director of Fraternity and Sorority Life at the University of Maryland. Matt, thank you for joining us.

  • 12:58:19

    SUPPLEThank you, Kojo.

  • 12:58:19

    NNAMDIAnd Caitlin Flanagan is a contributor to The Atlantic, where she had a recent cover story on fraternities. Caitlin, thank you for joining us.

  • 12:58:25

    FLANAGANThank you.

  • 12:58:26

    NNAMDIAnd thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

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