All-male, highly secretive cells, sustained by sadistic initiation rites intended to prove absolute loyalty to the cell – this describes the mafia, Hell’s Angels, and American academia’s extensive system of fraternities.
I’m sure it’s possible to have all of the elements you need to create a criminal conspiracy and not create a criminal conspiracy; but this would mean exhibiting the impulse control one does not associate with bands of young men hidden without supervision behind high walls.
Fraternities have it one better than the mafia and outlaw biker gangs: Everyone thinks they’re cute. No one thinks the mafia is cute, but everyone thinks bonny frat boys with their local good works and character-building by-laws are adorable. I mean, they’re just kids. Plus they’re going to graduate from college and all.
So no one’s looking because these young college men are serious and clean-cut and appealing. They are a tight band of brothers enjoying almost total secrecy inside a nice large private residence, and they can be counted on to keep silent about any and all activities within the house.
What UD‘s trying to suggest in all this is that you’d almost have to be dumb, unambitious, unable to grasp life’s opportunities, to be existing under utopian criminal conspiracy conditions and not become a criminal conspiracy of some sort. Imagine a biker gang without a meth distribution business sounds like one of those conceptual challenges your professor poses in Intro Logic. So of course not all but a lot of frats are – on a small scale, of course, most of them – criminal conspiracies …
Too often fraternities function as unlicensed alcohol serving establishments on college campuses: a place where underage people, and those who are already intoxicated, can easily get alcohol. These practices are illegal in most states.
That sort of thing. (Drug distribution can become a seriously big deal at American fraternities.) You tell your stupid or indifferent or afraid university that you’re a dry frat, and your cover is complete: Your organization represents one big ol’ cynical lie, and the choirboy/gangster bit probably looks pretty amusing from inside the frat.
And so Greek life grinds on at our universities, dropping the odd rape or overdose or assault (lots of drunken fights break out in and around frats) here and there without attracting too much attention; but then you beat one of your eager-to-please initiates to death, or give drugs and alcohol to a coed who fatally overdoses. Something like that. Something that’s death.
This will finally attract some attention to your cell, especially if, like the guys at Penn State, the circumstances of the death are particularly depraved. And filmed. And if they happen at a campus already deep in blood and sex and gore via the frats and the athletic department. (Frats and sports: Hell of a synergy there: “[T]he secret to long service in a large public land-grant institution [is] ‘never messing with athletics or fraternities.‘”) You’ve now made it impossible to look away, impossible not to think about why so many fraternities are so disgusting, and why they’re part of universities.
Reflections on fraternities.
UD has long pointed out on this blog – illustrating the point with several cases from particular universities – that nothing beats a college fraternity for major drug distribution. It’s not only the strong secretive bonds of brotherhood, which is of course your basic Mafia thing. It’s also the pathetic fact of very young stupid people desperate for acceptance into a particular brotherhood. Dealing is part of their hazing, their testing, their proof of allegiance and obedience.
And it’s the symbolic value of colleges and universities. The seemingly wholesome aspect of the student scene gives the dealing fantastic cover.
[The College of] Charleston [is] on a growing list of college communities with fraternity-linked drug operations: In 2010, New York police in “Operation Ivy League” busted a ring operating from Columbia University fraternities that dealt cocaine and LSD painted onto Altoid mints and SweetTarts. In 2008, police in California arrested 96 young men in “Operation Sudden Fall,” in which undercover officers infiltrated seven fraternities at San Diego State. Last year, a Florida International University nursing student died of an overdose of cocaine and alcohol after an off-campus fraternity [party]. Police found text messages from members of Phi Gamma Delta bragging about coke dealing, including one that said: “We practically supply (FIU).”
At the University of South Carolina, three-quarters of the school’s chapters — 18 in all — have been closed or put on probation in the past three years for drug, hazing and alcohol violations…
Major weaponry appears in frat house drug distribution settings. People get killed.
Universities don’t get much worse than San Diego State, an epicenter of the drug trade, a money-hemorraghing sports joke, and a school run (though considering what goes down there, is anyone actually running it?) by a president whose greed so outraged the local community that legislators moved toward imposing mandatory salary caps on executive pay there.
And now, with the eyes of America on the issue of rape on campus, SDSU’s fraternities, apparently looking for something to do since an unusually big drug raid two years ago shut down their main activity, have decided that their contribution to the crisis will be assaulting women and pitching dildos.
Where are you, President Hirshman? The local suckers pay you almost half a million dollars to do something. But what is that thing?
Drugs and violence. Violence and drugs. If you take away your students’ drugs, they turn to violence. (“[S]even students have reported being raped at SDSU this year, one about 24 hours after a protest last Friday night against sexism and sexual violence.”) For some of your students, those are apparently the only two behavioral options.
UD says, Maybe it would be safer to give them back the drugs.
… the scummy world of big-time Southern football keeps rolling along. For years and years she’s followed the beautiful, profoundly rooted culture of obscenely overpaid coaches cheating their way to championships that get rescinded when some filthy traitor on the staff spills the beans. Then there’s the old-timey defamation lawsuit the fired coach files, in which he demands a billion dollar settlement cuz of all the damage the school has done to his beautiful reputation. There’s the charming buzz that ensues among the faithful: Who among the equally scummy cheater-coaches out there will be the dumped cheater-coach’s replacement? And everybody cheats, so why were we singled out? There’s the sweet perennial controversy about whether tailgate parties which turn the campus into a urinic heap where drunk out of their minds pre-teens reel about should be subject to a few rules, and the equally perennial controversy about the advisability of a university holding courses during the same week important football game are played (answer: scheduled classes are inadvisable). There’s the inexhaustible thrill of watching this or that heavily-recruited player with a notoriously violent past assault people all over town, as well as the larger traditional spectacle of groups of bulked up football heroes making use of monster SUVs, monster rifles, and illicit drugs all at the same time. The fraternities make their own venerable contribution to the Southern football landscape, killing pledges during fan parties through the time-tested method of alcohol and neglect.
The University of Tennessee is the scummy football school du jour; but places like Ole Miss, which combine all aspects of this culture with campus white supremacy riots, are real – uh – historic.
And yet at the same time what could be more totally up to date than white supremacy rioting?
Well, if you ever listened to ol’ UD, you wouldn’t be astonished at all. How often has she tried to tell you that the best cover for major drug operations is a colonial home full of clean-cut studious fraternity brothers? Really, who would have thought that the earnest young strivers at San Diego State’s fraternities harbored major weaponry, tons of coke, and all the rest of the tools of the trade in their quaintly Greek-lettered domiciles? But no – even after SDSU, you’re still shocked, shocked, to find that a massive drug conspiracy rages in three North Carolina universities. Silly boy!
Guns of course are ubiquitous at frats, but they’re an adjunct to the frat’s extensive drug dealing operation (see pages and pages of guns and frats here), or they’re AK-47s that the lads like to photograph themselves holding, or they’re be-well-son-and-take-care-of-yourself goodbye gifts from Maw and Paw as the little guy heads off to school. And of course they’re notoriously handy when suicide is in the air. All routine American gun use.
Real powpowpow, however, has been thin on the ground. Stuff that draws pledge-blood has been… anemic.
Yes, this Oklahoma State guy (an inter-fraternity council secretary)
used a loaded gun to scare two new fraternity recruits. The victims say (Owen) Hossack pointed the gun at their heads and asked if they would take a bullet for their brothers. Then, police say, he fired the gun …
But I mean big deal nobody got hurt and loyalty is an important value…
See, if you ask UD the omnipresence of guns, alcohol, drugs, teenagers, secret guys-only events, and loyalty tests should mean that America’s budding Stephen Paddocks begin routinely manifesting themselves at our fraternities. By national standards, shooting a gun at two guys’ heads but not killing them is, uh, kid stuff.
On the other hand, there’s evidence that things are escalating to the serious mass shootings UD keeps expecting. New Mexico State University (feast your eyes) is exactly the sort of walking abortion of a school you’d expect to be a first-adopter here, and sure enough they did manage to draw blood at a recent hazing event.
Dozens of students, including Jonathan Sillas, attended the Kappa Sigma fraternity’s initiation event.
As Sillas was leaving, another student, Miguel Altamirano, pulled him to the side and told him to turn around, according to a criminal complaint.
Altamirano pulled out a .40 caliber handgun, held the firearm against Sillas’ leg and pulled the trigger, the complaint states. The bullet went through Sillas’ leg.
Gun-friendly states always use the passive voice. The bullet went through. The shooter did not put the bullet in Sillas’s leg; the bullet decided to go through Sillas’s leg. And note the other thing going on at hazing events: Sadistic tyranny. Pulled him to the side and told him to turn around. Right out of The Story of O. Frat hazing (and sorority hazing) reeks, my dears, of S&M.
Duh. We all know that. It’s about torturing people pathetic enough to be willing to be tortured in order to join your club.
I mean, datz why I keep wondering why no mass killing at Sigma Alpha Epsilon yet! You know they’ve got guns galore, but no one’s gonna confiscate them because that would initiate a massacre of free Americans by the federal government. Little by little, a pledge shooting here and a pledge shooting there, we’re inching toward mass murder at an American university fraternity. Just be patient.
The place has been, for decades, a perfect shitstorm. You name what’s wrong with American universities, and it’s super-wrong with SDSU. Overpaid presidents? SDSU’s last non-interim president was so greedy an outraged state legislature and outraged citizens forced the SDSU trustees to make some changes. Bankrupting themselves through sports? An earlier president seems to have spent his entire term throwing all of the school’s money at a football team that played to empty stadiums. Homicidal fraternities?
Ah. Homicidal fraternities. Ever since an arsenal of big guns and a cache of big drugs were discovered at its frats (six were involved in a 2008 conspiracy so extensive and professional as to draw the involvement of the DEA) SDSU has held the distinction of being the site of one of our nation’s largest college drug busts. The conspiracy began to fall apart with the death of a student from a cocaine overdose…
… Which might explain why yesterday, in the wake of another frat-related death – he was a wee freshman who’d just gotten there – SDSU has done something less homicidal schools don’t do after each of their after all pretty routine frat drinking deaths: It has suspended fourteen fraternities.
I mean, fraternities being what they are, a bunch of them at SDSU were already being, er, scrutinized for the distant possibility that something untoward might be happening at them… But now! I mean, if you’re going to start killing nineteen year olds weeks after we’ve taken them from their parents and invited them to come here and study I mean, really!
UPDATE: Suspension: It’s in the air! Washington State University – another ridiculous sports-obsessed school – has also decided that their frats are getting a little much.
Nothing against your AR-15 or anything… We love frats here at Wash U and have just loved hosting you… And – haha – nothing to do with the whole Parkland thing… But… uh… could you leave?
And oh honey.
My lord what a morning.
If American universities actually start checking their fraternities for guns! It’ll be San Diego State all over again, baby! (Hm. Not really “all over again.” Guess it never really stopped.). Drug distribution networks around the country will be bereft, and no one will be able to figure out how to haze.
Fraternities are one of America’s very best places to hide weapons and drugs cuz you know – bright clean-cut lads preparing for the next charity carwash… Last place you’d look for AR-15s…
… from America’s colleges. It’s a little complicated, because it involves a football team/fraternity synergy… But okay. Let’s go.
A fraternity at Cal Poly has been suspended because the frat is a cover for a drug dealing operation. Nothing new there. More than a few frats have figured out that they’re supremely – UD would even say unbeatably – well-situated as far as the drug trade goes. Recall the federal raid of a bunch of San Diego State fraternities/drug houses. The raid netted guns along with drugs. These boys don’t fool around.
This latest thing, the thing at Cal Poly, also involved guns as well as drugs. Here’s the rather complicated first paragraph of an article about it:
Cal Poly has suspended the fraternity targeted in an attempted armed robbery last summer for violating student conduct policies, after the university determined chapter members knew illegal drugs were sold at the house and failed to take action.
See, what blew the cover of this frat’s operation was the school’s football team. A group of players wanted drugs, and they knew where the campus drug market was, and, well, something went wrong.
The Delta Sigma Phi house at 244 California Blvd. was the target of an attempted robbery on Aug. 10 allegedly committed by a group of Cal Poly football players believed to be looking for drugs.
I guess the football players didn’t want to buy the drugs; they didn’t seem to understand that the frat is a drug market, not a free drug distribution center.
So. To recap: You’ve got university football players committing armed robbery for drugs against a university fraternity.
Cal Poly: Keepin’ it all in-house!
The local paper goes there.
For a long time, UD went with stupidity as an explanation, because business-model party schools like San Diego State University have to admit a lot of stupid people. Then – for similar party school reasons – UD went with wasted, because being drunk certainly helps make it possible for men to hurl eggs and dildos at women …
(By the way: Remember what UD told you about a similar civil war at the University of Virginia, where frat boys are destroying anti-violence exhibits and, when asked to stop, loudly threatening the people asking them to stop? As with San Diego State, don’t expect the pro-rape forces to surrender without a fight. And those SDSU frats don’t fool around: The last DEA raid on them uncovered a number of guns, plus an impressive cash reserve. )
But it’s occurred to her that the editorial board of U-T San Diego is probably right: Group psychosis looks most plausible.
Let’s put it this way: Drug-running, gang-banging, eat-my-puke pledging fraternities are tailored to appeal to some of America’s most promising sociopaths-in-training. If you want to understand these people, read the chapter in The Story of O when O is brought to a become-a-slave sorority, and instantly goes from a psychopathic masochist to a psychopathic sadist.
UD wouldn’t think of denying that the personal traits honed in some of America’s highest-profile fraternities can be traded up to a career at Goldman Sachs. And, uh, Lehman Brothers…? She understands why predatory capitalism is called predatory capitalism. She sees perfectly well the through-line between secretive all-male sado-masochistic loyalty and this blessed bountiful land.
She just wonders why this form of social interaction dominates so many of our universities.
Finally a University of North Carolina insider willing to trot out the whole 2+2=5, War is Peace, routine! Anyone can condemn the football and basketball scandal at that school as America’s largest instance yet of the way big-time athletics destroys our universities, and indeed in the past couple of weeks everyone has – in a myriad of opinion pieces – done just that. Lawsuits are flying, alumni are pissed, heads are rolling, etc., etc. It’s Penn State all over again.
Only a few people, under these weighty circumstances, will have the guts to go against the grain.
SOS knew that such people would have to come out of UNC’s business school.
So say hello to Michael Jacobs. Mike, c’mon down! We’re gonna do a close scathe of your prose, because you’ve earned it.
For years we have been hearing about the “athletic” or “academic-athletic” scandal at UNC. Maybe I am missing something, but where was the athletic scandal? Were teams shaving points? Were tennis players intentionally making bad line calls? Were soccer players taking performance-enhancing drugs? Were athletes competing on the field who were academically ineligible?
Establish a peeved, above-it-all, know-it-all tone from the outset and come out swinging. No apologies, no concessions. Your first paragraph should contain no use of the word football or basketball. You are going to concentrate instead on the sports that really matter at UNC, the high-profile revenue tennis and soccer teams.
No doubt, there has been a scandal at UNC. But what happened in Chapel Hill was an academic scandal. This is not just about semantics. How you characterize the problem dictates how you devise the solution.
Jacobs has copied the response to the scandal that the entire leadership of the school attempted before it couldn’t anymore: Nothing to see here sportswise! (Penn State tried exactly the same thing: It wasn’t an athletic or an academic scandal there: It was just this one creepy guy, Sandusky, who showed up on campus occasionally… ) The UNC scandal is simply about bad business practices, and I’m a biz school guy, so I should know. I’m all about getting it done, solving problems, and I’m going to let UNC in on how to get out of this mess because – I’m now going to share one of those impressive b-school insights – ‘How you characterize the problem dictates how you devise the solution.’
This crucial sentence should really be rendered as it appears in its natural PowerPoint presentation habitat:
How You Characterize The Problem DICTATES How You Devise The Solution.
Athletes were not the only ones enrolled in bogus AFAM classes. They might have been the intended primary beneficiary, but the scandal appears to have been germinated and incubated by the academic side of the university. Paper classes were the brainchild of “academicians” in the college of arts and sciences.
The first sentence is correct, and it means not that the scandal therefore was only academic, but that the scandal was endemic to the university as such. That is, it operated throughout all aspects of the institution, including fraternities (frat boys were the other big beneficiaries of the hoax), athletics, administration, and faculty. The second two sentences are incorrect. The scandal was the brainchild of Deborah Crowder in association with coaches, the hilariously titled Academic Counselors, and Julius Nyang’oro. It seems to have enjoyed tacit acceptance everywhere, all the way up to the woman now chancellor at a sports-above-all sister school, University of Kansas.
Note also Jacobs’ penchant for quotation marks. They designate the can-do biz guy’s contempt for the enemy – intellectuality.
The irony is that now a vocal group of UNC faculty members is questioning whether big-time athletics can co-exist with a prominent academic research institution. The corruption of athletics is tainting the pure quest for knowledge, they contend.
SOS says: This is fine. He’s extending his point about stoopid “academicians.” But she would urge Jacobs, on rewriting, to put the words tainting and pure in quotation marks as well. Like this:
The corruption of athletics is “tainting” the “pure” quest for knowledge, they contend.
SOS knows what you’re saying. Put corruption in quotation marks too! But three q.m.’s in one sentence is too many, she contends.
The simple answer is yes they can co-exist, as they do at reputable institutions all across the country, if the academicians will run the academic program with integrity.
Here we see the cut through all the bullshit approach of the b-school boys. Simple, pragmatic, nothing fancy, just square your shoulders and get the job done. All you need is the guts, and unfortunately academicians are gutless. Notice that we’re in the fifth paragraph and the words football and basketball have still not appeared. Certainly reputable institutions across the country have been able to run their tennis and soccer programs with integrity. UNC can too, and this is how:
The breakdown at UNC was due to a lack of appropriate controls and accountability systems within the college of arts and sciences. The primary gestation period for this scandal occurred under the watch of a chancellor who was a musician. While universities need scholars in all areas, including music, music is probably not the optimal background to manage a complex $1.5 billion organization.
Cherchez le musicien! You can get some pansy who fiddles while Rome burns, or you can bring in me and the boys to clean up the mess. It’s your choice! It’s your funeral! It’s your Requiem! Your complex organization (suddenly all that stuff about simple has become complex) needs Men, not Mice.
Okay, we’ll skip a bit, as Brother Maynard says.
Here’s the heart of the thing:
Many in the college of arts and sciences squirmed because [the new post-scandal provost] did not come from among their ranks. The fact that he was an expert in organizational control systems and accountability rather than romance languages made some faculty members uneasy. But Chancellor Folt had defined the problem correctly.
It was all those violinists with French poems dancing in their heads who did this to us, who dragged our fine complex institution into the dust! If you want to clean things up, you obviously have to go to the money guys!
Perhaps the scholars in Chapel Hill who are screaming from the mountaintop that we need to purge our research universities of athletics should pause, take a deep breath and internalize an insight from that great scholar Pogo: “We have met the enemy, and they are us.” The best scholars don’t make the best administrators.
Bravo, says SOS. Jacobs has managed to write an entire opinion piece about football and basketball at UNC without ever mentioning either sport. He has also failed to mention the existence of athletic directors and coaches — the people who, as more and more players now attest, ran the scam from on high for twenty years.
I mean, it’s very odd, isn’t it? The fact is that UNC has been following Jacobs’ advice for ages, and that indeed the athletic program was run brilliantly, generating massive profits and wins. So what happened?
What happened is something that the Jacobs model, to its everlasting peril, overlooks. What happened is that one rogue academician squealed. Mary Willingham is what happened, and no university management system, however complexly and pragmatically run, can control for the rare, bizarre emergence of an honest, non-Orwellian person in its midst.
The only way to control for the enemy within is indeed, to use Jacobs’ appropriately Orwellian word, to purge her. So this is how SOS would suggest revising the piece. Add this.
The screaming scholars of Chapel Hill have it exactly backwards: We don’t need to purge our research universities of athletics. We need to purge our athletics of research universities.
That’s a nice gentlemanly way to put it. A member of America’s most homicidal university fraternity (its body count puts even FAMU’s Merry Manslaughterers to shame) fails, in his comment in this post’s headline, to register the difference between bad things happening to you (adversity) and bad people killing you (murder, manslaughter, via hazing). Maybe this …. I dunno… call it moral aphasia… accounts for the fact that despite the truckload of bodies Sigma Alpha Epsilon has racked up, its members continue to perceive it as a fashioner of gentlemen… They’re constantly using the word gentlemen in talking about the place…
UD‘s take on this is what you’d expect. She understands that men in certain sorts of groups will always want to torture and kill each other. She fails to see why this activity should take place at universities, on campus or off. Attaching the word “gentlemen” to this activity has a nice rough irony to it, and UD is alive to this fun use of language. But it doesn’t really take you very far, again, in the direction of universities.
Now, as universities become desperate about declining enrollments and that big ol’ loan to pay back on the new stadium, they will certainly be tempted, like the University of Massachusetts Amherst, to specialize in admitting all the violent gentlemen no other university wants. Big ol’ gangs of them, year after year, to bond and riot and haze. Like Zoo Mass (update on its AMAZING football team, football conference, game attendance, and stadium choices, here), these schools will get a reputation, and all the gentlemen in the vicinity will make a point of attending them.
In the not too distant future, Richie Incognito will be the president of a university.
But back to Sigma whatever. Talk about adversity. Even a bank as astoundingly scummy as Jamie Dimon’s JPMorgan Chase finds this frat too scummy to do business with.
Early this month, JPMorgan Chase stopped managing an investment account for a prominent client: the charitable foundation of Sigma Alpha Epsilon, one of the nation’s largest fraternities.
The bank was concerned about SAE’s bad publicity, according to Anthony Alberico, a JPMorgan vice president who dealt with the foundation. SAE has had 10 deaths linked to drinking, drugs and hazing since 2006, more than any other fraternity.
“If JPMorgan is going to turn us down, who’s next?” said Bradley Cohen, SAE’s national president. “What if universities start saying SAE’s not welcome?”
Well. There’s always Goldman Sachs.
University Diaries long ago named it The Worst University in America.
Today it was named Top Party School in America.
The University of Georgia, in Athens, Georgia, beat out Ohio University, in Athens, Ohio, as the top party school — a ranking derived from questions about the use of alcohol and drugs, the amount of studying and the popularity of fraternities and sororities.
Reed College has the best teachers. And Reed was second in the nation for “study the most.” Interesting combination.
UPDATE: Indeed let’s take a closer look at Reed College. Let’s look at three highly ranked (on Rate My Professors) teachers at the college ranked “best teachers.” Let’s see if we can discover traits they may share.
First, their names: Jerry Shurman, Mike Foat, Jamie Pommersheim. Shurman and Pommersheim teach math. Foat teaches religion.
Shurman’s RMP page.
Read them, read them. Then get back to me….
Okay. What did we discover? In no particular order, we discovered that
1.) Professors are weird. No surprise there. But it may be that really good professors are strikingly weird. Weird in the sense that they bring themselves into the classroom. Not that they talk endlessly about themselves, but that they are themselves. Not emotionally withdrawn. Not fake. Open. Vulnerable to being called weird. Human beings. Individuals. Students may like this in particular because at a young age, when students are tentatively working on becoming who they are, these professors — aside from teaching them — model a certain comfort in one’s own skin, an achieved identity. This can be quite inspirational.
2.) Good teachers assign a lot of work and expect class participation and general engagement. But since the teacher has excited the student’s interest in the subject, the student does not seem to resent the work. Indeed, the student may wish to impress the professor with her work, her enthusiasm, because she admires the professor and wishes the professor to admire her.
3.) The professor is not condescending.
4.) The professor has a sense of humor.
5.) The professor is very smart.
6.) The professor somehow manages to anticipate your confusions, your questions. From Shurman’s reviews: “His ability to know exactly what you are thinking and stumbling over is uncanny.”
(Note to online instructors: Don’t try this at home.)
7.) The professor’s enthusiasm for his subject is contagious, sometimes dangerously so. (“He hypnotized me into taking Attic Greek my freshman year, one of the dumbest mistakes of my academic career…”) It also broadens and deepens his lecture content. (“Says fascinating things about the structure and meaning of math in class.”)
8.) Enfin, it’s a pleasure. “His class was a real pleasure.”
Is this a scientific sample? No. Does everyone love these guys? No. Are they teaching under optimal, small-seminar, selective college conditions? Yes.
Still. Don’t we all already know that these are the attributes of really good teachers? Doesn’t this result simply confirm what we know?