Thursday, August 9, 2007

Mindless conformity
and disparity between
urban and campus life

I'm not a fan of fraternities or sororities, or any group that mandates mindless conformity, so I am really curious to see how the Rider University fraternity drinking death case goes. I don't know why anyone would want to join a fraternity or sorority, or any gang, for that matter, but I'm sure the joiners don't understand me either.

Back in March of this year, a Rider fraternity pledge was forced/encouraged to drink himself into a coma, just so he could be accepted by his "big brother." You can read the details here. This happens all the time on campuses, and officers of the fraternities know it happens; the house masters know it happens; lower-echelon college administrators who work in the offices of Greek life know it happens; and the higher-ranking officials know it happens, too. Drinking games, beatings, and idiotic pranks provide the structure for most fraternities, after all.

If you take these activities and placed them outside of an idyllic campus setting, they seem eerily similar to gang life. Young gang recruits are seduced to join their organizations, like college students are drawn to fraternities: they are promised money, sex, drugs/booze, a tight group of brothers, and the glamorous life. If a higher-ranking gang member allowed/ordered the death of a new recruit, he is held accountable by the law. So, it's about time law enforcement agencies and families of dead students begin to hold responsible fraternity leaders and campus admistrators for turning their backs, and in some cases, their blatant crimes, and irresponsible behaviors, as well.

It wouldn't bother me at all if all colleges and universities banned Greek organizations, but I know that probably won't happen, and even if it did, it won't stop drinking deaths, or bad behavior on the part of some young men. But the atmosphere which fosters the Animal House mentality, as well as the secrecy that goes along with it, would be shattered. There is a lot of media attention on this topic, and it certainly warrants that attention...but I wish that society as a whole would pay attention to the human element in the cities, as well, instead of just writing off the cities as wastelands filled with sub-humans. We were watching NJN last night and there was something about the way Kent Manahan talked about city life, regarding the recent murders of the young college kids in Newark, as if that is just the way of life in cities. It's not, Kent. Some of us are here because we want to be here, some of us are here because there are no other choices. We all count. We all matter. But part of the problem is that many young people -- many city kids in particular -- don't understand their worth, or value their lives. Young men -- on campus, and in the ghetto -- are dying at each other's hands. There are far more deaths of young men in the cities than on campus, and not too many people outside of the cities care about how they live, or die. I don't have the answers, but I wish all people saw the tragedy in the loss of these young lives, whether the one lost is a white college freshman at a private university, or an African-American boy who never had the chance to go to college. This waste of life and potential is distressing and heartbreaking.

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