The WSJ Article About Fraternities

by Matt Mattson

wallstreetjournalI’m guessing you’ve read this article by now.  If not, take a few minutes and really read it.  Read it once for yourself, and then read it again with empathy – try to put yourself in the shoes of the author.

The Wall Street Journal published an article by Caitlin Flanagan that stated, “The Greek system is dedicated to quelling young men’s anxiety about submitting themselves to four years of sissy-pants book learning by providing them with a variety of he-man activities: drinking, drugging, ESPN watching and the sexual mistreatment of women,” and continued with the suggestion that “If you want to improve women’s lives on campus, if you want to give them a fair shot at living and learning as freely as men, the first thing you could do is close down the fraternities.”

There is a lot I have to say about this article.  This blog, however, is supposed to provide practical, helpful, and insightful advice about growing organizations — fraternities and sororities in particular.  So, here’s my advice for both fraternities and sororities.

Print out this article, and share it with your non-Greek friends.

Set up 1-on-1 meetings with non-Greek student leaders to review this article together.  Take the article into your Dean of Students and ask to discuss it with them.  Gather a panel of female non-Greek employees on campus and discuss this article with them, your members, and especially your new members.  Walk into the Women’s Center on campus and ask to sit down with someone who can help you understand the perspective of the author.  Host an informational session with prospective members and use this article as the central topic of conversation.

I’m not suggesting you should tell all those people how wrong you think the article is. On the contrary.  I think you should tell them how real it is, and how representative it is of fraternities on many college campuses (if you don’t think it is, you just haven’t had the pleasure of traveling as much as I have).  Please don’t misunderstand me… those readers that know me know that I believe that when fraternity is done right (or even done pretty good), it is the best educational, leadership and social development opportunity on campus, and it represents the best of what young men can do together when they put their mind to it.  This is my point.  If you want to do fraternity right, part of that means that you have to own up to being associated (as an interfraternal brother) with the people who created the situation that prompted this WSJ story.

So, share the article with as many non-Greek people as you can.  Have powerful conversations about… what it means to respect women in the 21st century, how to create safe environments for all students on campus, what it means to be a gentleman/woman of class, privilege, class, self-confidence, manhood, peer pressure, alcohol, sex, etc. I’m daring you to take this article, share it with non-Greek students, and then listen to them.  Let them tell you what they think of fraternities/sororities.  Let them tell you about their real-life experience as a non-member when they interact with Greeks.  Ask them questions like…

  • Do you know students who have had negative experiences with Greeks?
  • How much do you agree/disagree with this WSJ story?
  • Why do you, as an outsider, think some fraternities/sororities have this reputation?
  • If you were in charge of our Greek community, what are three things you’d change right away?
  • Why didn’t you join?
  • The only way to change our organizations is to get better people in them, do you know 5 high quality people that I could talk to about helping to change the fraternity/sorority culture?
  • Would you be interested in helping me revolutionize fraternity/sorority on this campus?