21 February 2014
Caitlin Flanagan of Vanity Fair has taken the art of the first paragraph to a new level in her article The Dark Power of Fraternities. I’m not going to quote it here. Just: coffee & cats warning, okay?
There should be a trigger warning on the subject matter of the rest, though, which is about the warring dynamics of student safety, fraternity traditions and independence (not all of which is bad), and universities knowing where their fundraising dollars come from and not wanting to upset the balance.
[T]he majority of all fraternity insurance claims involve booze—I have read hundreds of fraternity incident reports, not one of which describes an event where massive amounts of alcohol weren’t part of the problem—and the need to manage or transfer risk presented by alcohol is perhaps the most important factor in protecting the system’s longevity.
And, after a truly horrifying set of crisis-management steps:
As you should by now be able to see very clearly, the interests of the national organization and the individual members cleave sharply as this crisis-management plan is followed.
I love the descriptions of two sides of the fraternity vs. injured-by-fraternity representatives.
Fierberg is a man of obvious and deep intelligence, comfortable—in the way of alpha-male litigators—with sharply correcting a fuzzy thought; with using obscenities; with speaking derisively, even contemptuously, of opponents. He is also the man I would run to as though my hair were on fire if I ever found myself in a legal battle with a fraternity, and so should you.
And then there is Peter Smithhisler, who is the senior fraternity man ne plus ultra: unfailingly, sometimes elaborately courteous; careful in his choice of words; unflappable; and as unlikely to interrupt or drop the f-bomb on a respectful female journalist as he would be to join the Communist Party.
Worth a read even if you don’t actually care about fraternities.