Dartmouth’s Animal House Fraternity Loses Appeal

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On Friday it was announced that Alpha Delta, the Darmouth fraternity that partly inspired the film “Animal House,” had lost its appeal to maintain recognition by the college.

The fraternity lost its official recognition for allegedly branding its members. According to a report on the Huffington Post:

College officials have declined to provide details, but the fraternity’s attorney, George Ostler has described the branding as a voluntary form of self-expression like body piercing or tattooing. He said the practice was never a condition of membership and has since stopped.

It’s not a good time for fraternities nationwide. The article goes on to say:

Dartmouth’s decision comes amid increased scrutiny of fraternities as colleges nationwide grapple with issues of high-risk drinking and sexual assault.

On a lighter note, let’s revisit the costuming of “Animal House.” Looking at this set of screenshots by the blog Sartorially Inclined from the early Ivy Trendwatch days of 2010, there’s an impressive array of clothing, from ascots and boutonnieres all the way down to the most casual stuff.

Different clothes for different occasions is a concept that is increasinly slipping away. I just filed a story to one of the rag trade trade rags about “sportscore” or “athleisure,” or basically wearing sweatpants when you’re not sweating. β€” CC

54 Comments on "Dartmouth’s Animal House Fraternity Loses Appeal"

  1. I know I’m not the only one who is an afficionado of ivy league style in spite of its association with frat rats. I’m always delighted when a university has to come face to face with the unsavory reality of what fraternities are.

  2. @Rea – I think you’re making a blanket statement. Most fraternity chapters abide by the rules of the college or university of which they are a part and are not know for being unsavory. At a great many number of schools, greek organizations add richness to the selection of clubs that men and women can join, and they oftentimes add culture to the school community, too.

  3. Christian | May 11, 2015 at 2:30 pm |

    What were fraternities like during the heyday? Were they more prestigious rather than so testosterone-fueled? And when did they become so associated with the boorish behavior of today?

  4. LL Paternost | May 11, 2015 at 2:48 pm |

    @RWK Most fraternities have always been misogynist, racist, homophobic, anti-intellectual institutions. You know it, I know it, and university administrators have always known it.

  5. marinephil | May 11, 2015 at 3:01 pm |

    I was a member of a national fraternity that strived to be different, so we discussed this stuff a fair amount. As I understand it, a lot of the hazing began after WWII, when so many young men returned to campus using the GI Bill. They started forcing the pledges to do stupid things, similar to their own boot camp experiences. “Make them earn it.” Also, Animal House was a parody film satirizing the stupid things that college kids do, and it was an exaggerated mockery of the fraternity system (the a-hole stuck up guys, the drunk party animal guys, etc). Many fraternities responded by using the movie as an inspiration, rather than being insulted by the portrayal! Toga parties were huge, over-the-top drinking was applauded, and for many kids, it’s the only pop culture reference they have for Greek life. I’m not saying Animal House caused the problems with fraternities, but it’s interesting how life imitates art imitating life.

  6. TC Grad '12 | May 11, 2015 at 3:02 pm |

    I get the feeling that many of the negative comments about fraternities were not a part of one in college. I cannot make a blanket statement about the Greek system, but my experience was more about uplifting others and the members also. I’d also add that for my people who are outside of the Ivy League and Ivy League style, they would make the same accusations of racism, sexism, heterosexist, and overall elitism. Just my 2 cents.

  7. Christian | May 11, 2015 at 3:10 pm |

    @marinphil

    Sharp writing. Send me a note if you’d like to do something for the site.

  8. @TCG,

    Exactly. I was in a fraternity and found my fraternity brothers to actually be better behaved than typical college students, although I’ll freely admit that that’s a very low standard to exceed.

    My dad, who was class of ’52, seemed to think that things weren’t that different in his college days.

  9. I find it very silly that whenever the Greek system is (rightfully) portrayed as misogynistic, elitist, racist, etc. that there are always a few people (e.g. RWK and TC Grad ’12) who feel the need to say that they were in a fraternity and that was not their experience.

    I was in a fraternity. I liked my brothers. It was a valuable experience for me. But there’s no cognitive dissonance in having a positive experience in a fraternity and understanding that as a system they are exclusionary, elitist, racist, violent and coercive.

    Being unable to reconcile your positive Greek experience with the fact that Greek life overall has a huge downsides is indicative of a disability to think about problems structurally or in a larger context. It’s the same as James Inhofe insisting global warming isn’t real because it was snowing outside and he could make a snowball. Nobody’s saying every single frat boy is bad and evil. Just like no ones saying global warming means it’s never gonna snow again. Gotta think outside your own direct experience.

  10. Christian | May 11, 2015 at 5:33 pm |

    Even in the netherworld of Cal State Disneyland we had fraternities, though I was at the cafe doing poetry readings and never attended any of their parties. There was one guy on the fencing team (Asian, if it matters) who was in one and it used to infuriate me that he’d be hungover every Saturday morning for our fencing matches.

    You’d think the school and personal pride would win out on the dozen or so Friday nights a year when we had a tournament the next morning.

  11. Gornergrat | May 11, 2015 at 6:20 pm |

    Why on earth would it matter that he was Asian?

  12. Christian | May 11, 2015 at 6:30 pm |

    Because previous comments had associated boorish fraternity behavior with racism.

  13. Robert Rasmussen | May 11, 2015 at 6:52 pm |

    @ LL Paternost Your shrill comments are typical of the loud minority: overly broad and almost completely wrong. The shrill voices take isolated incidents and attempt to weave a false narrative. We don’t hear of the stupid, moronic or criminal activities of independent students, unless they are athletes, because they don’t fit their or the media’s narrative.

    At most large public universities, fraternities raise more philanthropic dollars in one semester than the combined independent students do in in years. Moreover they continue their philanthropic endeavors throughout their lives. Most traditional Greek fraternities have GPAs in excess the all-male average and do it in challenging academic majors that actually allow them to repay their student loans.

  14. @Robert Rasmussen Your points are largely facile even if they are true (which is debatable). Fraternities are by and large self-selecting. They are expensive to join, expensive to pay dues in and attract students from higher economic rungs. They are able to raise more money? Probably because they can leverage their wealthier networks. You are perhaps too dismissive of not only independent student groups that raise money, but independent students who do real community service like tutoring, working at soup kitchens, big brother/big sister, etc. Greek philanthropy, which most of the time (though not all) involves throwing parties and donating the proceeds, I would argue is less beneficial and ought to be celebrated less than students who donate their time and hard work, regardless of their financial means.

    Higher GPAs? Is that really because they’re members of a fraternity? Seems more like a correlation not causation thing to me (if its even true, which is again debatable). Socioeconomic factors could play a part (e.g. students who have full time jobs have no time (or money) to be in fraternities and have a harder time finding time to study). Fraternities also manipulate their GPA data. In my fraternity, if you didn’t meet the minimum GPA requirements for pledging you could ghost pledge (i.e. pledge the fraternity without the university’s knowledge). Thus, the dumbest kids were not reported in the GPA data.

    Your “shrill comments” are “overly broad” and, at best, limited and wrongheaded, at worst, “completely wrong.” Perhaps the narrative you are so attached to has its faults as well.

  15. My worldview and my values lead my conclusions about the world to be correct. Whereas your perspective and values are wrong, because as a fellow human being you did not turn out the way I did. So your conclusions are wrong, and I should hate you for it.

  16. TheHighCockalorum | May 11, 2015 at 9:25 pm |

    A great piece on Greek Life at Vandy. It sounds just awful. http://www.vanderbilt.edu/magazines/vanderbilt-magazine/2010/04/good-to-be-greek/

  17. Ward Wickers | May 11, 2015 at 10:48 pm |

    By the time I got to college, all the fraternities were banned by my school. A year before I arrived, one frat managed to drive the Army ROTC tank into the quadrangle, pointing the turret at the dorm rooms and threatening to fire. That was it for frats.

    It was a small college, and frats weren’t a big part of the campus life as they were/are at other schools. Probably because of the small size, we seemed to get along well enough without them. There were times, though, we regretted not having fraternities. There was a larger university nearby, and we could see the benefits that the fraternities provided.

    After freshman year, we still lived in the dorms but as a group of friends, we got rooms adjacent one another for the next two years. For senior year, the college gave us a large house. Not a smart move on their part, but we loved it of course. That consolidated what we already had — we basically made our own fraternity.

  18. Frats and the Greek system are targets of university administrations because they are a center of power on campuses. We are asked to believe that Greeks’ behavior is really different from GDIs. Universities are no longer places of freedom and are increasingly anti-male and anti free speech. Testosterone is not to be tolerated.

    With coed dorms on most universities now, does anyone believe there is more debauchery in Frat houses than dorms? GDIs never get drunk or “hook up” or break rules, etc? BS!

    For your listening pleasure,

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fxCSy7tpUME

  19. Andrew S. Eastman | May 12, 2015 at 1:06 pm |

    I graduated from Dartmouth in 2007 and spent time at Alpha Delta, because it was one of two rugby houses (I joined the other). The simplest approach to frats always seemed best: Don’t like them? Don’t join them. Easy enough. Besides, those not joining typically banded together and rented an off-campus house and acted like frat brothers anyway – or worse, because they lacked even nominal accountability.

    If you did join, you were in good company. Alpha Delta’s alumni include Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court Salmon Chase, Pulitzer Prize winner Richard Eberhart, NBC Television CEO Grant Tinker, Time Magazine publisher Richard Thomas, U.S. Olympic Committee president Scott Blackmun, and Phil Hanlon (the current president of Dartmouth). Notables graduating from other Dartmouth frats are too many to list. One of my heavier-drinking fraternity brothers graduated in 2005 and won a Pulitzer in 2011. I’m unaware of any pottery club producing similar alumni, though pottery clubs were almost certainly better behaved.

  20. TC Grad '12 | May 12, 2015 at 1:44 pm |

    @Delta, All that I was saying that there is no one uniform experience, and there is room for disagreement and opinion. Yes, as a whole the Greek system can be seen as overtly oppressive in many ways. In fact, it seems that we agree. I’m just approaching it from a different way. Basically, it seems that you’re saying that, “it’s not all good”, and I am saying, “it’s not all bad”. Glass half full vs glass half empty.

  21. My only experience with fraternities was as an outsider, visiting a friend at – ironically, given Christian’s most recent “Blue Blazer” post – Hampden Sydney. The impression I had was that these were mostly normal guys having a good time, and they were happy to include me as a guest. (some might suggest that, as the very last of the all-male colleges, HSC is an outlier).

    Still, what I saw there and during visits to friends at other schools with Greek life, doesn’t compare remotely to the attitudes reflected on sites like Total Frat Move: aggressive, in-your-face misogyny, disrespect and wastefulness. Maybe the joke is on me, and this kind of portrayal of “frat” culture is parody. If so, it’s gone way beyond ‘Animal House’; if not, it’s actually worrisome.

    For what it’s worth, I went to a Jesuit school, where fraternities and sororities are rejected out-of-hand, as beneath the ideal of a serious learning community. Varsity teams (of which I was a member) lived and partied together, but I don’t think we ever felt we’d been granted the “license” that fraternities seem to have
    been.

    One final observation: most of my friends who were fraternity members at other schools seem to stop actively participating in their junior/senior years. Did they outgrow it?

  22. Total Frat Move is a terrific site.

  23. @Roger P… That’s sarcastic, right?

  24. No, it brings back fond memories of my youth,

  25. @Rea

    Your comment that you are an ivy adherent “in spite of” its association with fraternities summed up my own feelings.
    I have always regretted the fact that people assumed that I was a frat rat because of the way I dressed.
    I tried to explain to them that for frat rats, it was simply a uniform, whereas for me (and many other sensible men) it was a matter of individual preference.

  26. Anonymous | May 13, 2015 at 10:23 am |

    I would not have expected this board to be so PC and anti-fraternity. God forbid that men join a club together these days.

    Though I graduated long ago, many of my close friends are from my fraternity. I still go back to reunions, dinners, and events. It can provide a professional networking opportunity as well. Can you say that about dorms? When was the last time you went back to your dorm and were welcomed in and had a beer?

    As to all this “you pay for friends” argument, living in a fraternity house was far cheaper than a dorm. I saved money from living in the house (and had much more fun). You collectively pay for parties and events, but what is wrong with that.

    My brother rushed and decided not to join a fraternity. It was not for him. He is not much of a joiner. To each their own.

    As to clothing, most fraternities had a dress code for meetings, parties, and events. Sororities would enforce their dress codes with fines and other demerits or something. Fraternities did not do such.

  27. Again, I went to a school that did not allow fraternities or sororities, so I know not from whence I speak.

    But I guess I’ve always interpreted the “you pay for friends” thing to imply that bonds formed by doing something together (eg. pulling an oar at 5:00 a.m. everyday for four years) legitimized the boozing/skirt-chasing/camaraderie/etc. in a way that paying dues and surviving ‘hell week’ together did not. At least that’s what we told ourselves. Heh.

  28. When did skirt chasing or having a beer need legalizing? I was lucky enough to attend university in Kansas when the drinking age was still 18 for 3.2 beer, . early 1970s. Every college had town blocks of college bars within walking distance.Sadly things changed, progressives can’t stand anyone having a good time.

    Most universities at the time made out of town freshmen live in the dorms. I had to, so did all my frat brothers. 90% of those rushed were from the dorms. GDIs weren’t looked down on or excluded, many attended our parties and charitable events.

    Race is a touchy issue. The times we pledged African Americans it resulted in death threats to both the frat and the pledges’ families. Unfortunately, they dropped out.

  29. Legitimize, not legalize.

  30. Paul
    Legitimize and legalize are synonyms, both verbs: make legal. πŸ˜‰

  31. Christian | May 13, 2015 at 7:05 pm |

    I thought legitimize meant long live the king.

  32. I thought legitimize meant shotgun wedding.

  33. Christian | May 21, 2015 at 9:21 am |

    Long thoughtful piece on the history of fraternities and their current problems:

    http://www.newcriterion.com/articles.cfm/On-fraternities—manliness-8167

  34. Thoughtful? Bluto became the new model of masculinity among fraternity men? BS

  35. Christian | May 21, 2015 at 10:38 am |

    I’d say thoughtful describes writing in The New Criterion, though you may not agree with the thoughts expressed.

    There seems to be a pattern lately β€” in remarks about socks, polo shirt colors and sunglass styles β€” in which personal preference is held up as a universal rule.

    I can certainly see how it’s easy to feel that way, being reminded of Sartre’s “in choosing myself, I choose man.” Here’s a summary of the concept I grabbed from the web:

    3. Explain why existentialists believe that “in choosing myself, I choose man.”
    a. Through our choices, we determine or create what we will be. In those choices, we choose according to what we believe we ought to be. (Compare this view to the Socratic Paradox that we are unable to choose the bad.)

    b. Consequently, we are creating ourselves according to what we think a person ought to be. This image is, then, what we think man ought to be. You are responsible for what you are and, as well, you are responsible for everyone since you choose for mankind.

    c. You create an image of man as it ought to be, since we are unable to choose the worse. In a sense, in deciding, I’m putting a universal value to my act by deciding in accordance with the belief that all persons in this situation should act in this manner.

  36. @MAC,

    While YMMV, of course, I certainly had several fraternity brothers who used one or more Animal House characters as role models. They weren’t our best and brightest. I’m trying to remember if there was a pattern to who behaved this way and who didn’t, but I can’t seem to think of one. I want to say that some were fellow prep school graduates who were rebelling against the tightly-controlled environment of their prep school and non-preps who were trying to fit in, but I’m not sure that that’s quite true.

  37. Im

    Oh there was a few wild fellows in my frat, but only a few and our job was to turn that around. We had hazing and we had Hell Week, the real intent being to bring the pledge class together as a unit.

    I lived in the dorm for three semesters before joining a frat, who is saying there all GDIs consistently lead lives of civility? My pledges weren’t standing in line Saturday mornings at The College Hill Inn to waste the day drinking 3.2 Coors. My pledges didn’t have time for that, they were too busy shinning my shoes and cleaning house. πŸ˜‰

  38. Christian

    Now we have test? I thought you were over my flippant bit loafer comments. Christ ! πŸ˜‰

  39. Notwithstanding the modern madness of radical personal autonomy, Existentialists are, of course, wrong in asserting that “through our choices, we determine or create what we will be,” because there are any number of things we do not and cannot choose that determine who we are.

    As for the Socratic Paradox, it’s not so much that we are unable to choose the bad as much as we do not choose what we believe to be bad (or evil).

  40. Christian | May 22, 2015 at 11:14 am |

    Although you would disagree with the atheism as the core of existential belief, along with much else, I’d actually think you would commend this school of thought for its emphasis on individual accountability. In existentialism there are no excuses, and in everyday American discourse the pendulum seems to have swung towards the site of unlimited excuses.

  41. Christian | May 22, 2015 at 11:16 am |

    PS: tell that guy who said this is a fashion blog that it’s fashion blog where guys discuss existentialism in the comments section!

  42. Individual accountability, yes, but to what end? Sartre, alleged to have “figured it all out,” concluded that life had no meaning, thus demonstrating the true destination of atheism: nihilism. If nothing matters, then individuals can be held accountable only because that is their personal preference, not because there is any overarching ethical framework that requires it of them.

    “Guys”? Well, two of ’em, anyway.

  43. Christian | May 22, 2015 at 11:33 am |

    I haven’t read him in a while, but I don’t recall him concluding that “nothing matters.”

    He certainly concluded that life has no INHERENT meaning, which is something that resonates with me even on the Sundays when I find myself in a church pew, or like right now, finishing my morning coffee while listening to the lachrimae of John Dowland.

    That gives each individual a tremendous amount of freedom to choose for himself what makes life worth living for.

  44. Charlottesville | May 22, 2015 at 12:31 pm |

    Make that 3 guys. I suppose it’s no surprise that I’m with Henry on this one. With only personal autonomy, real or illusory, as a guide, there is ultimately no ability to make an ethical or moral argument that is not merely based on either expediency or pleasure. It is all very good to say that Pol Pot or some other butcher is responsible for his actions, and to say that I choose to oppose him. An existentialist like Camus, for one, chose to oppose Hitler, at least after the occupation. However, I am not sure how to arrive at a purely existentialist argument as to why Hitler was wrong, even though we all, I hope, know he was. Today, I would say that it is difficult to explain to someone who has a deeply held cultural belief that women are chattels why women are equal human beings deserving of respect (I note that some may choose to view this as a comment on frat boys, although that was not my specific intent). I find it equally difficult to form a cogent theory that people are deserving of respect if a person is solely a mass of chemical and electrical impulses in a material body, a sort of animate meat sack. Finally, if we are simply matter acted on by internal and external impulses, how can we be said to make a choice in any meaningful way? Nope. It does not work for me, and Dawkins, Singer and the rest continue to come up short. And now, back to the clothes!

  45. Christian | May 22, 2015 at 12:37 pm |

    Well Hitler, women as chattel and how to govern a society are certainly taking things further than the mere suggestions I made.

  46. Yet they all follow from the same premise.

  47. Christian | May 22, 2015 at 12:48 pm |

    …. And at that I’ll call it a day!

    In summary, the idea that the reason why some people are inflexible is perhaps because in choosing their beliefs they are standing for what they believe is right for ALL people helps me to understand others, and the notion that I get to decide for myself what makes life fulfilling is an empowering notion that is helpful to regularly remind myself of.

    That’s all.

  48. Charlottesville | May 22, 2015 at 12:49 pm |

    Indeed. I fear that’s the price you pay for being such a kindly and indulgent blog host. Could be worse. We’re being fairly civil and at least we aren’t going on about “Muffy” and her blasted website. By the way, I share your view that The New Criterion is a thoughtful magazine. City Journal is another that is worth reading. I wish a lovely Memorial Day to one and all.

  49. Humans are not all equal. Period, each race and gender have strong suits and weakneses. Everyone today is too afraid to say that our DNAs make us better at some things and worse at other. To say that today is called racist or sexist. But it is not. I nor people who think similarly do not hate anyone or believe that it should dictate our place in society, or segrate society. Simply it is fact, with test scores and studies to back up.

    But let the backlash that we are all equal (intellectually, physically, and emotionally) begin.

  50. Christian | May 22, 2015 at 1:44 pm |

    I hope you will at least grant women and minorities equality under the law. With all their weaknesses, they certainly need it!

  51. Charlottesville | May 22, 2015 at 1:58 pm |

    D – Others may be vastly superior to me in many ways. You, for example, may be stronger and are quite possibly handsomer and richer than I, which I fear is faint praise. However, I merely opined that women should not be treated as chattels, and am surprised that the condemnation of Pol Pot and Hitler would prove controversial. I would submit that people of whatever race and sex should be deemed equal in terms of the right to be treated with kindness and respect, absent commission of a crime or other desperate offense, such as wearing a darted suit or a tie of the improper width, both of which, I blush to confess, I am doing today.

  52. Both D and Charlottesville are correct. What the majority of people fail to realize is that not just the idea of equality under the law, but even the idea of individual rights come entirely from Christianity. So when radicals like Dawkins want to do away with the source of their cherished beliefs (such as individual rights under the law), they fail to realize that they take away the basis for those beliefs, leaving themselves with nothing but personal preference (as Charlottesville correctly observed).

  53. The reason that minorities and women deserve equality under the law has nothing to do with their weaknesses, real, perceived, or otherwise. It is because they, too, are created in God’s image.

    Having said that, since men and women are fundamentally different, there are certain differences under the law that ought to be maintained. However, I do not wish to pursue that argument here, so will leave it as an exercise for the reader. (Hint: it has nothing to do with “inferiority.”)

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