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It’s no secret that university culture has changed to become ultra-liberalized and identity conscious. What’s surprising is just how stupidly fast it has already happened. Literally 5-6 years ago when I was a freshman, we were doing things that are totally impossible to do now.
1. Have Themed Parties
Even in 2011, there was some sense that the wider world had suddenly become less understanding of theme parties. Which is sad, because theme parties are a little spark of magic and escapism in an otherwise endlessly monotonous cycle of binge drinking. Tell me running out to Party City to get costumes for a Knights and Wenches party wasn’t the highlight of your whole freaking week.
So like I said, it was clear even back then that you couldn’t do anything that would offend the large student cultural groups or was obviously questionable (sombreros, black face, etc). But there was this gray area, where you could still do most of types of theme parties and nobody would care.
Now it seems like every single damn person is part of some kind of a cultural interest group, and throwing a theme party that’s not “Upper Class White Guys Getting Drunk” is like walking through a room full of those weird little porcelain baby figurines in the dark and trying not to step on one.
Case in point: the Egyptian theme party at Michigan that had to be canceled because they were accused of cultural appropriation. Let’s completely step aside from the arguments on how dumb it is for people in 2017 to be claiming ownership of a civilization from 7000 freaking years ago, and address the fact that many fraternities have a ton of ritual stuff based on ancient Egypt. My fraternity, in particular, has been having an Egyptian-themed party for about 75 years. Which is 11 years longer than modern Egypt has been a country.
In 2011, we dressed up one guy like a pharaoh and carried him on a golden litter with a bunch of shirtless pledges in loin cloths holding him up. We walked in and formal tapped some girl in the middle of her 400 person intro biology class. Now my fraternity no longer does formal tapping at all, due to “image concerns.” Huge freaking loss as far as I’m concerned.
2. Hook Up With Girls
The whole point of college used to be jumping into the melting pot, being tossed around, and meeting lots of people really quickly. What percentage of relationships start in college? A lot of them.
There’s no other time in your life where you’re in such close quarters with so many willing and eligible people your own intelligence level and social class. You’re supposed to hook up and date. And you should be able to do it without worrying that your entire life is going to be ruined because you happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Now obviously I’m not defending rapists. But what happened after the absolutely fake and unfounded Rolling Stone Rape case in 2014 was an explosion of confused and reactionary hypersensitivity to campus sexual assault that met nervous and ineffectual administration staff without the capacity to properly handle it. In my own house, a girl went to the police and accused two of our members of drugging and raping her because she “blacked out,” couldn’t remember a large portion of the night, and woke up at home naked in her bed.
When the police came to the door, we gladly pulled the cctv footage from the webcam Dobbs hid in the ceiling of his room to catch the Housesquatch stealing beer from his fridge (a story for another time) and showed them that nothing like that ever happened. In actuality, this girl (a light weight) showed up in a group of her friends, drank two forty-sized dry ciders (that they brought), and puked all over herself. Our members drove her and her friends home to their dorm, where her friends took care of her after that.
Luckily, these particular cops had been trained in the art of deductive investigation. You know, because they’re law enforcement. If this girl had gone to the university first, who knows what would have happened?
3. Have Pledges
In 2011, there were fraternities that were allowed to have pledges that AREN’T now. Consider SAE. The formal pledging process was “officially” suspended in 2014. Now, as those of you in SAE can probably attest to, this didn’t actually change anything. But the public face of an organization the size of SAE ceremoniously ending pledging was a major blow to the cultural acceptability of pledging.
Note that the reason this happened was in response to some pretty nasty hazing deaths. In 2011, hazing was already on blast from both the universities and the state/federal government. In the years since, I think arguments can be made that even if pledging is still mostly intact, the spirit of pledging has been diminished. And the world is chipping away it surely and steadily.
4. Be Drunk and Disorderly
Okay is it just me, or does it seem like it’s harder to be a drunk idiot in public these days? There used to be these huge day rages and alcohol related events, like the Naked Mile, booze-fueled human chariot/dogsled races through campus, golf cart rallies, Tour de Franzia, etc.
Now, the Facebook pages of my campus are bare and colorless. As I progressed from a freshman to a senior, each of these day rages were cut down by one unusually hard police crack down after another, until they simply stopped being thrown.
What the hell happened? The Naked Mile, for instance, has a tradition spanning back to the fifties at our school, and as recently as 2012 it used to kick off with people draining tall boys and Franzia bags at the starting line.
2017 will be the second year there won’t be a naked mile at all. 2014 and 2015 included dozens of MIPs, several furnishing arrests, and an eviction notice at one large house that was a traditional end point for the rally.
It can’t be a coincidence. There’s less tolerance for parties and underage drinking than there was 6 years ago. In my city, the noise ordinances were also strengthened (without community input) as of 2013.
I’m watching new members come in with their entire thought process being different. They plan parties to be as quiet, safe, and discrete as possible. They literally can’t even conceive of some of the stuff we used to do every other weekend. And when Alums from the ’80s and ’90s come back, they tell us the same kind of thing.
The fraternal way of life is disappearing. It’s disappearing so fast and subtly, we aren’t even noticing it..