Wednesday, December 14, 2016

How to save the frats

I think it's time to acknowledge a problem with the United States Greek system, an institution near and dear to my heart.

I had a good time in my fraternity at Indiana. I still hang out with a large majority of the guys from my house in college, I have lived with one for the past five years. On Friday, I hosted my annual fifth exchange a, tradition I picked up at my fraternity chapter in college. For the uninitiated, the fifth exchange behaves as a 'secret santa' but instead of traditional gifts we exchange bottles of alcohol and proceed to get very, very drunk.

Sure it's a bit sophomoric for friends approaching 30 to celebrate the holidays by blacking out in absurd Christmas sweaters reminiscing about good times past, but as you get older you understand the importance of tradition. When guys get married, have kids and move away, it becomes much more difficult to get the gang back together and catch up.

Saturday I woke up with a headache around noon and began scrolling through some news stories, a very important part of my hangover routine on the weekends. One caught my eye "Tufts University Suspends Fraternity Activities."

I cringed, as I do when I see any of these stories. Something very bad must have happened. Alcohol poisoning, an accusation of sexual assault or worse, a hazing related death. It turned out that a former pledge had written an op-ed in the school paper proposing the abolition of fraternities. During a 'stripper night' the author claimed he had been forced to watch strippers do...well stripper things.

Instead of punishing the aforementioned fraternity in question, Tufts University decided instead to cease all fraternity activities effective immediately. Now, I do not have all of the facts so I will not pass judgement on the accuser or the fraternity but at face value it does seem to be a bit of an overreaction.

Now I do not know if Ben kesslen, the author of 'Abolish Fraternities' ever truly felt unsafe during a stripper night. I know that my fraternity had a stripper night and I was free to leave at any time. I know that as a pledge I was forced to clean, drive and do push-ups, but I was free to leave at any time. I suppose if I ever felt truly unwanted I would have left and then gone on living my life.

A quick Google search will show that nearly a dozen fraternities have been suspended in the past month for the usual infractions: offensive emails, offensive parties, displaying affection for Donald Trump, hazing allegations, drinking too much, mistreatment of women. It seems in this more sensitive political environment fraternities no longer have a home.

But notice that the suspension of chapters has done little to nothing to correct the problem. Anecdotally I can tell you that a certain chapter at my school tried to murder someone with a stop sign, aggressively sold cocaine, videotaped themselves banging strippers and yet; they were still the coolest guys on campus, just banished to some giant off campus houses that were under even less supervision.

No, the way to fix the problem with the American fraternity is to take away the ability of the dickheads to fuck hot chicks.


But this was a well reasoned article written earnestly about something the author really cares about and you just threw it all away with that last sentence.

Ya well now it's a satire piece. You good? If not, here's a safe space. Is Disney that safe? I dunno, it's just the site used to send me to if I accidentally said I was under 18.

Now, without further ado, my plan to save the frats...

To begin my story we are going to turn to the small country of Wales! Home to Sir Anthony Hopkins, Rogue One Director Gareth Evans and of course Swansea City FC.

For those that do not follow British football, Swansea City is a club that plays in the English Premier league, the only non-English team to do so. If you are unfamiliar with the English Premier league, the American equivalent would be something like major league baseball...and Swansea has long been a middle of the road team, mid market lie say the San Diego Padres.

Now in American sports if you suck balls for a season, nothing bad really happens. Your attendance may drop a bit, but nothing drastic. In fact some teams even use it as strategy to acquire a higher draft pick, this would be called tanking. However, in the Premiership and most of European soccer there is something called 'relegation and promotion' which punishes clubs in the bottom of a league and rewards others at the top.

An American example would be saying that the San Diego Padres have the worst record in major league baseball so they are booted to AAA.

Now let's get back to our friends at Swansea. in 2015, Swansea finished in the middle of the table (British for standings) and that same year, The Mirror, a British publication, ballparked their valuation as a team at 180 million pounds. That included tv deals, endorsements and ticket revenue among other things.

Flash forward to December 2016, Swansea is currently in 18th place (out of 20) in the English Premier league with 18, 19 and 20 getting relegated to the Football Championship, the next tier lower on the British ladder (AAA)

Now obviously this would be shitty for them. No one wants to go from playing in the top league to a worse league. But furthermore it impacts their bottom line aggressively. The Guardian, ran a piece saying that a club can lose up to 60 million pounds to relegation. Again, attendance is likely to drop, and some endorsements will go away but the big money is in the TV deal. How often do you see your local minor league baseball team on ESPN, not a lot, right?

Now there are parachute payments to ease the burden, but these run out eventually and according to my crude math, it appears that an eventual 60 million hit to Swansea would equate to roughly a third of Swansea's valuation.

Now let's leave our Welsh friends alone for a while and talk about frats.

People join frats for a variety of reasons: friendship, networking connections, place to live and party, athletics...but the number one reason is to have sex with hot chicks.

As difficult as it may be to read that sentence, the majority of the well off, cute, popular girls end up in sororities and the easiest way to access them is to join a fraternity.

But not just any fraternity; a top tier fraternity.

Similar to sports divisions, fraternities have an unofficial ranking structure: top tier and bottom tier. Sometimes top, middle and bottom tier. And just like the Indianapolis Indians don't play against the Chicago Cubs, Chi Phi doesn't pair with Tri Delt for parties.

Now here is where things are going to get a little weird...what if, for the sake of argument, we went ahead and made these tiers official:
Top tier frats were only allowed to pair with top tier sororities.
Bottom tier frats were only allowed to pair with bottom tier sororities.

Violation of these rules would automatically send you to the bottom of your tier.

Now it seems crass to categorize someone by a 'tier' right? But how are Greek houses ranked now? GPA? Campus involvement? Intramural success?

And of course how attractive and awesome you are.

But there ARE objective numbers we already use. There are some anomalies, but for the most part, that IS a good representation of the IU fraternities ranked socially.

People are competitive by nature, no one wants to be at the bottom, so what if instead of 'suspending fraternities and sororities' we rather knocked them down a division for their crimes.

Hazing allegations? That will hurt you.
Offensive party? You lose points.
Cyber bullying? Relegation is looming.
Alcohol abuse/inappropriate treatment of women/cheating scandal/etc. etc. etc.

You're fucked.

At the end of every semester, the bottom three top tier frats are relegated to the 'bottom tier.'

Now if we return to our soccer example, remember this cost our Swansea friends 33% of their value!

Fraternities might not have a monetary value per se, so let's call it social influence. Obviously you can't ban individual sorority members from hanging out with individual fraternity members, but one must wonder, would they want to if said frat boy had lost a third of his social influence?


Maybe not.

Is Pi kappa Phi still cool if it can ony invite a bottom tier house to their swampwater party?
Is ATO still top dog if they can't take Chi O on boats?

To take a moment to focus on the sororities, would there be as many diversity scandals with 'bottom tier' looming. Could it hep eliminate transphobia among the panhellenic council?


Maybe not.

But along with discouraging bad behavior, a system of relegation and promotion encourages GOOD behavior.

Jumping back to our baseball example...if we banish the Padres to AAA, someone has take their spot in mlb. For kicks let's use my beloved AAA Indianapolis Indians. If they were to go on a heater and finish in the top 3 of AAA they could be promoted to the show. I'm mixing metaphors here, but the reward for promotion in the epl (we're at soccer now, keep up) is about 100 million pounds, this could triple the value of a smaller lower division team.

The Greek example here is we go back to Chi Phi a middle of the road oft forgotten frat. They put up a good GPA one semester, get involved on campus, win a couple intramural events and treat their fellow students with respect, a promotion could triple their social influence.

Now are the Pi Phis automatically going to want to bang the Chi Phi dudes, maybe not, but the exposure wouldn't hurt. loo at the nfl's Rooney rule. Maybe a top-tier sorority girl will realize that they think guys that aspire to be high achievers and not just do drugs and scream racial slurs are pretty cool!

It certainly isn't a perfect solution but it might be better than just pushing the cool kids underground for 18 months every time they fuck up. At the very least I don't see anything wrong with starting a conversation about punishing people that do wrong and rewarding people that do good. If it takes gameifying the frat structure to save it, then by all means let's try it.

And as for the frat guys out there, I know you aren't a fucktards, rapists and sociopaths.

I know that Arabian Nights Parties are fun, I know that Pimps and Hoes is a great theme, I think hazing made me a better person too, but just knock that shit off for 4 years so the rest of your life you can remember college fondly as opposed to what could have been.