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tent to build slowly and carefully for generations yet to come. For we, too, are engaged in a work which is not for a day, or a week, or a year, but for all time, and so must lay deep and strong the foundations for a structure that shall some time gladden the eyes of man, though we who have served as architects and builders may have passed beyond the bourne.
In conclusion, therefore, I plead for a broader understanding of the meaning of education, for a wider recognition of the value of various subjects, and for an appreciation of the equipment necessary for their presentation, but most of all, for that wisdom in our faculties and governing bodies which shall build for the future as well as today, and, avoiding the mistakes of our predecessors, erect here colleges and universities of the first rank, worthy of the splendid young manhood whose masters and servants they are.
W. J. BATTLE, PROFESSOR OF GREEK.
Fraternities constitute now one of the most prominent features of college life in America. Local causes have here and there operated to retard the growth or destroy the existence of single chapters, but fraternities in general have as a whole had a steady growth, until now it is no longer profitable to discuss them in theory, but necessary to deal with them as most undoubted fact. Moreover, the new woman, with all her other imitations of men, was bound to copy also his secret brotherhood. From the difference of sex sororities are free from some of the evils of fraternities, but they have others to take their place, and it is by no means certain that the balance of good is to be found with the girls. Fraternities and sororities present essentially the same problem, and I shall make no attempt to treat them differently. This will I say, however, that the arguments for girls' societies do not seem to me so strong as for fraternities, and by us of the South, at all events, with our old-fashioned views about women, their absence might have been borne with Christian fortitude.
* Read before the College Section of the State Teachers' Association, December 31,
I take it that fraternities have their origin in the desire of man for society, for close association with his fellows, for the protection that comes from union with others. This desire is as old as
From the family, through the clan, the tribe, the city, State, the federation—its history is the history of government. Trade-unions and trusts are manifestations of the same desire. The Masonic fraternity and all the host of secret societies are a still closer analogy to the college fraternity. So natural an instinct of the human heart it is almost impossible to suppress. If you crush it in one place it will appear in another. College men will form societies. Whether they be secret or not matters little. The fruits of their existence are but little affected by secrecy.
Passing by the literary societies, secret or open, college social organizations may be either local or inter-collegiate. Of local societies, those that are temporary in their character are inferior to those that are permanent, in the absence of a reputation to live up to, and of a body of alumni more numerous than the active society, and more or less influential in its management. On the other hand, even the best of the local societies are inferior to the intercollegiate societies in being without the broadening influence of contact with other institutions that the intercollegiate fraternity affords, and in the lack of a great body of brothers in the mystic circle from whom, despite a good deal of humbug, and a vast amount of indifference, there come to the individual undeniable profit and satisfaction. However that may be, the local society does not flourish, the inter-collegiate does. Scarcely a college or university of repute in the country has not now its quota—sometimes more than its quota-of fraternity chapters, and more or less costly houses, providing homes for a large proportion of fraternity membership. To back these chapters, there is an alumni list of nearly 150,000, including many of the most distinguished men in America.
The aims of such flourishing bodies must be something more than mere pleasure. They have in fact been serious from the first. They are professedly the promotion of refined good-fellowship, the cultivation of high moral standards, the development of intellectual power. The idea is surely praiseworthy. That men of kindred tastes should unite in societies for mutual improvement is so natural, so inevitable, that in theory we shall find it hard to argue against them. Moral, social, intellectual improvement has
. a fine sound. It is an ambitious programme. How is it promoted ?
In the first place, the initiation itself is often of a highly educative character. The ritual of some, at least, of the fraternities is of great beauty and dignity, and when well carried out, of great impressiveness. The solemn obligations it enforces even the most flippant do not easily forget. If there is horse-play, it comes from exuberance of boyish spirits, and as long as their elders make much ado over the initiation of new Masons, or Shriners, or Elks, college students may with some justice claim a good deal of indulgence.
The initiation over, the candidate finds himself no more the important personage he was when he was being sought as a new member. He is now one of a brotherhood. His individuality is, to a degree, repressed. He is sure of receiving help himself, indeed, but he is equally bound to render it. The obligation of self-denial for others' sake rested on him before, but he did not recognize it. Now it is expressly formulated, and he is not suffered to forget it. The various mottoes, signs, and symbols, even the pass-words of the order, the usages of the meetings, the initiation of new men, all serve to keep alive and strengthen the lessons of the initiation night. Where each man is his brother's keeper, association means something more than when there is no such tie. Here more than elsewhere strength helps weakness, wisdom counsels folly, courage sustains despair in the march of college life.
This is the attractive side of the picture; this the aspect of a fraternity guided by men of character and purpose. Are such chapters often to be found ? It is of course impossible to make absolute statements. Conditions are such in one college as to render fraternities a success, a means of uplifting the whole atmosphere of the institution. In another they are not, and one president had been led to say that fraternities are evil, and only evil continually. Certain it is that if fraternities may be sources of much good, their possibilities of evil are also great. When President McFarland, of Iowa State University, in 1890, gathered evidence on the fraternity problem, he found a majority of his presidential correspondents of the opinion that the evil overmatched the good. I doubt if this would be the case now, but there are many who believe that the tendency of fraternities is highly injurious to right standards and correct living.
It is important to examine in some detail the charges brought against fraternities.
One charge which in former days used to be urged with much vehemence was that secrecy protected fraternities in the commission of many a nameless wrong, some said crime. The truth is that people have now come to recognize the fact that the secrecy of these organizations, so imposing to freshmen and young ladies, is, after all, more apparent than real. It is not difficult to get hold of a fraternity constitution, and as for mottoes and the like, did I not once know what the badge letters of several fraternities besides my own stood for? And do not several young ladies of my acquaintance give me my fraternity grip whenever we shake hands? An attempt at secrecy in this sort of thing adds zest, and is practically harmless. Did the obligation to secrecy hide genuine wrongdoing there would be ground for opposition. My belief is that it very rarely does. The countervailing influences are too strong.
A more serious charge is that fraternities are undemocratic, that they promote cliques, that they are the mother of insufferable snobbery. Unfortunately, there is truth in this. I have observed with pain the growth in my old college and fraternity of a feeling of superiority bad in itself, and sometimes ludicrously out of harmony with facts. Yet fraternities should not bear the blame for all this. With wealth and leisure our whole country is falling away from Jacksonian simplicity. Many people who are not in fraternities at all think themselves better than their neighbors. Even the patriotic societies so prominent of late years have just possibly along with patriotism fostered some pride of birth. The remedy is to be found in public opinion. If genuine worth is admired and pretension laughed at, snobs will disappear from public gaze, at all events.
A third charge is that fraternities foster extravagance. It is said that they set up as their ideal, not scholarship or real power in any line, but social prestige; that the criterion of fraternity membership is social availability, which, being interpreted, means looks, dress, and money, with little regard paid to brains or character; that in the pursuit of this social prestige great expense is incurred and ruinous habits of extravagance acquired. In all this there is an element of truth. Some fraternities do set an absurd value on making a brilliant show in society, and appear to regard no pains or expense wasted that conduces to this end. This is certainly wrong, but it is not to be laid solely to the charge of the fraternities. The spirit of display and extravagance is in the air. The prosperity of the last few years has set the American people into a habit of spending money without precedent in modern times. Fraternities but reflect the practice of society the country over. Fraternity expenses proper (I mean initiation fees and dues) are not, -as a rule, large, certainly not in the South. They are absolutely necessary to the maintenance of the fraternity, and I believe them to bring full value. Even when chapters operate lodging houses, expenses are not necessarily excessive.
On the contrary, I believe that the cost of living in them is often less than the same accommodation costs elsewhere. Indeed, it should be so. The house is paid for largely by alumni subscriptions, and the undergraduate enjoys the fruits of his older brothers' enthusiasm and prosperity. Of course it will be said that chapter-house life is more luxurious than college life used to be, and therefore more costly. True, but so is all college life more luxurious and costly than it used to be. The increased cost of a college course is not confined to fraternity men. The standard of living, the cost of living, has risen enormously among all classes of late years, and the colleges have only shown the same tendency. As for chapter-houses, so far from magnifying the evil, I think their influence is in the opposite direction. Their very conditions of existence subject them constantly to the restraints of older and wiser heads almost wholly absent from the rooms of non-fraternity men. No one can deprecate more than I the extravagant habits of today. The luxury and wastefulness of the rich, the desire on the part of others to keep pace with them, and the consequent prevalence of living beyond one's means, seem to me among the worst and most dangerous characteristics of American life. But I do not believe that fraternities or chapter-houses intensify the evil. In fact, alumni and college authorities can act more effectively on an organization with a past to be inspired by, with a present reputation to keep, with a future to provide for, than they can on an individual who has only himself for his concern. If fraternities have been guilty of sense