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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
less extravagance, it is because older heads have not done their duty, alumni have been neglectful, and college authorities remiss.
Another charge of truth and weight is that fraternities set over much store by college offices. Certainly nobody can defend the development by which fraternity bosses make combinations and vote their chapters with a skill that reminds one of Platt or Quay. Still, it is only just to point out that fraternity men are not the only seekers after office. As long as men in or out of college have offices to struggle for, there will be politics, whether fraternities participate in the elections or not. Senator Marion Butler, of North Carolina, was not a fraternity man, yet there was not in all the university a better or more notorious worker of "quills" (our name for tricks) than he. A remedy is to be found in educating public opinion, not in suppressing fraternities. Suppress fraternities, even prevent local societies, and personal cliques will spring up, with none of the restraints that act upon fraternities— no past to emulate, no future to care for, but only present success to achieve by fair means or foul. I do not mean that fraternities do not ever employ foul means. I do mean that it is easier to get at, easier to guide a continuous body with traditions and standards than it is an intangible clique or a temporary local society.
Much the same thing may be said about the charge of encouraging dissipation. That fraternity men gamble, get drunk, do much worse things, no one can deny, but so do non-fraternity men. Promising boys have been ruined by fraternity associations, but so have boys that never belonged to fraternities at all. From being an ardent fraternity man in days of extreme simplicity, I came for a while to the opinion that fraternities were the cause of so much evil, in particular of so much dissipation, that it would have been better if they had never been born, but being born, they could to great profit be destroyed forthwith. But in all soberness, I must now maintain that they more often save than destroy, and if they at times seem wholly evil, it is because alumni and college authorities have not done their duty. An individual personally reckless may be brought to pause before he involves in disgrace an institution he has sworn most solemnly to love and cherish. An individual who would be abandoned under other circumstances may be
held back and lifted up by fraternity mates bound to him by ties. almost sacred in their character.
On this point, hear ex-President White, of Cornell: "College fraternities," he says, "can be made a very useful adjunct in college discipline. More than once, when some member of a fraternity has been careless in conduct or study, I have summoned senior members of his chapter, discussed the matter confidentially with them, dwelt upon the injury the man was doing to his fraternity, and insisted that it must reform him or remove him. This expedient has often succeeded where all others have failed."
All this is not to say that the fraternity system is ideal, certainly not that we should rest content with it as it exists at present. I see grievous faults, and dangerous tendencies. But the remedy is not to be found in destruction. The first thing to do is to diagnose the case, the second to find the remedy, the third to apply it fearlessly. The evils of cliquishness and snobbery, extravagance, politics, dissipation, I have already noted, and found. a cure in an educated public opinion, and in the greater interest and effort of alumni and college authorities. Besides these, however, in some places is an evil of fundamental importance and of far-reaching effect. I mean haste in the initiation of new men. So keen is the rivalry among the different chapters, so intense the eagerness to fill depleted ranks, that new men are rushed into membership in the first two or three weeks of the session without opportunity for the new man to know the old man or for the old to know the new. The habit is destructive of the very basis of all fraternities. Fraternities are formed to unite in the closest of bonds men of kindred character and tastes. In the hurly-burly of a hot rushing season, how can that subtle sympathy on which friendship rests be discovered? It is utterly impossible; miserable mistakes are made constantly. If good results follow, they are mainly fortuitous. A system of assignment by the president of the college would answer equally well. The practice is absurd, indecent, insane, from the fraternity standpoint; to the college at large it is demoralizing to a high degree. In the University of Texas the fraternities themselves recognize the evil, and have lately agreed to postpone the issuance of invitations to membership for about four months after the opening of the session. I do not believe this will be found sufficient; safety demands at least a year here as in other