Campus Life

From Here to Fraternity

Here’s a question for high school seniors headed to college this fall and for college freshman who are now into the second half of their first collegiate year: Have you thought about joining a fraternity or sorority? In other words, is college Greek life for you?

I remember one event from my dim college past: a “Back to The Womb” party held at the fraternity house next to my dorm. Arriving guests had to crawl through a long, pink tube (made from huge leftover air-handling tubing). You can imagine how much fun that was.

I wasn’t a frat boy. I was a so-called GDI” “Gosh Darn” [edited for terminology content] Independent. However, I was constantly getting an eye and ear full of amazing (and, yes, sometimes disgusting) goings on across the way.

When I think about fraternity life (and, I guess, to some extent, sorority life), I often recall Master at Arms Doug Neidermeyer’s opening statement at the Delta House disciplinary hearing in the movie Animal House. He said, regarding a recent Delta party: “And most recently of all, a “Roman Toga Party” was held from which we have received more than two dozen reports of individual acts of perversion SO profound and disgusting that decorum prohibits listing them here. ” LOL. That must have been some party!

Anyway, the point of my post here is to present some food for thought. When you finally arrive on campus, should you consider joining a fraternity or sorority to enhance your social life?


I know that I have used the movie Animal House in the past here for college “fun” comparisons. If you think the goings on at Delta House are extreme, you may care to think again. Just do an Web search for college fraternity stunts and check out some of the hits you get. They range from parking a Volkswagen on top of the big MIT “dome” building to, well, returning to the womb.

Of course, perhaps the most frequently conjured image of campus Greek life is that pictured above: alcohol and, by extension, binge drinking. I started a thread on the College Confidential discussion forum about the purpose of college. Is that purpose education or employment credentials?

That contention has inspired some spirited opinions. However, there may be a stealth third option for the purpose of college: fun, and by extension, happiness. Have you ever seen Animal House? This pretty much covers the topic of fun (and happiness) at college. Of course, the hub of the wheel at hypothetical “Faber College” (where Animal House‘s Delta fraternity is located) is alcohol. Remember this advice from Bluto to Flounder after a particularly harrowing road trip to “Emily Dickinson College”? “My advice to you is to start drinking heavily.” Or how about Dean Wormer’s admonition to the Delta crew upon arriving for a surprise visit: “Well, well, well. Looks like somebody forgot there’s a rule against alcoholic beverages in fraternities on probation!”

So, what are the consequences of drinking (not only just “drinking,” but binge drinking) in college, other than hangovers and stinky clothes? Well, a recent study says that happiness may be one positiveconsequence. Interesting, eh?

Parents reading this may cringe when they think about their son or daughter being more on the sunny side of the street if they (the son or daughter) are located, mouth agape, beneath the spigot of a beer keg. Welcome to reality, this new study implies.

The study is entitled “Binge Drinking College Students Are Happier Than Their Non-Binge Drinking Peers” and was presented at the 107th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association in Denver, Aug. 17-20, 2012. One of the key findings indicated:

. . . that when students from lower status groups engaged in binge drinking, their social satisfaction was higher than that of their non-binge drinking peers from lower status groups and more similar to the levels of their higher status classmates, including binge drinkers and non-binge drinkers. Hsu said binge drinking tended to attenuate the negative effects of being from a low status group on students’ college social experience …

… The authors found that students saw binge drinking as a logical means to adapt, survive, and seek out the most favorable life while in college. “Low status students in particular seem to be using binge drinking as a vehicle for

social mobility and as a way to contend with an otherwise hostile social environment …

For a fuller understanding of the study’s implications, I strongly recommend that you read the entire report. Also, feel free to read and enter in the comments on the College Confidential discussion forum’s related thread. Of course, college binge drinking does have a down side, as Kent “Flounder” Dorfman noted in Animal House: “I can’t believe I threw up in front of Dean Wormer.” To which Boon replies, “Face it, Kent. You threw up “on” Dean Wormer.”

Be warned about the dangers of making sweeping generalizations (and decisions) about a subject (in this case, college Greek life) from a Hollywood cult-classic movie. However, you do need to make some subjective decisions based on, hopefully, objective analysis about what you want your college years’ social life to be.

The Scientific Method always sounds like fun, doesn’t it? Anyway, I’ll leave you with Otter’s famous words of defense from the Delta disciplinary hearing: “I put it to you, Greg! Isn’t this an indictment of our entire American society? Well, you can do whatever you want to us, but we’re not going to sit here and listen to you badmouth the United States of America! Gentlemen!” [Otter leads the Deltas out of the hearing, all humming the Star-Spangled Banner].

Thus, case not quite closed …


Be sure to check out all my college-related articles and book reviews at College Confidential.