Tuesday, March 26

Keep open mind about everything, even fraternities

Peter Hamilton Peter Hamilton is a graduate art
student. His column will appear on alternate Tuesdays.

A lot of freshmen have been coming up and asking for my advice
on the greek system. They say, "Peter, should I rush?" How am I
supposed to answer that question? If I say yes, am I condemning
them to four years of brain-numbing debauchery? And if I say no, am
I dissuading them from having a potentially memorable college
experience? The only way I felt I could give these brand new Bruins
the advice they deserved was to rush a fraternity myself! That
might seem strange to you since it is public knowledge that I am
already a member of a fraternity, but I felt that was the only way
I could give freshmen an up-to-date report on what fraternities
are, what rush is and what they should consider before making such
a long-term decision. I would have gone undercover and reported on
sorority rush also, but some guy did the whole wig and lipstick
thing a couple of years ago, so that angle had already been done.
First of all, understand this about me. I think fraternities suck.
But I also think they are terrific. Why the dualism? That’s simple;
some fraternities are misogynistic institutions that foster idiocy,
while other fraternities provide a structure that helps young men
develop into gentlemen. The first time I rushed was in the fall of
1986. I was 18 years old and brand new to UCLA. My first night at
UCLA was spent at wet rush (fraternity rush is now called "dry
rush" [i.e. no alcohol], but it used to be termed "wet rush" [i.e.
alcohol]). I partied it up at wet rush, and went back to my dorm
that night and threw up. The next night was the same story. And so
on. Guys were bid (offered membership to a fraternity) by how cool
they were. That basically translates into how well they could party
and hang with the fellas. I guess I was cool because I received a
bid from an established fraternity my second night out. After
throwing up in their bathroom, I told the rush chair (the person in
charge of rush at a fraternity) that I would think about their
offer. Something inside me told me to wait. I didn’t pledge a
fraternity (that’s when a rushee accepts a bid for membership)
until the following fall. That fall I rushed a different fraternity
from the first year because my roommates were in it. Big mistake. I
didn’t like anyone else in the house except my roommates. As it
turned out, the guys in the house didn’t like me either. When I
refused to do demeaning work (a form of hazing) for an active
member of the fraternity, the ding (expulsion) ball started
rolling, and I was soon kicked out. Surprisingly, I didn’t care.
All I lost was easy access to alcohol. My friendship with my
roommates remained intact. The next year I skipped fraternity rush
altogether because I was tired of the game. I had tried it, and was
dissatisfied with what fraternities had to offer. That was how I
felt when I heard a national fraternity was looking to start a
chapter at UCLA. They said they were looking for students who were
leaders, athletic and most of all, gentlemen. The last criterion
intrigued me. Gentlemen? I applied, and with the help of 80 other
men we founded a fraternity like no other at UCLA (so this article
does not turn into an advertisement for my fraternity, I will not
name the fraternity I belong to). I am proud that I am a member of
a fraternity that demands that its members spend 10 hours a quarter
doing hands-on community service. I am proud to be a member of a
fraternity that achieved a group GPA that was higher than the UCLA
average and higher than any other fraternity on the row. I am proud
to be in a fraternity with men who were the 1993 Interfraternity
Council (IFC) volleyball champions. I am proud to be in a
fraternity that won five out of five possible awards during Spring
Sing 1993. And I am proud to be in a fraternity whose members
graduate from UCLA and study law at Harvard and UCLA, nuclear
engineering for the Navy, microbiology at UCLA, law at Chicago and
of course, art at UCLA. In spite of all this back-patting, I am not
saying that you should "go greek." This article is meant to remind
you how important it is to keep an open mind and explore what
interests you until you find it. If I took the first bid that came
my way, I would have been a member of a party house. If I had let
myself be hazed, I would have condoned a demeaning tradition of a
worthless fraternity. But since I did neither, I had the
opportunity to help build a fraternity at UCLA that conducts itself
in a respectable fashion. Now I am not saying that being in a
fraternity will get you into Harvard law (even though my "little
brother" is presently studying there), because being in most
fraternities will do the exact opposite for you. What I am saying
is, if you are a partier, you can find the perfect fraternity at
UCLA that will allow you to continue with your partying ways. If
you like feeling disenfranchised and need someone to replace the
father figure in your life, there is a fraternity out there that
will gladly haze you. And if you spend your college years meeting
and befriending quality men (or women, because this same logic
works for sororities) who are going places with their lives, then
there is a worthwhile fraternity out there for you. If you think
being a member of an organized group is a pointless waste of time,
then you are set. There are many people on this campus who have
similar feelings. Do what you want, just be educated about what you
do and please don’t be so myopic as to categorize all fraternities
under the same tableau. That would be similar to saying that UCLA
and USC are indistinguishable because they are both universities. I
think you get the point. As for me, I think I’ll avoid rush next
year. Dry rush, though superior to wet rush as a system for
deciding who is a suitable candidate for bidding, is nonetheless
boring. At least one good thing came out of rushing once again. I
got to see other fraternities’ hidden rooms, read their secret
oaths and stand before their sacrificial altars . . . naw -
actually, I went down there and all they did was serve me endless
amounts of free food and soda pop. That is all for now. See you in
two weeks.

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