I was just reading the Carolina Alumni magazine and came across two things: first, my suitemate in Hinton James, the one that famously saved ten 2-liter bottles of his own spittle, had a baby daughter. Way to go, Trip!
Secondly, I read an interesting story about the decline of fraternities and sororities on the UNC campus, and how two sororities have folded in the last year due to flagging membership. The guys aren’t faring much better – the Lambda Chi house has been turned into an apartment building, and the once-powerful Sigma Nu, where many of my friends had been, is long gone.
It’s going to be awfully hard to find anybody shedding a tear for these Greek establishments, and to be frank, I would be more than happy to see those asshole Kappa Alpha dudes lose their house and their portrait of Robert E. Lee. But there is something about an old tradition like the frats that is hard for me to let go.
It helps that I was in the one fraternity that openly accepted every creed and color (and practically women), the frat that usually ran most of campus, adhering to a sort of “accidental excellence.” But take away the Greek system, and my brotherhood of recovering dorks and free-thinking iconoclasts would not only lack each other, but have no Pi Phis to lust after (and god knows we needed the diversion).
Whatever. It’s not so much the loss of the frat system that worries me, it’s the fact that a cadre of 50-year-old Baby Boomer college administrators have legislated Fun out of existence. When I was a freshman in 1985-86, the big gripe was that you couldn’t have kegs in the dorms anymore. Now, I just read that sororities will refuse to come to a party if there is alcohol present. I mean, what’s the fucking point? Do kids really stay sober at these functions and dance robotically to a DJ? Does somebody smuggle in some Red Bull and ginseng?
My guess is that a sort of “speakeasy” vibe has taken the place of a keg, a clandestine knock that is answered with a bottle of unmarked Pabst. Or maybe students get smashed on Rumplemintz in their dorm rooms, and then drive over to the party. Somebody please fill me in on how everyone has fun these days, because it seems awfully hard to pull off.
I don’t know what I would have done without nights at Chi Psi, having kicked back five vodka tonics, discussing art, commerce and philosophy with Rick Maechling, Andy Taubman and Jon Baker. Alcohol was very good to Chip; he even danced to My Dad is Dead. We had hall-crawls that redrew the map of America (my room was California), and parties based on China’s Boxer Rebellion.
Perhaps I just don’t get it. I went to school in the last days of the age limit. When I turned 19 on May 26, 1986, I was a legal drinker until September 15 of that year. Then the age changed to 21, and I couldn’t have a beer for another two years. I don’t think any of us knew what a sea change that would mean for college spontaneity. It might have taken a decade or so, but Fun was on its way Out.
It’s impossible to complain about these things without sounding like a lascivious, alcoholic creep, but maybe some gadfly needs to put his/her foot down and say THESE KIDS ARE 19 YEARS OLD. THEY NEED TO DANCE. THEY NEED TO DRINK WOO-WOOS AND WHITE RUSSIANS AND HIT ON EACH OTHER IN FEVERISH DELIGHT.
I’ve long maintained there should be a drinking age limit, but reversed: you should be able to drink as young as you like, but you have to stop at 40. If I move back to Chapel Hill with Tessa, graying in my forties with kids, I will STILL make a Jack & Coke for you students on a Saturday night. I won’t have one, but I’ll play foosball with you until 4am anyway.