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.

0 thoughts on “*burp*

  1. tod

    Graying in one’s forties with kids is actually better than you make it sound. And it beats the alternative, although I suppose one might choose not to have kids, and then there always is Grecian Formula or Just For Men. So you could be childless and not graying in your forties, but to me that would suck. When I was in school in the mid 70’s, frats were not in vogue, and we didn’t miss them. We managed to get shitfaced, and hit on each other all the same, and sometimes we even succeeded.

  2. Sean Williams

    Trust me on this. There are a lot of people in their early twenties having a lot of fun and they are not in frats. I wouldn’t bemoan, especially with what America is going through now, any sort of destruction of group identity.
    The Crib had a party where all the alcohol was purchased by refund checks from switching to AT&T and then switching back at the end of the weekend. And we had a girl living there. I never joined a frat, found them toxic, and I still managed to get debauched. Your frat may have been an exception, but frats are actually revolting.

  3. Greg

    I had great experiences with my fraternity (Theta Chi – long gone from Carolina) and agree that the decline of the Frats is somewhat sad. The things I miss about them aren’t the giant keggers (already mostly banned by the time I was going through) but the close sense of cameraderie and belonging. My brothers became my support system and family while I was at school. They helped build my confidence and anchored my whole college experience. I’m sure that students find other ways of fulfilling these needs, possibly through the dorms — though my personal dorm experiences sucked and made me feel like a dork surrounded by asshole jocks. I do, of course, understand that many people’s frat experiences are different and not as positive so I completely understand the predominant bias against them, I just hope the positive aspects aren’t lost along with the negatives.

  4. Ian

    I had a complicated relationship with my fraternity, but in the end, I still think it was an amazing place at an amazing time, and I carry about 45 good friends with me throughout life because of it. People who weren’t in a fraternity don’t really get it, but that’s cool too. I’d also add that my particular fraternity was different, but everyone always says that, so whatever.
    I was more bemoaning the fact that college is so much more restrictive in general, whether or not you’re in the Greek system. And Sean, you and your friends were at Carolina eight years ago, things have changed. I went to some parties there last winter – the kind the crib crowd might have thrown – and the vibe was totally different.

  5. steph

    hi, random comment from Charlottesville. A UVA frat just got suspended for literally throwing a load of “piss and vinager” on the pledge class. EW! AND, a UVA Football player was put in critical condition on Halloween when frat brothers wouldn’t let him into their party and allegedly hit him in the head, could have been self-defense- I dunno. I think the frats are just getting stupider than they used to be. I went to a UNC ATO semi-formal as my only frat function as an undergrad. Boy, did I feel like a dorkette out of water.

  6. Lyle

    Wait a minute, folks, first things first: You wouldn’t call your country a cunt, now would you? Please stop calling fraternities frats! It’s like fingernails on a frickin chalkboard. (Ian, I now reveal to you my ornery side.)
    Second, as well as maiming the baccanalia that undergrads have come to expect and deserve, Carolina’s new rules are in fact rather dangerous. Driving alcohol consumption deeper undercover makes regulations for students’ safety even harder to enforce. Making something illegal makes people more desperate and willing to try stupid things they otherwise wouldn’t. So bring back the kegs and let the bourbon and ginger flow.

  7. DB

    The word is “country”, not “cunternity”, so there’s really no parallel.
    And I’m sick of the “you wouldn’t call your country” joke.

  8. Tod

    Now that makes perfect sense. Universities should condone illegal behavior just because it occurs anyway? I guess they should turn a blind eye to cheating and plagiarism also, because for Christ’s sake, students are going to do it regardless! Why not just allow date rape also while they’re at it. I guess the UNC administration should be as sophomoric as the students.
    And as for calling fraternities “frats,’ that seems to be a commonly used term, even if some find it offensive. I can’t recall the last time I head anyone refer to their or anyone else’s country as a “cunt.”
    Please, come back to Earth. It must be getting pretty cold up there in outer space.

  9. Lyle

    Whoa, steady there…I think my time in Charlottesville successfully brainwashed me, because the mantra about fraternity/frat gets pounded into callow first-years (freshmen) as soon as they arrive. I actually thought more readers would recognize the UVA-ism, so it was my bad, so sorry to ruffle feathers. Maybe DB, who is sick of the joke, also spent time in C-ville but avoided getting brainwashed! DB, as far as spelling and pronunciation go, try saying “country” out loud. Regardless of spelling, it sure sounds like “cun-tree” or (gasp) “cunt-ree.” Tod, first of all, the behaviour (consuming alcohol) is illegal only because the drinking age is ridiculously low! I wouldn’t liken condoning a 19-year-old, who can legally get married or be sent off to fight a war, drinking beer to date-rape! Second of all, I’d be happy to call my country’s administration a cunt (or perferably a non-misogynist word) to Dubya’s simian little face, thank you very much. And Tod, you made good points about my comment but the outer space thing at the end was a bit harsh.

  10. Eric G

    The reference to Jon Baker brought a smile to my face. Since I have about 5 1/2 years left to drink before Ian’s reverse drinking age (a fine idea) kicks in, I’ll raise a glass of Natty Bo tonight(or the closest equivalent I can find at Beverages & More out here in SF) to the memory of Jon, who left us far too early.


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