September 5, 2012

Uncle Ezra, Bring Back the Frat

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As I sat in the library this weekend before realizing it was far too beautiful outside to waste my time pretending to do homework indoors, I scrolled through photo after photo of my peers at Big 10 schools (covertly, of course, as I’ve mastered the how-to-be-sketchy-without-anyone-knowing-library-Facebook-stalk). They were painted in school colors tailgating what was the first college football “game day” of the season. I spent a solid 20 minutes admiring the blue and yellow outfits at University of Michigan, the beer pong tournaments at University of Wisconsin and the outdoor dance parties at University of California Berkeley. I then looked around Olin at my studious peers, who, swimming through their orgo textbooks at 10 o’clock on Saturday morning, looked stressed, already pale, hardly oozing with the school spirit that my Big 10 peers seemed to have.

I’ll admit it: I wish we had game days. I wish we could dip into that pool of rah-rah college life every so often. It looks fun. Really fun. Fun for everyone involved — frat bros, athletes and merit scholars alike. Beer drinking aside, football games (and the tailgates that precede them) force students at big universities to get out of the library and have some fun, meet new people and get excited about their school. In fact, some might even call this “school spirit,” although this seems to be totally taboo in Ithaca.

While I would love to preach rah-rah Go Big Red spirit, I believe that we are far from tailgating every weekend and even further from filling our football stadium for games. Instead, I am going to stand up in defense of fun. Yes, fun. And, while many will contest my definition of “fun,” I am going to preach the gospel that is the good ole’ frat party, an institution that has, in the last year, been laid to rest on this campus.

Looking back on my early days at Cornell, I think fondly of the nights spent in frat basements, sweaty, dancing with new friends, drinking Keystone Light, sometimes in costume — but only if I had been patient enough to wait in the long line outside. Open parties, or fraternity parties that are open to any member of the community, were one of the only sources of organized “fun” I enjoyed during my first weekends at Cornell. And I wasn’t alone. Hundreds of students moved from frat house to frat house (often in large conspicuous groups), and, I’ll say it, I know they enjoyed themselves.

American pop culture gives us high expectations for college: We will learn a lot, be prepared for the job market, find an intellectual passion and, oh ya, have so much fun that you never have to think about all of those things. However, Cornell freshmen today are meeting a harsh reality. They have very little to do on the weekends when they don’t want to be in the library. New rules in the TriCouncil have banned freshmen from attending open parties, arguing that they encourage binge drinking. However, last weekend as I sat in my friend’s apartment in Collegetown and three freshmen girls stumbled in entirely unsure of where they were, what I had always assumed was true quickly became crystal clear: Open parties and organized events that yes, involve drinking, are the safest option for this campus. These girls had chugged a lot of hard alcohol in a short period of time in their room in Donlon before leaving for a night out of aimless wandering. Had they been at an open party, they would have been in a space monitored by University officials, drinking only beer.

I am intimately involved in the Greek system. Without a doubt, some parts of the culture are deplorable. However, it’s not all binge drinking and vomiting. In fact, most Cornellians drink moderately or not at all. Beyond that, open parties are undeniably the safest events (short of philanthropy bake sales, perhaps) for any freshman to attend. It is nonsensical to outlaw them.

When deciding where to attend college, I opted to leave Los Angeles and trek to a big school in Ithaca, New York (to me, and many, the cold middle of nowhere) because I was under the impression that the prestigious university was academically rigorous, but also a lot of … fun.

And I was right — kind of. Cornell is fun, but not in the body-paint and ice luge kind of way. And that’s good. We do not devote an entire day of each week to binge drinking and I like that. Hell, I cherish productive Saturdays spent in the library. As a community, we are, for the most part, responsible, driven and intelligent adults. However, it is unfortunate that the University prohibits freshmen from the safest Greek life events on campus.

In the good ole’ days, Friday nights in frat basements provided me a breath of fresh air (I use the term loosely), and a way to have fun in a safe and controlled way. Without open parties, many Cornell freshmen (like the girls I met this weekend, though they may not remember) are looking for something to do, some place to go, some way to take a break. Without any structure, they have to figure it out on their own, which only ends badly. Study after study shows that Cornell students are stressed. If the University insists on prohibiting freshmen from attending Greek events (even the safe ones), it is imperative that they provide new outlets for students to take a break, meet new people and maybe even dance. And no, I don’t believe adding one concert to the Cornell Concert Commission’s lineup is sufficient. Until then, I will think fondly of my embarrassing yet innocent freshman D.F.M.O.’s  (dance floor make outs) past and only hope that no pregames in Donlon end badly for the wandering freshmen of today.

Hannah Deixler is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. She may be reached at hdeixler@cornellsun.com. Shades of Grey appears alternate Thursdays this semester.

Original Author: Hannah Deixler