O’Donnell ’08 defends Greek life in op-ed
Emily Van Gemeren / The Dartmouth
Fraternities may get a bad rap, but they are good at heart, Ben O’Donnell ’08 said in a prominent op-ed piece in The Chronicle of Higher Education on Wednesday.
O’Donnell, who was a member of Phi Delta Alpha fraternity while at the College, said that the positive attributes of Greeks organizations are often overshadowed by unflattering events.
“For every news story about a successful charity carwash or sack race, there is another reporting a stupid intracampus frat war, a naked pledge spoiling a campus tour for prospective students or a life cut short by extreme alcohol abuse,” he wrote in the op-ed.
Books such as “The Real Animal House” and movies like “Borat” only serve to perpetuate damaging stereotypes about fraternities, O’Donnell said.
O’Donnell argued that there is more to the organizations than binge drinking, explaining that fraternities offer an environment that allows students to grow. By being exposed to people of different beliefs and backgrounds, students learn to befriend – or at least tolerate – those they end up living with, an important life lesson, he said.
O’Donnell defended Dartmouth’s Greek life specifically, using it as an example of a system that embraces diversity.
“I shared a house with students who hailed from California and Nigeria, and our political spectrum included both the president of the College Democrats of New Hampshire and the editor-in-chief of the conservative Dartmouth Review,” he said.
O’Donnell went on to say that fraternities serve to provide a valuable learning experience.
“Undergraduate fraternity officers keep a house afloat by managing its finances, overseeing building maintenance, and acting as liaisons to university and national fraternity officials,” he said. “There are other responsibilities too, like monitoring parties, coordinating charity events, and, of course, keeping a watchful eye on the beer supply.”
Universities should work to embrace fraternities for what they offer, O’Donnell said.
“A place where, yes, guys can be guys; where rituals, power games, performances, competitions, friendships, and self-regulation can be played out; a community in which identities are cultivated,” he said. “Here, in rooms of their own, young men may sometimes thumb their noses at the dictates of grown-ups, but they also grow up themselves."