|How old am I:||34|
|I like to drink:||Lager|
|My favourite music:||Dance|
A utumn arrived treacherously at fraternity row, the scent of scandal cutting through the air like leaf smoke.
The fall semester at the University of Texas at Austin was barely a month old when a drunk nineteen-year-old member of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity fell off the roof of his frat house, plunging seventeen feet to his death. The weirdness was just beginning. When the Delta Delta Deltas Tri Deltsone of the most popular sororities on campus, came to a party at the house of the prominent Sigma Alpha Epsilon SAE fraternity, some of the frat members pulled the he off live chickens and tossed the bodies through the hoops of their backyard basketball court.
On another night, the Austin police drove up to the Pi Kappa Alpha Pike house to find a fraternity member, blindfolded and clad only in his boxer shorts, lying in the yard with his hands and legs tied. Soon frat news was filling the Daily Texanthe campus newspaper. The paper even ran a picture of the Sigma Chi yard after it had been decorated with various pieces of junk for a party. That same weekend, the Phi Gamma Deltas the Fijis had passed out T-shirts with the image of a Sambo-like character dunking a basketball.
Nearly a thousand students, who saw the Sambo figure as a demeaning racial slur, had staged a demonstration outside the Fiji house. Then, on the second weekend of November, the fraternity image suffered its most crippling blow. Word leaked of a vicious hazing—the physical, often brutal rituals that a pledge must endure before becoming an active member —that had taken place at the Sigma Nu house. On November 10, some Sigma Nu alumni happened to be visiting the house. About two in the morning, the group called a junior premed student from Fort Worth who was a Sigma Nu pledge, and told him to come over.
According to court affidavits, after he and at least three other pledges arrived, the actives and alumni hit him twenty times with a paddle and then took him to the Pit, where he was forced to do pushups. They pushed his face into the dirt floor while someone walked on his back.
They used the claw end of a hammer to lead him around by the testicles. They poked him eight times in the stomach with a broom handle.
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They ordered him to run around the fraternity house while holding a large rock over his head. Using lighter fluid, someone set the crotch of his blue jeans on fire. After his mother reported the incident, officials from the Sigma Nu national office quickly came to Austin, conducted a brief investigation, and then revoked the charter of the UT chapter.
The university administration moved to expel or put on probation seven of the students involved in the hazing. Within the insulated world of the University of Texas, where the most mundane of academic debates take on an apocalyptic tenor, the frat fight was becoming nothing less than a class war. For a couple of weeks, the student government offices resembled an anti-frat research center, as the non-Greek student leaders met late into the night, trying to break up a world they considered the embodiment of all socially destructive attitudes.
Incredibly, she was right. They told their pledges that these sorts of things had happened before, that their archenemy, the Daily Texan frat men solemnly refer to it as the Daily Toxinwas exaggerating the stories. Indeed, though fraternity men make up a small minority of the students at the University of Texas—of the 49, students, only 2, are members of the 28 social fraternities that now belong to the Interfraternity Council—they are probably the most visible culture of any group on campus.
With their swashbuckling, grinning manner, their confident gait, their thick white T-shirts peeking out from the top of their starched button-down Ralph Laurens, they are like a tribal society. Their palatial fraternity houses, the size of Third World capitols, loom over the small duplexes and apartment complexes of the West Campus neighborhood.
Their carefree parties, featuring some of the best black party bands in the South, are grandiose affairs that last long into the night. Well-bred, mostly upper-class white males who are making their first stylized steps into a life of privilege and power, they engage in activities that simultaneously titillate and befuddle—and sometimes frighten—those who will never be a part of that world.
They punch one another in the arm and laugh loudly. They drive expensive cars. Beautiful women adore them. Unfortunately, the fraternities at UT are notorious for coming across as the latter. Not only are they criticized for their general disregard for other students but their hazing activities have developed a national reputation. Sincetwo young men have died in hazing-related incidents; since thirty students have been placed on probation or expelled for hazing.
Since her own son died in a New York fraternity hazing incident inStevens has traveled the country fighting for legislation and new school policies that will eliminate hazing and other violent acts by fraternities. They think fraternities here are so macho that they are practically impossible to control. A black Austin bus driver reported to the police that at least fifty SAEs had surrounded him and shouted racial insults.
After a woman complained about noise coming from parties at the Tau Kappa Epsilon house, she subsequently received eighty unsolicited magazine and merchandise orders, fraudulent pizza orders, and numerous harassing phone calls, which the police traced back to the frat house. As the fall semester dragged on and the complaints continued to pile up, one could not help but wonder if the all-American frat boy was turning into the all-American hood.
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On a cool November evening, I headed up a sidewalk to visit the Fijis, because of all the UT fraternities, they were considered one of the most extraordinary of the litter. Although all UT fraternities are chapters of well-known national fraternal organizations, within the UT frat world itself there is a distinct and sometimes harsh caste system. At the bottom are seven small fraternities, most of them organized within the past ten years, each with about twenty to sixty members. There are also four black fraternities, composed of approximately fifty men total.
The black frats, however, do not have houses, and they maintain their own governing body.
Then comes the middle group of fraternities, each having 70 to members. The kinds of guys who, in high school, were football stars or the most-popular figures among the in-group, Big Six men are considered prize dates for the 2, women in UT sororities.
The largest fraternity on campus, Zeta Beta Tau, with members, is not considered among the elite because it is predominantly Jewish. There is a certain intriguing sameness among Big Six men, one that derives from their lofty position in Greek circles and also because their lives are hammered out of remarkably similar environments. Early on, they became accustomed to the advantages of growing up wealthy. Although a scattering grew up among notable small-town families, the majority were raised in the bigger Texas cities.
Many went to the same summer camps—such as Camp Longhorn, near Burnet—and graduated from such prominent high schools as Kinkaid and St. The Fijis were no different. All of their fathers—bankers, lawyers, oilmen, politicians—filled positions of trust and power within the Texas establishment, and instead of rebelling against their backgrounds, the Fijis I talked to urgently wanted to fit into that world.
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Already, they were deeply proud of what they had become: When I met James E. For them, the lesson had been learned early: To make it as a man around here, one had to make money. One sophomore was quick to point out that a major boulevard in my hometown of Wichita Falls had been named for his great-grandfather.
The chapter opened just three months after the university was founded, inand according to Fiji lore, the first student to own a car was a Fiji named H. Today eminent alums are everywhere: Mike Andrews is a congressman from Houston, and Austin lawyer Shannon Ratliff recently served on the Board of Regents. It thus seemed fitting that the Fijis would own the grandest of all the UT fraternity houses, a glistening white two-story mansion on west Twenty-seventh Street with great Doric columns on its front and sides and even a separate party house in the back.
As I stepped into the main house, I was astonished. The dark-purple-hued living room, with its overstuffed couches and black baby grand piano, looked like one of those roped-off formal rooms in a historical home. On the downstairs walls were Fiji group photographs from the past, one generation of wealth after another, young men who, regardless of the time, looked back at the camera with smiles that suggested they knew their way of life was ready-made for them.
The opulence of the house was all the more amazing when I realized that it was operated and lived in by a bunch of guys 18 to 22 years old. Like most other fraternities, the Fijis have rules that require their members to eat their meals at the house and attend weekly meetings.
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In a room off to the side, I noticed half a dozen young men were collapsed on couches in front of a big-screen television, engrossed in ESPN. Some wore baseball caps, a couple were dipping snuff, spitting into paper cups.
All of them wore blue jeans and Roper boots, and their faces were impermeable as they gave me a quick glance before returning to the TV. And then I heard a voice from the stairwell. That, to me, breaks down all morality. I did a double-take.
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Thirty seconds inside the house, and I was suddenly face-to-face with the bizarre dual nature of fraternity life. Here, in this sublime setting, listening to a polished, obviously educated student, it was a little hard to believe that all those fraternity horror stories were true. Could fraternities at UT really be that incorrigible, nurturing behavior that borders on criminality? They all figure out a way to accuse us of the problems of South Africa.
Give me a break. The men rocked the van and then beat up the father and his sons.
The police caught two white men as they were fleeing the scene. Both were members of the Fiji fraternity. Ken Oden said that reports from eyewitnesses suggest that the other attackers were Fijis as well.