Common wisdom suggests college fraternities are organizations with the purpose of letting men get wasted together, discuss sexual conquests in graphic detail, and then take photos of themselves teabagging their frat brothers after they’ve passed out. Sometimes, common wisdom is correct! But at one George Washington University frat, they’re trying to do away with the homophobia that usually comes along with frat life. How to accomplish this? Withhold food from potential pledges. No, this isn’t a form of hazing!
September is the season of rushing, when potential pledges try to make nice with the frats they want to join in the hopes they’ll be extended an invitation. It’s a whole song and dance that, from the outside, looks a whole lot like shopping for friends. It is. But this year, GWU’s Beta Theta Pi wanted to offer up non-homophobic friends!
Will the future fraternity brother enjoy s’mores at Kappa Sigma’s “acoustic jam” or feast upon Kappa Alpha Order’s steamed Maryland crabs? Will he chat up Sigma Chi’s favorite sorority ladies or help Sigma Nu launch a frozen turkey down a Slip ’N Slide? Will he scarf Lambda Chi Alpha’s Chipotle burritos or watch the brothers of TKE take a sledgehammer to a car?
This year, Beta Theta Pi decided to trade the food porn and the masculine displays of destruction for a more meaningful approach. “The events that I rushed into initially were food-focused,” says Stephen Molldrem, the fraternity’s vice president. “This year, we’re trying something completely different. Other fraternities will pick men who share their values out of the ones who show up for the Maryland blue crabs. We attract men of values, and we then just happen to serve them Maryland blue crabs when they show up.”
That formula—values first, crabs later—helps weed out the homophobes with the hungry. In Beta Theta Pi’s first rush event this year, titled “Frat Versus Fraternity: Myths Debunked,” Molldrem and his brothers discussed popular misconceptions about “frat boys” with potential pledges.
Same waspy sales pitch, but no naked ass paddling! At least not yet!
This is important, because while fraternities’ year-long purpose is to provide a campus environment to binge drink, officially they are service organizations.
William Zelenty, the fraternity’s rush coordinator, says the strategy had helped establish Beta Theta Pi as an organization of principle. “In the past, the fraternity was about upholding the status quo and letting the sexist and homophobic stuff fly,” he says. “Now, we’re dealing with it. If you’re the kind of person who goes around and says that kind of stuff, you’re not the kind of person I want involved in our chapter. Not everyone is perfect, but if any homophobic comments arise in a meeting or on the Listserv, I can tell you right now that it’s quelled immediately.”
Also not welcome at Beta Theta Pi: stereotypical comments about sexist and homophobic “frat boys.” “It’s just patently offensive,” says Molldrem, who is gay. “Even using the words ‘frat boy’ together can connote a bias.”
Just please don’t change the definition of “frat boy” so quickly. Otherwise, how will we know which str8-acting guys to go after on Manhunt?