by Eric Feuer, SUNY Cortland, March 3, 2011
WARNING: The following is true: the people, places and events. The names have been changed and some of the facts might have been distorted, after all alcohol was involved. But overall it's the truth as I witnessed it.
There was a knock at the door. I rolled over in bed and decided I never heard it. Who was knocking at my door?
My throat feels like sawdust.
"Reptar just called. He said you have to be at the house in twenty."
Interviews started at 12. It was 11:43. I struggled out of bed and threw some clothes on. When I got to the house the interviews were in progress. I waited quietly in one of the bedrooms with the potential candidates.
Two weeks ago I hatched the idea of following a fraternity around for a year. I'm not dumb. I know what being in a fraternity can get you: parties, girls, friends, good times, memories you might not tell your kids. But I also know there is another side to the experience. There are board meetings, public service and volunteer events. If given the chance I wanted to know what it was like being part of a fraternity, a brotherhood. I wanted to watch members go from pledge to brother.
The pledges ranged in age from freshman to sophomore. Some had parents who were okay with their choice; however, other parents were not as allowing.
"My mom hates it," Pledge Uno said, "My dad was cool with it, but my mom flipped."
I can understand why some parents would be against it, especially moms. Fraternities are seen for the parties, drinking, girls and sometimes drugs. It's college and if parents won't accept that their kids are going to drink or smoke, or at the very least experiment, than they must belong to the ignorance is bliss fan club.
When I approached Chauncey, the frat's president, about my idea he loved it. He told me I should come to the Greek Convocation the next night. He said all the fraternities and sororities would be there, and that it was semi-formal attire. Semi-formal attire? Was I attending a Tupperware sales convention?
The Greek Convocation was a pleasant surprise. It almost felt like a business convention with the awards and keynote speakers. Everyone was dressed nicely, which the keynote speaker Jose Feliciano commented on. "There's going to be a lot of well dressed mixers tonight."
Alpha Phi started the night off by talking about philanthropy and public relations. Alpha Phi Omega highlighted academics, volunteering and fundraising. All of the different Greek organizations spoke about bettering themselves and the community. Partying was mentioned once. Some of the speeches would have bored a corpse to death but some were very well done.
Kappa Sigma spoke about brotherhood. When the president's mom passed recently, he looked to his brothers for support. His other family. Lambda Upsilon Lambda made a great speech about salads. The world is a salad, and so is greek life. Sororities and fraternities are both made up of different races or nationalities. He noted that cultural diversity shouldn't be tolerated, it should be embraced.
Pi Kappa Phi spoke about volunteering and having moral standards. The president said that not everyone is born with the same advantages and that we have to help the less fortunate. "Giving back is not a topic of discussion. It's an obligation."
Later that night I got my first taste of the basement. It was a mixer: "white trash" was the theme naturally. There were enough wife beaters, fake tramp stamps and jean shorts to fill a trailer park. But the atmosphere was loose, the music was good and the punch bucket was full.
When I arrived at the house I got the tour. From the outside I had never expected the house to look how it did on the inside. It was a twisting maze of staircases, hallways and rooms. I sat down in one of the common rooms with Chauncey, among the awards for the chapter and its members throughout the years.
Chauncey made it clear that certain things I saw or were part of was strictly between me and the fraternity. I could come to board meetings and mixers, but I had to keep my lips sealed when it came to the sweat shop and black-market organ trafficking. After we had established the boundaries, we went downstairs. The party was already in full swing, evident by the reverberating walls and base heard throughout the house.
The basement was hot. But nothing like I would feel the next night. The second night my sweat was sweating. Every step farther into the crowd felt worse, like I was walking into the thick jungle underbrush. The basement was dark except for a few dim lights and the glow of cellphone screens. If you wanted to find a girl that night you just had to look for a cellphone. It was like the lights airports use at night to guide planes in.
Looking around I spotted plenty of planes looking to land. These pilots fell into three categories: approaching, landing and delayed. The approaching pilots are the ones who have just spotted a girl, or vice versa. Let's remember that both men and women are pilots here. Now there is a difference between approaching and circling. Approaching means you have a runway, circling means you are just standing there looking around. It's okay to circle, just don't do it the whole time.
Once the pilot has approached he begins the landing. This involves dancing or interacting with the female in some form. Making out if also appropriate. Delayed means the pilot is unable to touch down successfully. There can be a number of reasons for a delay, such as: the girl is too drunk, her ex-boyfriend just called or she's making out with someone upstairs even though she said she was going to the bathroom. Even the best get delayed sometimes.
Playboy rarely got delayed. Asking Reptar, one of my sources in the house, who was getting the most girls, he needed no time to think.
"Playboy. He gets tons of girls." It didn't take long for me to realize why he got tons of girls, he worked for it. Plain and simple, practice makes perfect. Even after slightly upsetting a female friend, who proceeded to storm off, Playboy kept his cool.
"Hey toots," he simply said. "Hey toots come back." Like a fish on the line, she came back. I don't know if anything happened between them that night. I wasn't worried about Playboy. Being part of a fraternity had its pros, namely girls. And I'm just talking about the groupies.
Yes, like rock bands, the frat has groupies. While these girls don't follow the frat on tour around the country, although I wouldn't put it past them, they enjoy the company of the frat. Only sometimes they enjoy more than that. To qualify as a groupie a girl had to hook up with three brothers in three different pledge classes. What exactly hook up means has yet to be determined, as I've heard varying qualifications.
A few days later I rejoined the boys for a chapter meeting. When I arrived they were already getting down to business.
"Alright fundraising," Chauncey said. "What are we doing?"
"Well we have the t-shirts."
"Okay what's going on with that?"
"I've sold the most so far," Blondie said. "Like five."
"I'm finding that women don't like these shirts. They're very derogatory," another brother chimed in. I haven't seen this year's shirts yet, but some before it have been moderately pushing it. One had the school dragon bending a girl over near a keg, so that it could still watch the game. Tasteful.
"Yea but guys love them."
"Sell them to guys," someone said from the peanut gallery.
"Okay well how about a weekly competition," Chauncey proposed. "Winner gets a 40. How about that?" There was minor dissent among the room. The 40 idea was not being received as well as Chauncey was hoping. "Okay what about a Four Loco?" Now we were bordering on a full scale riot.
"No way. That stuff is awful."
"I've never had one," a brother said.
"You don't want one. Tastes like gasoline."
The weekly competition idea was dead. The next order of business was the mixer on Thursday, which was had a masquerade theme.
"I hate the French," Country said to me.
"Okay public relations," Chauncey stated. "What do you have Country?"
"Well I had a great time at the white trash theme mixer. I liked the atmosphere and there was good public relations. Lots of girls. Overall the potentials had a good report. Saturday was good, again good PR. Beer olympics was good, like I said freshman girls. So yea I thought it was good. I mean freshman girls love us, freshman guys want to be us."
Normally at this point I would begin the second part of my report, but there is no second part. The frat "fired" me from my position of in-depth reporter before the first article was even published.
I had just walked out of my first class, it was a Tuesday morning. I saw Reptar ahead of me in the hallway and called out to him.
"We have to talk," he said.
"The frat was talking and they don't want you coming back."
"Why not?" I was stunned. Had I done something wrong without even knowing; broken some unwritten commandment?
"It was the article."
Reptar told me that most of the members of the frat, all but two of them, had voted against me. I felt like the bachelors who don't get a rose on the first episode of "The Bachelorette". If this was "Survivor" I would have gone home before my beard started to grow and my skin felt dirty. I hadn't even submitted the article and they hated it.
Reptar said the frat felt the article focused too much on partying. Okay so I discussed the partying aspect more than anything else. I neglected to mention the community service they had done or the bonds of collegiate brotherhood I had witnessed. But they could have told me this, I would have changed it.
At first I was upset. Was it really the article or something else? I hadn't really gotten to know the brothers yet, but I was only following them for two weeks at that point. After a few days I got over the news. I went from feeling like a failure to realizing that I had done something I never thought I could. I wanted to immerse myself in a fraternity and see what it was about, and I did.
I saw meetings, parties, interviews and everyday life. I saw what being in a frat is and realized it was never for me. The crowded parties filled with freshmen wasn't for me. The paying for friends and brothers wasn't for me. So the frat fired me, fine. I would rather go down writing what I wanted than change it to make them happy.
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