Tufts advisor sounds off
Three strikes and you may be out
by Benjamin Cohen
I am a product of the Greek System at Tufts. I became a brother in 1954. For the past seven or eight years I have had and continue to have the pleasure and privilege of serving as the chapter advisor/mentor to a fraternity that has had a presence on the Tufts Campus since 1941.
For someone such as myself who is committed to supporting the Greek System at Tufts it is indeed most disturbing to read about the fraternity/sorority transgressions that haven taken place within the past three weeks. There is absolutely no excuse for such flagrant, immature, irresponsible behavior that places people in harms way.
The reality is that drinking is a way of life on the college campus. Social scientists can theorize until they are "blue in the face." It is not going to change. That is the way it is and I have no doubt that it will continue. Administrators can rant/rave about and bemoan such behavior. It is not going to change no matter what kind of socially-responsible policy the University tries to develop, implement and enforce.
I truly believe that membership in a fraternity and/or sorority is an important part of the Undergraduate experience. Reflecting on my own time as an undergraduate, members of the Greek System were looked upon as campus leaders characterized by the achievement of academic excellence, the embodiment of Tufts spirit, conformity to socially accepted norms of behavior and worthy of community-wide respect.
Sure they participated in their share of campus hijinks, but never in a way that placed people in harms way. Yes, some carried paddles but only as a sign of authority not as instrument of torture and/or hazing. They were looked up to as role models whose behavior and demeanor was to be emulated. To be a member of a fraternity and/or sorority at that time was something to be proud of.
Yes, I know that the social mores and attitudes of that time in my own personal history no longer exist today. The "Age of Innocence" has long disappeared from this campus as well as campuses everywhere. I do not think that today's college students, as a group, are any more intelligent, brighter, or smarter than we were in the 1950s.
They are, however, a more socially enlightened group with a much broader view of the geopolitical situation then was the case with my contemporaries. Their technological erudition is beyond question and if used properly can be a source of great empowerment. It is therefore most unfortunate that the unacceptable, flagrant, irresponsible behavior associated with the Zeta Psi, Alpha Phi, and Delta Upsilon incidents of the past three weeks may be the beginning of the end of the Greek System at Tufts.
The criminal justice system in some states employs the three strikes and you are out principle which, in essence, means if you are found guilty of three felonious acts against society then you will be remanded to prison and society will "throw away the key"... exit the offender.
In a sense, the Greek System at Tufts has just struck out three times. This naturally begs the question as to why have a Greek System on the Tufts Campus. There are some within the Tufts Community who, no doubt, will say: "Enough is enough. Get rid of them. Who needs them. All they do is provide venues for binge drinking and other activities involving alcohol abuse. They serve no useful purpose."
My own wife continues to lambaste me regarding my support of the Greek System. She says to me: "For years now you have been advising/mentoring these young men. Nothing has changed. They still perpetrate acts of irresponsible, immature behavior. Why not stop beating your head against the wall and recognize that this childish behavior, on their part, is part and parcel of the Rites of Passage. In the years that follow they will grow up, develop careers, marry, raise a family, and become responsible members of the global society."
I must admit that the events of the past three weeks have given me pause and cause me to reflect on the sagacious wisdom of the woman who has been my life mate for over 43 years. She is absolutely right. Nonetheless, when it comes to dealing with the great issues in my life I have always proceeded in a manner akin to Don Quixote, the Cervantes character who tilted at wind mills. To my way of thinking Quixote was someone who believed passionately in the moral certitude of his convictions and thus was willing to tackle even the most obdurate obstacles, acknowledging that he might not succeed but nevertheless, was willing to "go the distance" for the greater good as he saw it.
It has been and continues to be my Quixotic mission to encourage members of the Greek System in general and my own young brethren in particular to "step up to the plate" and change the manner in which the Greek System is perceived by members of the Tufts Community.
The members of the Greek System have it within their power to control their destiny as far as their continuing to remain a viable entity on the Tufts Campus. They should not, repeat, should not permit such behavior as we have seen on this campus during these past three weeks to continue given that such repetition will ultimately bring about the demise of the Greek System at Tufts.
The current members of the Greek System "owe it" to the generations that have proceeded them and to those that will follow them to leave in tact a system that has in the past provided opportunities, and I pray will do so in the future, for: (A) The development of leadership skills, (B) That promote a sense of brotherhood/sisterhood whereby individuals are bound together by a sense of fraternal/sororital love and as such, are committed to each others welfare, (C) That recognizes the worth of each individual, (D) That promotes harmony amongst its members, (E) That stresses the rights of others and respect for property, (F) That respects authority and acts in a law-abiding manner, (G) That does not permit, sanction nor countenance any activity that places others (brothers, sisters, or pledges) in harms way and (H) That promotes good citizenship and positive, effective interaction with all members of the larger, diverse community typical of today's college campus.
There you have it. Members of the Greek System it is up to you. It is literally in your hands. Sink or swim. It is high time for a sea change on this campus. Time passes by ever so quickly. Think about it a few short months ago you were beginning your fall semester. Now there is less than nine weeks until the end of the academic year.
I am constantly amazed that when I talk with seniors they often lament at not having taken advantage of all that college life has to offer both in terms of academic options as well as extracurricular activity. It goes without saying that your primary purpose in attending college and committing yourself to an intense four year period of study is the achievement of academic excellence so as to prepare you to make the most of your potential in whatever field of endeavor you choose. I submit that in addition to academic acclaim, your membership and participation in a fraternity or sorority is also an important adjunct to your growth, your maturity and the development of your character.
I challenge the members of the Greek System to abandon their wanton ways of "self-destruction" and conduct themselves in a forthright, responsible manner that earns the respect and admiration of all members of the Tufts Community and brings honor to both themselves and they organizations that they represent.
Benjamen Cohen (LA '57) is an advisor for Alpha Epsilon Pi.