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The Company He Keeps

The Company He Keeps: A History of White College Fraternities

Nicholas L . Syrett
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 432
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  • Book Info
    The Company He Keeps
    Book Description:

    Tracing the full history of traditionally white college fraternities in America from their days in antebellum all-male schools to the sprawling modern-day college campus, Nicholas Syrett reveals how fraternity brothers have defined masculinity over the course of their 180-year history. Based on extensive research at twelve different schools and analyzing at least twenty national fraternities,The Company He Keepsexplores many factors--such as class, religiosity, race, sexuality, athleticism, intelligence, and recklessness--that have contributed to particular versions of fraternal masculinity at different times. Syrett demonstrates the ways that fraternity brothers' masculinity has had consequences for other students on campus as well, emphasizing the exclusion of different groups of classmates and the sexual exploitation of female college students.

    eISBN: 978-1-4696-0596-8
    Subjects: Sociology, History, Education

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Preface
    (pp. xi-xviii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    Writing in his diary in 1847, Amherst College student William Gardiner Hammond described one of his fraternity brothers: “Seelye is a man of no ordinary mold: uniting in greatest abundance the virtues and talents of the head and heart. Not a man in our class is asstronga character as he.” In 1892 a brother in Kappa Sigma at the University of Virginia wrote to another about a group of men at Trinity College (later Duke University) that he hoped would be initiated into their fraternity. He described two of them: “Daniels is the best all-round athlete in the...

  5. Chapter One CAMARADERIE AND RESISTANCE: The Founding and Function of College Fraternities
    (pp. 13-50)

    On November 25, 1825, five members of the senior class at Union College in Schenectady, New York, met to form a secret society. All five had been members of an organized military company at Union that had recently been dissolved; feeling what was described by one as “an aching void” left by the company’s dissolution, they decided to form a society for literary and social purposes. These five students met again the next day. This time, they conducted a formal initiation, named their organization the Kappa Alpha Society, and, having adjourned their meeting, proceeded into town for a dinner at...

    (pp. 51-78)

    Julian Sturtevant, an 1826 graduate of Yale College, described the dining hall on his first day of school:

    That group of students was a strange medley. The families of merchant princes of New York, Boston and Philadelphia; of aristocratic cotton planters; of hard handed New England farmers; of Ohio backwoodsmen, and even the humblest sons of daily toil were there, sitting at the same tables. However distasteful this might be to many, there was no help for it. . . . Those who wished to be educated at Yale . . . were compelled to accept this indiscriminate mingling of...

  7. Chapter Three VERY FRATERNALLY YOURS: National Brotherhood in the Nineteenth Century
    (pp. 79-120)

    In 1857 the secretary of the New York Free Academy chapter of Delta Kappa Epsilon sent a letter to his counterpart at what was then called Michigan University:

    Our chapter looks down on all competitors. Greatly do we exult in our triumph over our hereditary rivals, the A[Δ]Фs. But one short year has elapsed since we first had the pleasure of sending out our letter of greeting to our sister chapters. Since that time we have worked manfully and the result is that being firmly established we look forward to long years of undisputed supremacy. Our late convention has inspired...

  8. Chapter Four GREEKS AND BARBS: Social Class and the Rise of the Fraternity in the Postbellum Years
    (pp. 121-182)

    In the late 1870s and early 1880s, students at the University of California, Berkeley, began to publish two newspapers, theOestrusand theOccident. One of their chief purposes was to criticize fraternities. The editors alleged that men in fraternities rigged college elections, were poor scholars, promoted discord among otherwise amicable classmates, and broke college rules more often than nonfraternity men. The newspapers went as far as to calculate the number of expulsions and suspensions meted out to fraternity members and compare those to the rates of nonmembers (42.28 percent of fraternity men had committed an offense warranting such discipline...

  9. Chapter Five FUSSERS AND FAST WOMEN: Fraternity Men in the 1920s
    (pp. 183-228)

    In November 1926 theNew Student, an alternative national newspaper, published a short story about a freshman adjusting to his first year away at college. Its protagonist, Bruce, has pledged a fraternity upon his arrival. At their Monday meetings, pledges are required to tell about their exploits during the week. At the meeting during which we are first introduced to Bruce, a fellow pledge has just risen to speak:

    This one was telling about a girl he had taken to a dance. He had taken her out before, but then she wouldn’t do anything. This time, though, he had given...

  10. Chapter Six DEMOCRACY, DRINKING, AND VIOLENCE: Post–World War II Fraternities
    (pp. 229-284)

    Early on the morning of March 19, 1949, Dartmouth College student and World War II veteran Raymond J. Cirrotta died of a cerebral hemorrhage at the Mary Hitchcock Memorial Hospital in Hanover, New Hampshire. He had been beaten senseless by two men as six of their drunken fraternity brothers looked on and did nothing.

    The night before, Kappa Kappa Kappa (or Tri Kap), a local fraternity at Dartmouth, had hosted a party at their fraternity house. Tri Kap members and their guests, including at least six Delta Kappa Epsilon men, were in attendance. At some point, a number of the...

  11. Conclusion
    (pp. 285-306)

    On the night of February 27, 1982, the brothers of Duke’s chapter of Beta Phi Zeta (BФZ, known colloquially as ‘‘BOZO’’) gave their pledges a task. They were to find the ugliest girl they could at a party that night and bring her back to their dorm section for a ‘‘train’’—a colloquial term for group sex, whereby each man has sex with the woman in turn, waiting one behind the other like the cars of a train. Two pledges did find such a woman, a Duke student so intoxicated she was having difficulty standing up and speaking coherently. They...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 307-372)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 373-400)
  14. Index
    (pp. 401-412)