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Inside Greek U.

Inside Greek U.: Fraternities, Sororities, and the Pursuit of Pleasure, Power, and Prestige

Alan D. DeSantis
Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 264
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  • Book Info
    Inside Greek U.
    Book Description:

    Popular culture portrays college Greek organizations as a training ground for malevolent young aristocrats. Films such as Animal House, Revenge of the Nerds, Old School, and Legally Blonde reinforce this stereotype, but they fail to depict the enduring influence of these organizations on their members. Inside Greek U. provides an in-depth investigation of how fraternities and sororities bolster traditional, and potentially damaging, definitions of gender and sexuality. Using evidence gathered in hundreds of focus group sessions and personal interviews, as well as his years of experience as a faculty advisor to Greek organizations, Alan D. DeSantis offers unprecedented access to the world of fraternities and sororities. DeSantis, himself once a member of a fraternity, shows the profoundly limited gender roles available to Greeks: "real men" are taught to be unemotional, sexually promiscuous, and violent; "nice girls," to be nurturing, domestic, and pure. These rigid formulations often lead to destructive attitudes and behaviors, such as eating disorders, date rape, sexual misconduct, and homophobia. Inside Greek U. shows that the Greek experience does not end on graduation day, but that these narrow definitions of gender and sexuality impede students' intellectual and emotional development and limit their range of choices long after graduation. Ten percent of all college students join a Greek organization, and many of the nation's business and political leaders are former members. DeSantis acknowledges that thousands of students join Greek organizations each year in search of meaning, acceptance, friendship, and engagement, and he illuminates the pressures and challenges that contemporary college students face. Inside Greek U. demonstrates how deeply Greek organizations influence their members and suggests how, with reform the worst excesses of the system, fraternities and sororities could serve as a positive influence on individuals and campus life.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-7277-4
    Subjects: Education

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[viii])
  3. Introduction: Life at Greek University
    (pp. 1-18)

    InReviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls(1994), Mary Pipher detailed the struggles of America’s adolescent girls with depression, eating disorders, self-esteem, suicide, sexuality, and a culture that narrowly defines womanhood. InRaising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys(2000), Dan Kindlon and Michael Thompson similarly discussed the struggles of America’s boys with anger, violence, the inability to express themselves emotionally, drinking and drugs, and a culture that narrowly defines manhood.

    But what happens when Ophelia and Cain grow up, go away to college, and pledge a fraternity or a sorority, that is, “go Greek”? Do they...

  4. 1. Understanding Gender
    (pp. 19-42)

    It is no exaggeration to say that this book has taken me over two decades to conceptualize. From the first day that I began pledging my fraternity in 1982, I remember being both intrigued by the Greek system’s secrecy, friendships, and social life and disturbed by its elitism, sexism, and hazing. My ambivalence, however, did not prevent me from becoming—and remaining—an ardent, but critical, supporter of Greek life.

    In the years that followed my graduation and subsequent departure from my fraternity house, I conceived of at least a dozen ill-fated research projects, all attempting to address the nature...

  5. 2. Studs and Virgins
    (pp. 43-76)

    At the Monday-night Alpha meeting, brothers engage in the old fraternal tradition of “kissing and telling,” or more aptly put, “fucking and bragging.” Robert, a twenty-year-old accounting major, begins the always-raucous session by narking on his roommate, Matthew. Matthew, I came to find out, “picked up a pig” and "snuck her home” after a party to avoid ridicule. As the yarn evolves, some sixty brothers and twenty new pledges erupt in uncontrollable laughter and high fives. Trying both to defend his actions and to bolster his reputation, Matthew shouts above the crowd that he was “too drunk” to know better...

  6. 3. The Tough Guy and His Date (Rape)
    (pp. 77-114)

    At 3:00 A.M., Scott awoke to the sound of frantic pounding on his door. Without waiting for a response, his big brother, Bruce, stormed into the room. “It’s going down, now! Get your shit on! Let’s go!” Scott, only half conscious, and still drunk from last night’s party, immediately knew the meaning of this encrypted call to arms: the rumble between the Alphas and the Deltas was starting. What began last semester as an isolated exchange of insults between two drunken students from rival fraternities quickly escalated into a fullfledged interhouse brawl. It was inevitable, Scott recalled. “Everybody just knew...

  7. 4. Her Laxatives, His Steroids
    (pp. 115-152)

    At alarming rates, members of elite sororities at GU have been injuriously starving themselves to get smaller, and members of elite fraternities have been obsessively exercising to get larger. These are the women and men who have defined ideal masculinity and femininity in terms of physical characteristics: the perfect woman is thin, white, and cute; the perfect man is muscular, white, and handsome. These developments are intriguing for two reasons.

    First, the emphasis has long been on the female body in defining white heterosexual femininity—from the full figures of Mae West and Marilyn Monroe to the emaciated forms of...

  8. 5. Bros before Hos
    (pp. 153-190)

    Michael and Jenny met at an Omega fraternity/Theta sorority Super Bowl party when they were both sophomores. While both had been involved in previous relationships, neither had been in love before. As Jenny recalls, “We weren’t looking for it, but, when it happens, you can’t do anything about it.” And, according to both, “it” happened almost immediately. Michael thinks it was “love at first sight”: “Everybody at the party knew it.... They were all talking about it the next morning. We knew it too.”

    Two and a half years later, Michael and Jenny’s premonitions proved accurate. In the spring of...

  9. 6. Soccer Moms and Corporate Dads
    (pp. 191-216)

    The dirty little college secret rarely discussed by professors in mixed company is that women generally outperform men in the classroom. They work harder, think more critically, are less dogmatic, approach school more seriously, score higher on exams, write better, and are more pleasant and collegial in class. In my classrooms over the last ten years, for example, women have earned 84 percent of the As in my upper-division courses. They also constitute 94 percent of my department’s honor society and control thirty-one of the top thirty-five spots on the department's GPA ranking.¹ Across the GU campus, women similarly excel....

  10. 7. Cleaning Up after the Party
    (pp. 217-234)

    The brothers and sisters at GU are not radically different from the thousands of other young adults I have come to know over the last twenty-one years as a teacher and an adviser. But this conclusion should come as no surprise to anyone. The young men and women examined in this study were not raised in isolation; for the first eighteen years of their lives, they were shaped by the same social forces that shape most young people in this country

    This is not to imply, however, that there is nothing unique about the Greek experience. The students that come...

  11. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 235-236)
  12. Notes
    (pp. 237-246)
  13. References
    (pp. 247-258)
  14. Index
    (pp. 259-267)