Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass’ frat culture is blatantly hypocritical

The student body needs to pick a lane
Kira Johnson
Daily Collegian (2021)

A group of seven nervous freshmen approached the door. This wasn’t their first rodeo; the most charismatic of the men was flanked by the three women, and the other three men fell in step behind them. Smiling, the charismatic one nodded his head upwards to my teammate.

“What’s up, boys?” He asked, not waiting for an answer. The platoon marched forward towards the stairs. My teammate and I shared a disappointed look and stepped into the middle of the doorway.

“Who do you know on the team?” I asked the leader. He smiled and looked inside at the party.

“Just you two at the moment, but I’m sure I’ll make friends inside,” he said.

“It’s 3-1 tonight. You’re about nine short,” my teammate said, doing some quick math. The confidence faded from the leader.

“Come on, it’s not even that packed in there,” he said. “We’re just looking to have fun; you know how it is.”

I knew how it was. That’s the whole reason I was standing at the door in the first place.

Nationally, the most defining feature of the University of Massachusetts may be its party scene. Despite falling to 47 in Niche’s top party school rankings this year, UMass still reached national news for 28 alcohol-related hospitalizations during Blarney weekend.

UMass has long struggled with its “ZooMass” moniker, as a 2012 article describes the reputational difficulties that yearly campus eruptions can cause. However, the 2018 Patriots Super Bowl loss, the 2020 NCAA hockey tournament victory and the annual Blarney weekends are easy to sensationalize. Massive student gatherings fueled by alcohol are important to highlight and discuss, but they don’t represent the average weekend in Amherst.

The party scene at UMass is central to student life and should be discussed honestly. Specifically, there’s a strange tension in the student body regarding frats and what their role on campus should be.

In 2021, UMass was once again subject to reputation-draining national coverage following protests at the Theta Chi Fraternity house. A New York Times article brought national attention to alleged rampant sexual assault at UMass fraternities. The Collegian covered the multiple protests and subsequent University responses, which revealed an overwhelmingly negative student body opinion towards frats.

Two years later, many of the protestors and activists graduated, replaced by energized freshmen. At the same location where students passionately fought for their human rights, new students flock in hordes to dance.

This is a product of a predictable cultural hypocrisy that will continue to frustrate the student body until we start being honest with ourselves. If we, as a student body, truly want frats purged from campus, the solution is simple: stop going to their parties.

There’s an issue with this, however. In my experience, people are incredibly performative regarding their anti-frat sentiments. The number of times in my three years at UMass that I’ve heard someone say “I hate frats,” only for that same person to go back next weekend is baffling. I’ve had friends who previously protested at Theta Chi attend their parties only a semester later.

This unique hypocrisy is understandable; students want to go out, but feel as if they can’t enjoy frat parties publicly due to the negative reputations they have. Women often leave their male friends behind due to “ratios” and go in large groups to stay safe in what can be a dangerous environment. From a party value perspective, a frat is the perfect combination of a house party and a bar. Underage students can mingle with friends as they can at a house party while knowing that every weekend, the frat will be open and accessible like a bar. To many freshmen and sophomores looking to party, frats are the first and last consideration in mind.

I can’t blame someone for wanting to get drunk, listen to loud music and dance with friends. That’s the primary reason I joined the UMass Men’s Rugby Team my sophomore year. I was lonely on the weekends and wanted friends. When I joined rugby, I absolutely hated frats. I hated what they represented, the exclusivity of their parties and the fact that they were the default party location for many of my friends. It didn’t take long for this sentiment to soften. Prior to joining, I had been to one party at UMass in a year and a half. The semester I joined, I went to at least 25. I was happy to finally be a part of something, and I was willing to do anything to make sure I wasn’t alone in my dorm room watching the masses flock down Sunset Avenue.

When I ended up leaving the rugby team, it was because I had a few too many concussions, and I was turning 21, so I could start going to the Amherst bars. If I’m being honest with myself, I didn’t leave because I was contributing to an unhealthy culture. I’m sure there were moments of ignorance during my year with the team, but I was never in the mindset to question an organization that gave so much to me. I truly had a great experience with them.

Now that my anti-frat phase has cooled and I can set down my rose-tinted glasses from my time with the rugby team, I believe that UMass needs to make a decision.

If the student body can collectivize to shut down fraternities, I would support its mission. UMass would likely be better off without frats and similar organizations; the culture they participate in can be misogynistic, abusive or unhealthy, and I have firsthand experience with this.

Schools without frats, like Notre Dame and Boston College still have fun party scenes surrounding dorm parties and sporting events, which are generally more inclusive than an off-campus fraternity.

However, if students are honest with themselves and continue to support Greek life, UMass could not only officially support more fraternities, but begin to seriously regulate them.

At Dartmouth, 80% of students eligible for Greek life (sophomores, juniors and seniors) are involved in some capacity. However, the parties are directly regulated by administration – they’re advertised on campus-wide emails. They’ve taken steps to make Greek life an accessible, inclusive space by having a close relationship with chapter leadership and expressing oversight. Dartmouth even allows students of legal drinking age to consume alcohol at parties on campus as long as no hard liquor is distributed or consumed.

I’ve experienced different party cultures from over a dozen universities, and I can confidently say that I have more fun at schools that either lean into their Greek life or eliminate it entirely. UMass is stuck in an unfortunate middle ground that displays a lack of vision and understanding of party culture.

If you like going to the frats, then advocate for safer conditions and further support from administration. If you think frats should go, then stop going to their parties and protest any bad behavior. I don’t care what the student body advocates for, as long as they stop waffling around and pick a lane.

Lucas Ruud can be reached at [email protected].

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