I Was A Pledge Trainer At A Dartmouth Fraternity—And Rolling Stone Got One Part Wrong

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In fall of my sophomore year at Dartmouth, I was offered a bid at Sigma Alpha Epsilon—the notorious fraternity exposed by Rolling Stone. I turned down the bid because I thought most of the brothers were jerks.This is the central point missing from the Rolling Stone article.

Students can pledge a nice frat, a nasty frat or skip pledging altogether. By sophomore year, when most students pledge, they should be able to tell where they belong.

Freedom to choose is precisely why Dartmouth allows the long-standing system to survive.

Instead of pledging SAE, I pledged Alpha Chi Alpha, where I would later become a pledge trainer. At AXA we encouraged pledges to join us in a culture that involved drinking all the time, “booting and rallying,” drinking until you “hosed” yourself, consuming disgusting things, being drunk in public and feuding with other fraternities, often in ways that led to people getting arrested.

I repeat: We encouraged pledges to join in these activities. Being hazed was optional. I know it was a real option because several people every year chose not to participate. Some even pledged without drinking because they were on a sports team or—shock—wanted to focus on academics.

At the end of my five years at Dartmouth I count my fraternity brothers among my closest friends. Andrew Lohse’s problem is that he didn’t choose the right frat. He probably would have been happy had he pledged somewhere with less hazing or if he hadn’t pledged at all.

Some people may be appalled that hazing happens in the first place, even if students have a choice in the matter.

But the truth is that men of a certain age enjoy being hazed. Young men go to college—especially Dartmouth—having seen Animal House and looking forward to being hazed. Dartmouth President and World Bank presidential nominee Jim Kim, an anthropologist, could surely attest to similar rites of passage in many cultures.

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