Paying for the Party: How College Maintains Inequality

28 03 2014

Zeta Psi Fraternity House (1909-1910) at Lafayette College is a historic fraternity house located at Easton, Northampton County, Pennsylvania.


AS: There are many problems in UK higher education, but thank goodness they don’t have fraternities here. I’ve taken this paragraph from a blog post by Harry Brighouse, who is summarizing a new academic book on the economics of fraternities on US college campuses. The book argues that university administrators are complicit in a system that destroys human capital, reduces social mobility in the United States, has contributed to the growth of income inequality, and encourages sexual assault.

Sadly,the fraternity system has crept over the border into some of the more culturally Americanized universities in Canada. Luckily they didn’t have it at Queen’s, at least when I was there.


Brighouse writes:

The authors lived for a year in a “party” dorm in a large midwestern flagship public university (not mine) and kept up with the women in the dorm till after they had graduated college. The thesis of the book is that the university essentially facilitates (seemingly knowingly, and in some aspects strategically) a party pathway through college, which works reasonably well for students who come from very privileged backgrounds. The facilitatory methods include: reasonably scrupulous enforcement of alcohol bans in the dorms (thus enhancing the capacity of the fraternities to monopolize control of illegal drinking and, incidentally, forcing women to drink in environments where they are more vulnerable to sexual assault); providing easy majors which affluent students can take which won’t interfere with their partying, and which will lead to jobs for them, because they have connections in the media or the leisure industries that will enable them to get jobs without good credentials; and assigning students to dorms based on choice (my students confirm that dorms have reputations as party, or nerdy, or whatever, dorms that ensure that they retain their character over time, despite 100% turnover in residents every year).




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