Colgate Disinformation

By on April 18, 2005

Last Tuesday morning, I spoke at a rally
protesting Colgate University’s
plans to force all fraternities and sororities to sell their houses and land to
the university. While a transaction between two private parties is ordinarily
not of great interest to FIRE, the terms of Colgate’s “deal” are particularly
outrageous. Essentially, the message of the university is: sell your land or we
will prohibit any student from living in your houses.

The university is justifying this blatant land grab by
arguing that the fraternity and sorority houses are essentially out of control—cesspools
of sexual assault, binge drinking, and other crimes. This is how Colgate
described the situation to the Associated
Press
:

Colgate University is forcing fraternities and sororities to
sell their off-campus houses to the school, a move partly aimed at ending “a
pattern of problems” including sexual assaults, hazing and fights, officials
said.

College spokesman James Leach said the purchases were
recommended by a task force formed after a drunk-driving accident left four
people dead and the driver in prison for vehicular manslaughter.

Leach’s description of the situation is incomplete, to say
the least. The drunk-driving accident involved a student who was served alcohol
at a fraternity house, left the fraternity, went to a local bar, then
got behind the wheel of a car. Interestingly, this accident occurred after
university officials rejected calls for a bus system running from downtown Hamilton to the campus. It
strains the imagination to see how such a tragedy is a product of the Greek
system. Further, if you examine Colgate’s own self-reported crime statistics
(as I did last week), you will see that the undergraduate dorms suffer from hundreds
more
complaints of alcohol and drug-related criminal activity than the
fraternity system.

So, if the terrible accident occurred after drinking at a
bar, and the undergraduate dorms feature hundreds more drinking and drug
offenses than the Greek houses, why would anyone believe the university when it
says that university ownership will lead to increased safety?

Over the last five years, if there is one constant that I
have observed in university life, it is the desire to create an all-consuming
campus culture that completely remakes a person from the inside out. Schools
are no longer content merely teaching political science, economics,
mathematics, or sociology. They also want to create the New Tolerant Man (or
woman), reminiscent of the mythical “New Communist Man” from the old Soviet Union. (Colgate, for example, wants to push
students into so-called theme houses which divide students by race and sexual
preference.) Greeks tend to be resistant to social engineering because of their
own, independent labyrinth of social relationships and because of their independent
culture.

Conservative or orthodox religious groups are also resistant
to the totalitarian vision of the modern university, and they often pay a steep price for
defying the prevailing campus ideology. When one understands universities’
all-consuming vision for student life, then seemingly random and disparate
strands of censorship come together to form a coherent whole. So, what does a
Friday night worship service at a local chapter of InterVarsity Christian
Fellowship have in common with the “White Trash Bash” at the PKA house down the
street? Both events represent—in very different ways—a celebration of a life
and culture that is wholly incompatible the university’s vision of social
utopia.

Schools: Colgate University