Skip to comments.Amherst’s War on Frats
Posted on 05/19/2014 8:22:35 AM PDT by Academiadotorg
Amherst College, which banned fraternities and sororities in 1984, has now taken this an alarming step further: starting July 1, any students participating in an unofficial fraternity or sorority will be punished, and could be expelled.
A college has the right to ban fraternities only in the sense of refusing to recognize gender-biased exclusive social groups as official student organizations. When it seeks to punish students for being members of off-campus groups of any kind, as Amherst is doing, it is violating student rights.
I happen to agree with banning most fraternities and sororities. Registered student groups should not have gender-based restrictions, and they should be open to all students (rather than being exclusive social membership groups). But I dont have any problem with the existence of fraternities and sororities as independent groups, and no college can ever punish students based on membership in a group without violating the association rights that everyone should have.
Amherst has a badly-written and repressive speech code that actually establishes a right to be free from disparagement anywhere on campus (which the administration is violating by disparaging fraternity members), but even that honor code prohibits punishing students for belonging for fraternities, since it explicitly protects the right of students to join with others in other nonviolent forms of common action.
A fraternity is a form of common action, and Amherst cant punish students for being a member of one. The trustees at Amherst claim, The college is better off without, than it would be with, a fraternity system. Thats not the question, though. The question is, is Amherst better off without its students having fundamental rights of free speech and association?
In their resolution, the Trustees decreed that student participation in off-campus fraternities and sororities, and fraternity-like and sorority-like organizations, is prohibited. But what does participation mean? And what is a fraternity-like organization? As James Hildebrand at Amhersts student web newspaper AC Voicepoints out, enforcing this rule is extremely problematic.
The Chronicle of Higher Educations headline for its story, Amherst Colleges Ban on Fraternities Will Extend to Underground Groups, is quite inaccurate. You cant ban an underground group. What Amherst is doing is not the mere extension of a policy on student organizations. Its a radical new restriction on the association rights of students. Instead of just banning official recognition for an organization, Amherst will now individually punish students for their off-campus associations conducted on their own time on private property. This is a quite literal case of guilt by association. One can imagine McCarthy-style disciplinary hearings on campus, with students being asked, Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of a fraternity?
John K. Wilson edits the Academe Blog for the American Association of University Professors, where this column originally appeared.
How are they going to prove an un-official fraternity exists?
Underground Groups like OWS?
Importantly, as late as the 1940s, universities were regarded as acting “in loco parentis” (in place of parents), so had some degree of liability for activities the students engaged in off campus.
This meant that any off campus event, be it a dance or meeting, or about anything else with more than a minimal number of students, was *required* to have a university approved chaperone, usually a faculty member.
And while “in loco parentis” no longer exists in practical terms, nor its related liability, there is likely extensive legal precedent for universities to have that authority, that is, to punish students for off campus behavior the university does not approve of.
Most recently this might be interpreted as off campus employment (such as in the production of pornography), Internet behavior, or publishing an unauthorized newspaper.
In any event, we can but hope that the administration at Amherst is handed its buttocks in a sling over this.
“Registered student groups should not have gender-based restrictions, and they should be open to all students (rather than being exclusive social membership groups).”
The author reveals that he is just another simpleton with Gramsci living rent-free in his head.
Amherst, like other “elite” schools”, increasingly employs a kind of Stalinist enforcement of ideological conformity. So much for “diversity”.
They just need to cut down on the beans in the dining facility. What? Oh, frats......
Amherst College costs———60 to70 thousand per year. Quite a bargain.
No first amendment for you!
I must confess that I got a bit of a chuckle because I had a dyslexic moment when rapidly skimming this headline. :)