Toga! Toga! Toga!

The Boston Globe recently dropped anchor in the controversy swirling in Hanover, New Hampshire around Andrew Lohse, an undergraduate student at Dartmouth College who opined in that school’s paper that fraternal hazing runs rampant in the great north woods, and that he was its victim.

He neglects to mention that ritualized initiation of new members by fraternities is hardly news, or that he went into the process open-eyed and informed, or that he’s given his concerns voice only after he was expelled from his own fraternity because he was arrested for possessing cocaine and attempting to intimidate a police witness.

Still, Mr. Lohse has scribbled up a stormcloud, and given people like Dartmouth theater professor Peter Hackett an opportunity to, in reference to the collegiate Greek sytem, ask the Globe things like, “Why do we still have a social system that is from the 19th century?”

Though it’s unclear what exactly – or even inexactly – Professor Hackett is talking about (social clubs? fraternal organizations? collegiate hazing? the prevalence of vomit in the 19th century?), the answer is obvious: because those social systems have produced folks a lot more accomplished than Professor Hacket.

Nelson Rockefeller, for one. General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt, another. Dr. Seuss. Former Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson. Intellectual Jeffrey Hart. Former IBM boss Lou Gerstner. Buck Henry, Chris Miller, Budd Schulberg and Fred “Mr.” Rogers. Chief Justice Salmon Chase, Robert Reich, former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, Nate Fick, Norman Maclean, Robert Frost, and Daniel Webster… not to mention Michael Corleone. Good Dartmouth frat boys, all of them.

Dramatist Hackett might do worse than read the words of Jim Yong Kim, President of Dartmouth College, right below his own in that Globe piece:

“The minute you think as an administrator that by fiat you can institute culture change, the only thing you’ll get is mocking and ridicule. And at that point it will be well deserved.’’


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