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About men; about cold beer, willing women, hazing, conformity - about fraternities.

About Cold Beer, Willing Women, Hazing, Conformity- About Fraternities

If I'd had more sense I would hue walked away from the motel room where we bound, gagged, and pummeled our captive while stuffing him into a pair of red panties. But I was young and malleable. And he kind of had it coming.

A man in red panties was not what I'd had in mind a few months earlier, in the beginning of 1979, when I pledged my honor to the Duke University fraternity of Delta Tau Delta. Visions of a woman in red panties might have been part of the draw. But most of the allure consisted of simpler seductions: I needed a place to live, I wanted a group of friends, and I liked the parties. I liked the hey-ey hey-ey rhythms of the song"Shout!" I liked being on the floor in mid-gator, a preppy version of slam-dancing. And I must have liked being drunk and high, since I spent a lot of time that way. What was college, after all, without revelry?

This fall promises to be another record-setting rush season. Fifteen years ago, the Greek life seemed poised on the edge of extinction, a cultural relic like lavalieres and saddle shoes. By 1972 fraternity membership had fallen to an all-time low of 151,000; now, with more than 400,000 members, college fraternities dominate more campuses than ever.

A former national president of Delta Tau Delta told me he thinks the fraternal resurgence reflects a yearning for "rather old-fashioned Christian morality'" If my experiences offer any gauge, that's one explanation we can safely rule out. More convincing are theories that emphasize the chance to make connections, pad resumes, and secure liquor. With the drinking age now 21 in most states, frat houses are often the last sure source of booze. They've become the speakeasies of the eighties.

As fraternity membership has swollen, so have what are sometimes politely called fraternity "mishaps." In February, an 18-year-old Rutgers pledge choked to death on his vomit after an initiation drinking swnt. Two months later, some pledges at nearby Rider College kidnapped their pledgemaster and drunkenly sped their car into a parked truck. One of them died. In the past ten years alone, hazing incidents have killed about 50 college students and injured countless others: they've been beaten, branded, burned, buried, stabbed, shot, drowned, and frozen, usually while drunk. Fraternities have also notched dozens of gang rapes, including one at Duke during my senior year.

Their defenders protest that these incidents are "isolated." The violence isn't as exceptional as they pretend, but the bigger problems do lie elsewhere. And not just in drink and drugs. Debauchery, after all, has served a function from ancient Rome to modern Mardi Gras.

More troubling than the inhibitions fraternity life lowers are the ones it raises. The fraternities I knew were a suffocating force, dividing the campus into clans and steeling members' resistance to new people, ideas, aspirations. They offered members an identity, but tyrannized them with it, wed them to it, used it to seal them against outside influence. At an age when people are freest to experiment in thought and action, the fraternities at Duke locked them in a pose. Some groups manage to become greater than the sum of their parts; Delta Tau Delta had an uncanny knack for the opposite.

The beau ideal

Animal House made its debut in the summer of 1978, about a month before I left for college, and like most of my high school friends I saw it a few times before leaving. It constituted 90 percent of my knowledge of fraternity life. The other tenth came from one of the summer barbecues fraternity alumni throw, particularly in the South, for the right kind of incoming freshman. This staid vision of businessmen, blazers, and suburban lawns held about as much allure as the Young Republicans, But Animal House was inspirational. After 18 years at home, the film's bacchanal ian antics fit our fantasies: oceans of beer; loud music; sweating, willing women.

Though it didn't consciously register, the film had a more subtle appeal too. It offered a vision not only of rebellion but also of reassurance, when both were needed. When John Belushi first appears as brother Bluto, he is staggeringly drunk and absentmindedly pissing on his prospective brothers' shoes. By the end, he is on his way to becoming United States Senator John Blutarsky. "My characters say it's okay to screw up," Belushi explained at the time. For 18-year-olds ready to rip and roar, this was a wonderfully welcome notion. Though college students had mastered coarse revelries long before Animal House, the film lent the pursuit new elan. At Duke, a fraternity-led food fight in the Bluto tradition closed down the dining hall for a week of repairs,

Though some schools shrink the rush season into a few weeks, a frenzied pace to pick blood brothers, Duke gives it a whole semester. I was later to look back and wonder, with all that time to come to my senses, how I was borne off into the riptide. But the answers are those that most fraternity-joiners offer.

I needed the housing. Duke fraternities were based in dorms, not off-campus houses, and they controlled the choicest buildings. To remain independent was to face likely banishment to a room on the old women's campus, two miles from the action.

I liked the parties. Most of them took place in a darkened chapter room, with broken couches pushed aside to clear a beer-sogged dance floor. They were louder, later, and wilder than anything I'd known. I don't remember if anyone wore a toga, but the songs, dances, and excitement had that Animal House feel. This is it, l thought, the real thing. Given their numbers, fraternities also seemed like the only thing. Just about half the campus was Greek, but to my freshman eye the other half, scattered and less howling, seemed invisible.

I liked the pageantry. In its traditional forms, this spirit took shape in items like homecoming floats, which, sappy as it sounds, can be a grand sight on a leaf-blown October day. Less grand, but probably more appealing, was a Delt ritual called the Charge of the Hill. The fraternity opened onto a patio that faced a steep, 25-yard slope to the street. Each spring, the brothers would wet the hill into rivers of mud, place a keg on the patio, and sturdy themselves to defend it against a charge of advancing pledges. There were few prohibitions on what could be slung during the ensuing free-for-all. A diversion column would throw smoke bombs or buckets of beer from the roof. Unhappy solutions of egg yolks, vaseline, and month-old yogurt would be freely applied. The result, a few minutes later, was a tangle of 50 drunken and unsightly people. This may not be the highest manifestation of the human spirit, but among the lesser ones it was awfulIy fun. Yale, a campus with few frats, had its own variation until a few years ago, called "bladderball," that drew hundreds of participants.

The Delts offered subtler attractions too. I left a high school class of 150 and entered a college class of about 1,500; some universities have classes five or six times that size. For me, as for freshmen elsewhere, the fraternity offered a sense of belonging. It gave me a lunch table to sit at. It gave me a seat in the basketball bleachers surrounded by people I knew. The ten-cent word for that is community, and most of us yearn for it. Without the Delts, Duke seemed much larger, more imposing, anonymous. During my first two basketball seasons, as part of the fraternity, I never missed a home game. Duke basketball offered a thrilling mix of theater, sport, and spectacle. During my last two years, after leaving the frat, I attended only one game and left feeling lost and lonely in the crowd.

And the Delts weren't just any group; they arguably had more social cache than any other group on campus. They were rich, smart, and smooth. Guys who lived together would turn to each other and call, "Hey rooms," in a breezy manner that impressed me with its college-man confidence and intimations of closeness. Behind the beer parties and Topsiders lurked the shimmering image of the fraternity beau ideal: a knit group of people called brothers.

This sort of bonding has come in for ridicule recently in reference to George Bush's membership in Skull and Bones. As models for community, secret societies have no shortage of flaws. But whatever their elitist, exclusive origin, I have to confess seeing something attractive in the endurance and intimacy of Bush's secret society ties. The Washington Post recently told the story of a 1985 dinner party where Bush, then at a political low, retired to the library with four Skull and Bones classmates, including a former longtime Democratic congressman, and unburdened himself with unusual candor and trust. Adult life poses all kinds of barriers to that kind of sustained closeness, particularly public life and particularly for men. Deltdom, like other fraternities, hinted at such ties.

Moreover, it attracted a lot of women. In high school, I had found greater success in grades than in girls. If the Delts had lapsed into the poor judgment of courting me, who was I to argue? College gives people the chance to remake their identities in lots of ways. The Delts gave me a chance to momentarily picture myself as a man of many blondes.

The downside of this rise in social status is called snobbery, and I wasn't immune to its lures. Fraternity life didn't force me into being a snob, just as it didn't force me to drink too much at parties, voice a false indifference to classes, or adopt any other fraternity pose. But it did gently channel me in that direction. As my self-image swelled, it made me more conscious of image in general, more finely attuned to the nuance of campus association. I was quick at distinguishing between guys who were "Delt material" and those to be dismissed as "fish." The woman I'd begun dating my first semester had an appetite for tie-dye while I was increasing my holdings of oxford cloth. By the end of my freshman year, the relationship hit the rocks.

Blue notes and Trojans

The semester's winnowing ended shortly after Christmas in a hotel ballroom in Durham. This was the night of the "shake-up" parties, where bids were to be extended at last. It seemed unlikely that they would ask me to the party if I hadn't made the cut, but nothing was assured. The Delts were a "oneball" fraternity, meaning any brother's blackballing dissent could keep you out. Around midnight, members of the fraternal order disappeared into an anteroom and dispatched a somber representative to fetch me. The scene was grim. The jacketed brothers stared awkwardly at the floor. "As you know," the rush chainman began in apologetic tones, "it requires a unanimous vote... ." Someone mumbled how sorry he was.

The gag successfully completed, they marched me back to the ballroom and tossed me toward the ceiling, while letting loose a hullabaloo chant. Like much about fraternity life, it is etched, inexplicably clear, in my memory:

We're from Nairobi Our team is a good one We play the Watusi They're seven feet tall The cannibals may eat us But they'll never beat us Cause we're from Nairobi And we're on the ball Umgawa, umgawa, umgawa, umgawa Umgawa, umgawa, umgawa, Umgawa, umgawa, umgawa, umgawa Umgawa, umgawa, umgawa Black as sin Weaned on gin We're the boys who're bound to win Naaiii-ro-biii!!

The origin of these poetics remains obscure, and the racial implications registered only faintly. I doubt I knew where Nairobi was and certainly had no idea who the Watusi were. I probably did know that one of the brothers was called "the dumbest white man on earth," and I later learned that another had been denounced for his plan to bring a black date to a party. But at the time I was happy enough to be bobbing skyward in a crowd of well-wishers. From there on, fraternity life went straight downhill.

The next time I saw my new brothers, a few nights later, we were assembled in a classroom for the first of our weekly pledge meetings. 'Air raid! !" someone screamed. "On your backs you shit-sucking morons!" Responding to these heated exhortations, the 15 or so of us pledges lay on the floor making rat-a-tat-tat sounds while firing our anti-air guns at the imaginary enemy"They're gone you shitheads. Get up! Give me twenty." Down we dropped for push-ups. "Get that smile off your face, pledge. Is something funny?" This pseudo-military introduction carried on for a half-hour or so until the brothers departed in a wake of beer cans and insults.

Like much fraternity life, this scene seemed scripted, and I didn't pay it great attention until a few days later when I ran across the member of the fraternity I had liked best, a soft-spoken junior whose sincerity had set him apart from the rowdy crowd. His assurances had soothed some of the doubts I'd brought to fraternity life; our friendship had seemed a model of what frat bonds could be. But when I said hello, he sneered back, "Hey pledge," and walked away. The betrayal stung. Could this pledge stuff be for real?

By archival accident, my pledge book has survived and serves as an instructive reminder of fraternity life. Each page contains a brother's name, home town, major, graduation date, and girlfriend, an assemblage of facts we pressed into memory and one collectively referred to as a brother's "shit." "Know my shit," a number of them admonished me.

Each page also contained a task or two. Some were quaintly chivalrous. "Make a very nice Valentine's Day card for my sister Mary and have all the pledges sign it," one brother asked. A few invited me to dinner. Another said "grovel at the wheels of my car." The official Delta Tau Delta motto-recently "declassified," the past president said, so it's okay to share it with you-is"To Labor for the beautiful and the good." Some of the other suggested labors:

"Butt fuck a quad dog," ordered one brother, now a rising star in academic medicine.

"Go buy a pack of Trojans," ordered another, "present them to my roommate with a short essay explaining their use, how to put them on, and give a short demonstration and explain why he doesn't need them."

These were some of the best kind of assignments, since unlik"shampoo my rug" you didn't really have to do them. You just had to engage in a semester of witty repartee concerning the delay. But the brother who told me to "come by, get high, and be mellow" expected me to show. So did the brothers who, on several occasions, had me drink 12 beers in two hours. So, too, did the brothers who had me take a bong hit for each of the dozen or so verses of a Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes song while memorizing it. Other pledge tasks involved unearthing jewels of Delt lore, like guessing which sorority girl was involved in the Case of the Missing Skirt and identifying the brother caught masturbating with a water massage.

Like pages from Studs Terkel, these excerpts capture the obsessions of the age: drink, drugs, and sexual bravado, beneath a Ray-Banned patina of cool. "At a future party, I will ask you why The Cars are soooo cooool," wrote one keeper of the Delt mystique"You will answer in a witty and clever manner that will impress all the girls hanging around me '" The apparent answer, though neither witty nor clever, is etched on the back page and won the necessary signature on my paddle: "The Cars are sooo coool because they strip society of pretension and release the base instincts of man and woman. They are also sooo cooool because when they play around Rob the girls want and crave his body'"

While part of pledging involved passing down the old legends-like the story of the brother aptly known as "Stay High"-much of the semester was devoted to creating new ones. The winter began with a "smoker," a boys-only affair behind closed recroom doors, where a Raleigh stripper performed for our closeted delight. Whatever spell she might have cast through the cigar clouds and jeers came to an end with the rip of her discarded underwear, which was being bounced from brother to brother She stopped the act and cussed herself blue, egged on by cries of "slut ." Delt motto aside, 50 drunk young men and an angry naked woman was neither beautiful nor good. The fraternity's indignant refusal to pay for the torn lingerie underwent a reversal at the suggestion of her bodyguard, who, the rumor sweeping the room said, had a gun.

A month or so later, the seniors held their annual Hundred Days Party to celebrate the countdown to graduation. Following custom, they locked themselves in the chapter room with a keg. But it emerged before they did-through the wall. Given the thickness of the plaster, this involved some determined banering.

At the weekly Sunday night meetings, an award might be offered to a member who had pushed insobriety to a new extreme. One memorable recipient had passed out on the toilet and awoke on a mat of his excrement and vomit. The perpetrator of an unusually perverse sexual feat received something called the Hinge Award. One winner had picked up a woman who was having her period and who decorated his roommate's sheets in blood. The Hinge Award notwithstanding, I suspect much of the sexual boasting masked an unmet yearning. "Make a list of pledge virgins with appropriate names and post it," one brother wrote in my pledge book. This, of course, was impossible-virginity would have been the one truly inviolable secret-but a chronicle of sexual inexperience would probably not have been a terse document.

I can't say that I recoiled from these venal pursuits and left to seek the life of the mind. Were the objectionable qualities of fraternity life just its Animal House antics, I would likely have lasted a good bit longer. My discontent was sown in a different strain: hazing.

A lipsticked sahib

As hazing histories go, our exploits were mostly mild. No one froze to death on a winter's night while locked in a car trunk swilling whiskey [see sidebarl. Unlike the account Willie Morris presents in North Toward Home of his hazing at the University of Texas in the late 1950s, I was never pelted with eggs or covered with molasses and corn flakes. (Three years ago, a similar stunt, again at UT, sent nine pledges to the hospital, where two had emergency surgery. Most still joined the fraternity, and one pledge explained that the experience "helped bring the whole class together.") One Delt pledge did wind up in the hospital with a mild case of exposure on Hell Night, after marching through a mud pond, chugging warm beer, and jogging three miles. A few years later, the same Hell Night routine sent another pledge to the hospital for knee surgery.

Outside of Hell Night, pondings were the mainstay of Delt hazing. The Duke campus is blessed with lovely gardens. The gardens are blessed with a pond. Delt pledges were blessed with being heaved in it whenever there were enough brothers on hand to drag them off. And vice versa. (Cease-fires were called on the coldest days.) The purpose, we were told, was to build brotherhood: the threat of being hauled away encouraged you to move in packs. At best, this was tiresome. It meant a semester of sneaking around campus like a Baghdad thief, scouting the quad before emerging from the library. Given that pledging occurs every other semester, this fills fully one-half of a Dest's college career with the worry of abduction. That alone is reason enough to quit.

At worst, the pondings produced the exact opposite of the spirit they intended. Tempers flared. Punches landed. Our attempts to pond one brother sent him to the emergency room for stitches on a cut above his eye. As the semester progressed, so did the frustration of the ponded, and the clashes grew increasingly physical.

So did the weekly pledge meetings, where the number of requisite push-ups was growing. One evening a pledge entered the chapter room without making the mandatory D-T-D sign above his head; a brother slammed him into a wall. "Get out there and do it again, pledge," he said. I was at an offcampus party that semester with my tie-dyed friend when an unusually nerdy Delt, a future neurosurgeon, demanded that I join him in a chug contest. I won. "Pledge," he said, pouring a beer on my head.

The humiliations of hazing are said to build bonds, forge a collective identity. The theory goes like this: If you and 12 buddies have had cornflakes stuck to your crotch and ducks defecate in your hair, and only you and your 12 buddies, then it gives you something in common. This is true, of course. But one suspects there are better ways to share experiences-like starting a soup kitchen or going on a camping trip. Duke offered a student-run wilderness course that, like Outward Bound, offered challenges and bonded its participants with rituals like ropes courses and trust falls, rather than humiliation. For all the talk of togetherness, fraternity hazing is probably at least as divisive as it is uniting. I doubt my pledgemate had too many brotherly feelings about being slammed into a wall. I certainly was not eager to embrace as a brother the jerk who threw beer on me in front of my girlfriend. Those resentments don't disappear when a pledge pin comes off.

The truer appeal to hazing may simply be that it gives you a chance to dump on someone with immunity. Where else, outside of fraternity life, could the neurosurgeon pretend he's Conrad Dobler? There's a little bit of punk in most of us that delights in the powerlessness of others, and hazing sets it free-too free by the witness of various coroners' reports. Hazing doesn't just offer immunity from retaliation; it offers immunity from self, too, from conscience. The hazer can think, "I'm not really do ing this; the group is." The film Fraternity, Row, which appeared a year before Animal House and which got none of the recognition it deserved, masterfully depicts the dynamics of hazing. A reformer pledgemaster wants to ban it, citing the ugly aftertaste. "The stuff Preston pulled divides us still," he pleads with his brothers. No one denies that Preston, their former tormentor, was a creep. But now it's their turn, and the chance to pelt the pledges is just too tempting.

As for the Delts, it wasn't the physical rigors of pledging that took their toll as much as the emotional ones. The semester-long worries about ponding grew wearying, as did the fact that no one questioned its purpose. Was there something wrong with me for not enjoying this? And the rules of this strange game always seemed to be changing. Did he really want me to grovel at the wheels of his car? Was there more ridicule involved in doing it, or in taking a semester's grief for not yet having done it? Alone, a brother might share a pleasant meal. But when two more showed up, the taunts and orders would begin. Lighten up, pledge. Wipe that smile off your face, pledge. With the ground rules always shifting, the most dangerous emotion of all was trust. I began approaching brothers as a servant might approach a sahib-best face forward, true self at safe reserve. It wasn't much of a way to build a community.

It was after a semester of these accumulating resentments that we rose to meet The Challenge. This ritual was a centerpiece of pledging. Each year, the Delt sophomores would dub their brawniest or most surly member as The Challenge and egg him on to make pledge life as miserable as he could. The pledges in turn bore a responsibility to embarrass him, as completely and as publicly as possible. One year the pledges decked the campus with fliers nominating The Challenge as head of the Duke Gay Alliance.

To his credit, our Challenge had a feel for theatrics. He entered the pledge meeting in a black leather jacket and shades, flanked by like-looking bodyguards, and spat his curses without cracking a smile. The very sight of us made him sick, he said. We were pussies. He was going to kick our asses. But one of the dangers of fraternity life is this: If you spend enough time pretending to be something, eventually you become it. If you spend enough time imitating Bluto, you become a derelict. In The Challenge's case, having spent a semester playing the role of a bully-demanding push-ups, shoving people into walls, snarling-he'd become one. And he'd convinced himself of his formidable toughness.

Until we kidnapped him. I wasn't around during the actual abduction but caught up a few hours later in a Chapel Hill motel room. The Challenge was bound to a chair, His mouth was sealed with duct tape. Someone had been to the K-Mart and returned with the red panties and other lacy frills that would be his only cover when he was deposited that evening, lipsticked, at a sorority formal.

The Challenge wasn't taking this too well. He opened a cold sweat. He begged for a joint. He strained and kicked when we began to strip him. That was a mistake, since it gave a few pledges an excuse to repay the semesters frustration by hauling off and slugging him. Someone else ripped the duct tape from his face in a clean pull that promised to take part of his cheek.

Throughout pledging, the line between the staged and the real was a thin one. The push-ups sometimes seemed farcical, a parody of fraternity life to be performed with smirks; on other occasions the servility and abuse seemed real. Here in the motel room, the theatrics of pledging disappeared altogether: The Challenge, eyes bulging, was feeling real panic, He was absorbing real punches. The year that had begun like Animal House was ending more like Lord of the Flies. I recall saying something airily conciliatory, like a reminder that we were all supposed to be brothers. I was told to go fuck off.

Stylish crooners

The Challenge survived but my fraternal enthusiasms didn't. We dumped him at the dance and hid out for the rest of the weekend to avoid revengeminded brothers. A few weeks later we negotiated the Hell Night routine, wading through the mud, drinking the warm beer, running three miles, and trying, with mixed success, not to puke. Still caked with dried sweat and mud, we spent a few hours blindfolded in the chapter room as howling brothers imitated the sounds of pledges being paddled. Our dinner came at about 3 a . m. : a jar of peanut butter, a loaf of bread, and no utensils. At dawn we were sent home to shower, and we returned to be blindfolded again and indoctrinated as brothers. Final exams arrived soon after, and the semester came at last to its merciful close.

Throughout the semester, I had toyed with the idea of leaving. I broached the subject a few times in earnest conversation with the pledgemaster, our liaison to the rest of the brothers. I was still running the arguments through my mind an hour before the initiation as I scrubbed away the peanut butter and mud. Frat life had its gremlins, but I saw no alternative-no housing, no campus niche.

When we started up again in the fall, the music and the beer were the same, but the routine had lost its magic. From outside, the fraternity had offered a romantic vision-of friendship, abandon, panache. Pledging was meant as the oven that would forge the necessary bonds, welding us to each other and to the received Delt culture. But instead, it had unmasked something herd-like, brutish. I made a few beer-soaked attempts to recapture the vision, and a few months later I resigned.

My college career survived. The nonfraternity niches at Duke proved larger, more interesting, and more accommodating than my freshman mind had grasped. Still, I carried a sense of apostasy with me. The emotions of exile are complicated, even when the exile is self-imposed. I felt superior, betrayed, guilty. Campus encounters with my former brothers quickened those feelings, and I avoided them as much as I could.

The real problem with fraternity life, I had slowly discovered, wasn't beer or bong hits, or even pushups or pondings. It was posing. Faced as a freshman with the many threats of college life-Can I get a date? Can I find my way across campus? Can I pass the final exam?-I was taken in by the what-meworry smoothness of the Delt men who confidently crooned "Hey rooms" to each oflier. This is a stylish feigning appropriate to, say, a second-semester freshman, certain by now that he can in fact get a date and pass the exam and ready to preen a bit over these powers.

The peer pressures of the fraternity discouraged this suave affect from developing into anything more earnest or thoughtful. When the Ku Klux Kian in Greensboro murdered five local radicals, most of them former Duke students or workers, an openmike rally took place on the quad; a fraternity heckled it. When President Carter called for draft registration my sophomore year, the Delts threw a G.I. Joe party, running around the halls with plastic guns.

Perhaps the Hinge Awards and Umgawa chants did their job too well. They forged a collective identity but lessened the chance of individual divergence from it. Fraternity traditions ensure continuity. They make sure this year's pledge class learns to act like last year's. The college swirl of new people, ideas, behavior-of change-becomes a threat. Black date at a party? No way. Political rally on the quad? No way. Draft registration? Naaiii-ro-biii!!

Willie Morris's description of his fraternity 30 years ago holds true as well for mine: "Some excellent men were involved in this debilitating preoccupation . . . .they were far better as individuals than the organization to which they gave their allegiance. . . .At its worst this system could be cruel and despicably smug; at its best it was merely an easy substitute for more intelligent and mature forms of energy."

Whenever three or more brothers gathered, conversation turned to liquor, drugs, women, or sports. Lots of dining-table talk focused on grades; hardly any focused on classes. The ideal was to ace a test without going to class, without swdying-without learning. A few Delts had the kind of personalities that allowed them to dabble in fraternity life as one identity among many. One spent his junior year organizing a bioethics conference; for him, the Delts were just one part of a campus experience, and they didn't arrest other interests. But for most people, group pressures were too strong to resist, and group identity took hold. Brotherhood became a restrictive force, setting limits on what could be thought, challenged, or dared on campus. It was finally a form of impoverishment.

These Delta Tau Deltas are the kind that poobahs at the national headquarters point to with pride. They are doctors, lawyers, bond traders, and stock brokers. A few wound up as engineers in Saudi Arabia. The Challenge owns a factory in the Caribbean and imports computer components. (One of the few not in business, medicine, or law became, of all things, an opera singer.) I called a few of them recently, wondering how the experience appeared in retrospect. All had fond memories of the camaraderie, but, interestingly, most acknowledged the limits it had set. "It had a tendency to be a little isolationistic," said one. "I'm constantly amazed when I look over Duke alumni material," said another. "Ninety-seven percent of the people from my class, I've never heard of. That's how insular it was '"

The Challenge, too, regretted the clannishness. He also regretted the Challenge. "It's kind of a useless tradition," he said. "If I had it to do again, I probably wouldn't join a fraternity."
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Author:DeParle, Jason
Publication:Washington Monthly
Date:Nov 1, 1988
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