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Greek debate

Illustration by Aaron Meshon

November 3, 2004: On the Campus

Riled Greeks, rowdy Tigers

By P.G. Sittenfeld ’07

A bit after 10 o’clock on a Tuesday evening in early September, with classes not yet under way, bright-eyed, socially eager freshmen head out to explore fraternity and sorority parties taking place across campus.

“Dude, let’s hit up the ‘Heaven and Hell’ party over in Wilson,” says one freshman boy to another. Off they go.

When they arrive at the crowded two-story suite, a couple of fraternity brothers are standing outside to welcome them — and to make sure Public Safety doesn’t crash the party. “What’s up, fellas?” says one of the frat brothers to the fledgling ’08s. “Go on in and grab yourself a drink.”

In keeping with the party theme, the featured drink on the first floor is the Flaming Dr. Pepper. For this concoction, a shot of amaretto is topped off with Bacardi 151 rum and lit on fire to add to the “hellish” ambience. One of the guests boldly picks up the flaming shot, drops it in a glass of beer, and chugs – shot, beer, and all. Upstairs in “heaven,” a freshman girl swallows a shot of peppermint rum and tips her head back as a frat brother fills her mouth with a chaser of whipped cream and Hershey’s syrup.

Parties like this one can have a seductive pull for incoming freshmen, many of whom go on to rush a fraternity or sorority within the first several weeks of school. To make students think twice about that decision, the administration sent a letter to parents, guardians, and students of the Class of 2008 this summer, “strongly discourag[ing]” students from joining Greek organizations and pointing out that Princeton does not formally recognize fraternities and sororities. No single incident precipitated the mailing, according to Kathleen Deignan, dean of undergraduate students.

“We feel that there’s pressure to commit a lot of time and money to these organizations before students really have a chance to get to know Princeton,” Deignan says. “These organizations are not the way to build a broad sense of cohesiveness and inclusiveness, and we tried to articulate that in the letter.”

To the Greeks, those were fightin’ words.

“I was appalled when I first heard about the letter,” says Pi Kappa Alpha member Matt Musa ’05, who argues that fraternities are no more exclusive than a cappella groups. “Clearly the administration knows nothing about fraternities. Being in one has been the best part of my Princeton experience.”

Despite the attention sparked by the letter, fraternities and sororities reported no significant change in the number of freshman rushees this fall. “Because of the letter, I initially didn’t think I’d join a fraternity,” says Charlton Desaussure, a freshman from Charleston, S.C. “But I had a really good time at the parties and changed my mind.” He is now pledging Sigma Alpha Epsilon.

The administration tried to work out a compromise last year, asking fraternities and sororities to move the rush period back a few months. The Greeks declined. Now, with the administration and the Greeks both digging in their heels, the tug of war isn’t likely to stop any time soon. “This is a big challenge for the University,” Deignan says. “We don’t have many carrots, and we don’t have many sticks.”

Princeton basketball fans will be roaring when the regular season tips off Nov. 11. No, Bill Bradley ’65 hasn’t returned to the lineup. Students have found other reasons to cheer. Thanks to the imaginative efforts of John Boscia ’07, Freddy Flaxman ’07, and Jonah Perlin ’07, the level of spirit in the stands now matches the level of play on court.

In response to a perceived lack of support for Princeton’s athletic teams, the three superfans created the Jadwin Jungle Club last year. Students can join for just five dollars, and membership perks include “Welcome to the Jungle” T-shirts and pregame parties at Winberie’s restaurant, the club’s sponsor. After stuffing themselves with free eats, members are shuttled to Jadwin where reserved courtside seats await them.

Hundreds of students form an intimidating sea of orange and black. The Jungle crew remains on its feet from the opening tip until the final buzzer. With their cheering and clapping, the students fire up the players, and the players in turn ignite the crowd. The result usually is exciting, winning basketball. The Tigers were 10—2 at home last season, when membership in the Jungle ballooned to 600 students.

This year, the Jungle promises to be even bigger and rowdier – heartening for the defending Ivy champs and pesky for the rest of the league. end of article

P.G. Sittenfeld ’07 is from Cincinnati, Ohio.

ON THE CAMPUS ONLINE: Click here to read “Thesis Research on a Global Scale” by Katherine Reilly ’05.

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