Good Frat, Bad Frat

Donnie Collins (courtesy of Emerson College)

Sometimes it seems like college fraternities get a bad rap. And in some cases, they deserve it.

Things like wild parties, date rape, mediocre academic performances and binge drinking (to name a few) normally come to mind when most people think of fraternities because honestly, these things happen often enough to warrant such perceptions.

But not all fraternities are bad. Take Phi Alpha Tau at Emerson College in Boston, for instance.

20-year-old sophomore Donnie Collins is a new member of PAT, but he isn’t your typical college student. He came out as transgender just before arriving on campus and has since been saving up for gender reassignment surgery, namely to have his female breasts removed. The only problem is the cost.

At minimum, the procedure will cost roughly $8000. And in Collins’ case, that’s $8000 more than he has to spend. Fortunately his new fraternity brothers, who seem to be pretty open-minded since they accepted a transgender pledge, have taken up his cause and have been raising money to help Collins pay for the surgery.

So far, they have raised more than $12,000 and it looks as if Collins will have that procedure after all. As you might imagine, he was ecstatic when he heard the news.

“I’m overwhelmed and surprised,” Collins recently told reporters. “I can’t thank everyone enough.”

Student reactions to the fraternity’s latest “project” have been mixed, though. Some feel gender reassignment is a private matter and should be funded by the individual, rather than some outside organization, even one connected to the college.

Phi Alpha Tau President John Allen disagrees and believes in what he and his brothers are doing.

“We see Donnie as a brother and we want to support him in this endeavor,” Allen said recently. And thanks to he and the other members of PAT, they are doing just that.

It’s nice to read am uplifting and inspirational fraternity story because as I said, they are pretty rare. Don’t believe me? Then consider this next story, which ran about the same time as my first example.

Washington University (courtesy of Facebook)

At Washington University in St. Louis, the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity has just been suspended because of racial slurs some of its members made to African-American students on campus. All activities have been halted pending a university investigation.

According to several eyewitnesses, a handful of SAE members approached a table full of black students during dinner, took a photo of them and left. A few minutes later, these same frat boys returned with an even larger group and started singing a rap song that included numerous “N bombs.”

I think you know the word to which I’m referring.

Students across campus were notably angry when they heard the news, including senior Brittany Tokasey.

“I was really upset to hear about it and I was kind of shocked,” she told a local news crew. “It’s not something that usually goes on at this campus and never something I’ve heard about in the four years I’ve been here.”

SAE chapter president Mike Zissman could not be reached for comment, but posted the following to his Facebook page.

“First and above all, I want to apologize,” he wrote. “This type of action is detestable and completely unacceptable. I apologize both personally and on behalf of my fraternity, and promise you this will NEVER happen again.”

I certainly hope this is true because, as we all know, changing the public’s negative perceptions of college fraternities and Greek life won’t be easy. It helps when fraternities like Phi Alpha Tau make the news. But when every other fraternity story is negative and disturbing, the situation only gets worse.

Tighten up, frat guys!

Posted on March 2, 2013, in Perspectives and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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