In the wake of the horrifying behavior of some members of a fraternity at the University of Oklahoma recently, we are hearing that the whole fraternity system is flawed and we should be done with them. To my way of thinking, that is nonsense and I would respectfully like to tell you why, at least for me.
My first stories of fraternities were deeply upsetting. My father, who became a famous economist, was a dishwasher at a fraternity at Williams College to help pay his way through college. At that time, and for long after and before, that fraternity and all of the frats at Williams did not admit Jews. I asked my Pop how he felt about it. “I just felt grateful that I had a job and could go to the best small college in the country in the middle of the worst Depression in industrial history,” he said.
One of the members, Richard Helms, who ate off the dishes that my father washed, later became head of the CIA and one of my Pop’s closest friends.