To the Editors,
I read with interest a recent article concerning the suspension of a particular fraternity at Kenyon and the continuing problem of hazing. I feel that these discussions have taken on special relevance not just because of the #MeToo movement, but because of the current Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, who — in his own way — stands for the somewhat debauched fraternity lifestyle that Delta Kappa Epsilon (and others) have come to represent.
I am a Ph.D. Sociologist (Boston University), and I hold a B.A. from Grinnell College. I transferred to Grinnell from Kenyon in 1961 for a variety of reasons. At that time Kenyon was a very, very Eastern seaboard-aspiring place — heavily populated by prep school boys who were drawn to the beautiful campus and the high quality academic life. I was such a prep school boy. [My high school] years were difficult, since most of my classmates were boys of privilege — I was not.
When I decided to go to Kenyon, I turned down early acceptance at Oberlin. What a mistake. [At Kenyon] I was accepted at a very old distinguished fraternity — Alpha Delta Kappa [sic] — but was thoroughly disgusted by the entire hazing process. Heavy drinking and heavy subservience to the older brothers [were standard].
The Deke [sic] fraternity was always known for its heavy drinking and it is apparent that this culture has survived surprisingly well over the last fifty years. That is precisely why you should get rid of it. I’m so pleased that Kenyon finally went coed, which is one of the great neutralizers to this behavior. In my one year at Kenyon, it was a “great thing” to look forward to the times when the Lake Erie [College] women came to Kenyon. I was usually plastered on those weekends. That was the norm.
Brett Kavanaugh would have loved this culture. Some of the fraternities would occasionally show pornographic movies as part of their hip marketing to other fraternity members. The fraternity culture of a rurally isolated small village simply encouraged this behavior. Hopefully, Kenyon will one day get rid of the fraternity and sorority system entirely. It encourages invidious distinctions and patterns of behavior which are simply inconsistent with an egalitarian, democratic way of life.
Will Van Horne
[Editor’s Note: This letter was edited for length and clarity.]