True Gentlemen: The Broken Pledge of America’s Fraternities

True Gentlemen: The Broken Pledge of America’s Fraternities

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Description of True Gentlemen: The Broken Pledge of America’s Fraternities

"The book comes at a turbulent moment for fraternities nationwide. News accounts of alcohol-related deaths linked to pledge hazing at Penn State and Louisiana State universities have Greek organizations on the defensive. Sexual assaults that occurred in fraternity houses are currently under investigation at Auburn University, Indiana University and the University of Mississippi. Hechinger, a senior editor at Bloomberg News, has delivered a deeply researched account that traces SAE from its roots to today---and offers a kind of book of revelation."

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College fraternity culture has never been more embattled. Once a mainstay of campus life, fraternities are now subject to withering criticism for reinforcing white male privilege and undermining the lasting social and economic value of a college education.

No fraternity embodies this problem more than Sigma Alpha Epsilon, a national organization with more than 15,000 undergraduate brothers spread over 230 chapters nationwide. While SAE enrollment is still strong, it has been pilloried for what John Hechinger calls "the unholy trinity of fraternity life": racism, deadly drinking, and misogyny. Hazing rituals have killed ten undergraduates in its chapters since 2005, and, in 2015, a video of a racist chant breaking out among its Oklahoma University members went viral. That same year, SAE was singled out by a documentary on campus rape, The Hunting Ground. Yet despite these problems and others, SAE remains a large institution with strong ties to Wall Street and significant political reach.

In True Gentlemen, Hechinger embarks on a deep investigation of SAE and fraternity culture generally, exposing the vast gulf between its founding ideals and the realities of its impact on colleges and the world at large. He shows how national fraternities are reacting to a slowly dawning new reality, and asks what the rest of us should do about it. Should we ban them outright, or will they only be driven underground? Can an institution this broken be saved? With rare access and skillful storytelling, Hechinger draws a fascinating and necessary portrait of an institution in deep need of reform, and makes a case for how it can happen.

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