Op-Ed: Why I Quit Having Fun

Opinion by and
Oct. 15, 2010, 12:06 a.m.

Since 1892 Sigma Alpha Epsilon has devoted itself to peddling a product for which good work is irrelevant, because people can’t help themselves from having it. This product is timeless and, at an emotional level, it never changes. Of course, there is happiness associated with this product, a lot of happiness. We knew it wasn’t good for us, but for many years we couldn’t stop. In fact, our entire existence to the outside world has depended on this legally dangerous product known as “having fun.”

Recently, my fraternity ended a long relationship with having fun. Frankly, I’m both relieved and upset. The recent Kappa Sigma “incident,” which further demonstrates the obvious fact that excess drinking could potentially lead to detrimental health effects, has shown me that the risk is no longer worth the reward with regard to many aspects of social drinking and partying, mostly because certain truths we hold to be self-evident (yes, I’m aware how arrogant that sounds) are often completely overlooked by the greater part of the Stanford community. At some point people need to start taking personal responsibility for their behavior and their actions. It’s a lot easier to say, “Someone in SAE gave me too many drinks” than it is to say, “I had too much to drink.” Neither of these statements is factually inaccurate. It’s simply an act of delegating responsibility.

Before we sharpen our knives and prepare to slaughter the fraternity system, let’s try and understand it better. It makes sense that any 18-year-old freshman should have either a broad conception of the negative consequences associated with drinking or an awareness of the legal drinking age. It’s far easier for you to know your own age and limits than it for us to know that information, having never met you before. Yet from the University’s perspective, we get in trouble when you drink too much and require medical or legal assistance in the form of either a hospital visit or a police escort accompanied with a minor-in-possession ticket (which you really don’t want). When someone goes to the hospital or someone gets arrested, blame needs to be distributed—that’s just what happens when paperwork gets filed. It’s very easy for both the University and victim to blame the fraternity system. Passing the buck to an institution people generally have no problem demonizing is an easy out. I’m not saying crimes don’t occur on the Stanford campus. I’d never make such a bold claim. Yet the difference between personal regret and proclaiming someone else is to blame for your actions is a thin line. I believe putting the blame on one institution dehumanizes all sides.

Drinking responsibly is a talent. Being responsible when sober is a moral choice. People are going to drink, and sometimes, people are going to drink too much. This is a reality of college. Sadly, as stated earlier, the current risk of throwing a party outweighs the reward of having one—which should explain why there were so many more all campus parties when I was a freshman than there are now. Parties are dangerous because the world is dangerous. It just seems easier to pass the blame under the veil of “public safety” or play a game of hot potato with legal responsibility rather than deal with these realities. We’re not going to solve the problem of administering blame in a legal sense once an incident has happened. When the situation is in the hands of a legal entity, all bets are off because everyone will try to protect themselves. This is systemic and not something than can be changed.

What I’m imploring everyone to do is take the necessary steps to avoid a hospital trip or a legal issue. We’re doing our part and I’m trying to be as sincere as possible in writing this (I really don’t need to disclose any of this information). All I ask is for you guys to do your part, and hopefully, we can get back to making frat parties fun again. Otherwise, we’ll stick to private events instead of opening our doors to everyone, which is what we really want to do.

Drew Karimlou ‘11

Former Social and Rush Chairman of Sigma Alpha Epsilon

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