Carl I. Hammer: The Atlantic magazine praised for article on fraternities

Last modified: Wednesday, May 14, 2014
To the editor:

Anyone looking for background on the decision by Amherst College to eliminate the remaining off-campus fraternities (beyond, that is, the usual bland statement issued by the trustees), should consult Caitlin Flanagan’s excellent article on fraternities in the March issue of The Atlantic.

The title’s reference to some ominous “dark power” of fraternities, indicates the general direction, but the article is in fact a very good exposition of the liability law surrounding modern fraternities, which appears to be the primary issue facing university administrations. A very severe problem (actually a very serious crime, rape) at Wesleyan which involved the Beta house there is particularly relevant and received extended treatment from Flanagan. The college administration was faced with a situation similar to Amherst’s where the fraternity was tolerated but not recognized and subject to any controls.

The unenviable plight of Wesleyan’s president could only give Amherst’s leaders much food for thought. And as we know from Graham Spanier’s sad experience at the Pennsylvania State University where he “presided” over the Paterno/Sandusky child molestation scandal, jail time is not out of the question for failed leadership. I suppose it is only a coincidence that the head of Amherst’s trustees, Cullen Murphy, is also the distinguished former editor of The Atlantic, but the trustees and administration could not have wished for a more timely and eloquent justification for their long-delayed decision.

Carl I. Hammer