Please note that my opinions are my own, and the opinions of the anyone or any institution quoted are theirs. The opinions expressed herein do not reflect the opinion of North Carolina State University, its board of directors, the College of Management or any other college, Student Media Authority, or WKNC Raleigh.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Debunking the Obvious

In an article on the WSJ's Economics Blog, it is reported that frat boys drink more. Now this seems obvious at first glance, but being a member of a fraternity, I feel that I should voice my own opinion.

The academic chicken-or-egg question at hand is whether frat membership causes drinking, or whether frats just attract drinkers who would behave the same way without frats. The circumstantial data is telling: Surveys suggest that 64% of frat members were drunk in the past 30 days and 42% of nonmembers. “Undoubtedly, students choose to join fraternities in part because of pre-existing preferences towards behaviors that membership facilitates,” he writes.”

And, appearantly, fraternities are bad for campuses:
And the higher the fraction of college students who belong to a frat on a campus, the more heavy drinking among students who aren’t frat members.

Aside from disliking the word "frat" and all its (not so) subtle connotations, this news doesn't bode well for already falling enrollment in men's organizations all across the country. I don't believe we foster that kind of atmosphere in Delta Upsilon, but I definitely have noticed a year-to-year struggle between academics and "socializing."

To those of us who pride ourselves on diversity and tolerance, any statistical paper showing a "general trend" seems to promote sometimes-harmful and self-perpetuating stereotyping.

And as for spillover effects, I suspect the results to be quite foggy, though I haven't read the actual paper.

It is refreshing to see the experts take a moment to be rational about all this:
“It would be erroneous to assume that these unconditional… differences accurately portray direct effects of fraternities.

To any parents out there: I suggest getting to know your son, his interests, hobbies, and habits as well as the ones any organization he wishes to join foster. This should be fairly easy to discern among all the polite BS during recruitment season. But of course, why should I be giving you advice? You're all intelligent people.

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