My experiences as an undergraduate at University of North Dakota left me with the impression that fraternities have made a series of informal bribes to the university that allows them to operate above the law.
I’m not trying to make fraternities look bad, as they serve an important purpose for many students. However, it is useful to point out that some engage in corruption, and their brand of corruption closely mimics more egregious forms that are routinely seen in the real world.
In the name of fairness, it was 10 years ago when I enrolled as an undergraduate at UND. Also, I cannot comfortably say that every fraternity was engaging in corruption. I have not had much contact with fraternities since then.
It was a long time ago and a different school; things may not necessarily work the same today at North Dakota State.
One thing that has not changed since then is the culture. Many undergraduates drink, despite not being 21. As such, they are always looking for a safe place to party without having to worry about getting a minor.
When I was an undergraduate, fraternities filled this role for many students. Fraternity parties rarely got busted, despite clearly seeing parties being thrown from University Avenue.
In fact, I had several friends who rushed fraternities for the primary purpose of having a safe place to drink.
Fraternity members may rationalize this by arguing that a disproportionately large amount of alumni donations to the university come from former fraternity members. As such, campus police would grant them leniency when it came to serving alcohol to minors.
This leniency may seem noble when it is framed in this manner, but it sounds less noble when it is identified for what it actually is: corruption.
Charitable contributions are routinely used by corrupt organizations. This is a recurring pattern of behavior that spans all cultures and time periods.
Not only do charitable contributions improve the organization’s public image, but it gives them a bargaining chip should they come under scrutiny for their illicit activities.
The rumor at UND was that the police were afraid of busting fraternity parties out of fear that it would lead to a decrease in charitable contributions to the university.
Like most forms of corruption, no one would ever publicly admit this, but everybody suspected it was true.
In the grand scheme, fraternities engage in a minor form of corruption. However, there have been instances where this same tactic has been used for more serious crimes.
One of the more famous examples is when the Catholic Church came under scrutiny during the Reformation for selling indulgences, essentially allowing sinners to be forgiven if they made monetary donations to the church.
It was a different situation, but the same concept. Charitable contributions were being used as a way of obtaining leniency from an authority figure.
This brand of corruption is routinely seen in politics, business and organized crime. It is such an intrinsic part of every political and economic system that it is difficult to be an informed citizen without acknowledging its existence.