USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘frat’
Legends
Narrative

The Goat Room

At Williams College in Massachusetts the frat system was dissolved in the 1960s but all the old frathouses still exist and have been converted into dorms.  They are identifiable as frat houses because they still feature the fraternities old symbols on the wall.  One of the most interesting hazing traditions that this frat took part in was at the end of the initiation process the current members of the frat would take all the prospective members into this room.  They would then bring in a goat and tell the prospectives they had one final task to complete before becoming a member.  Any man who sought entry into the house would have to have sexual intercourse with the goat that night.  The brothers would then leave and come back in the morning.  When they returned they would ask the prospective members who had “fucked the goat.”  Some would step forward.  Instead of lauding them for their dedication to the fraternity these men would be chastised in front of the group for their blind following of such a vile order.  They would be asked to leave and not admitted into the fraternity.  Those who had refused to have intercourse with the goat would be lauded for their strong character and offered a spot in the frat.

I went to visit the informant at her college and we participated in a 24 hour theater festival.  We were rehearsing in the goat room and I noted that I recognized the symbol on the wall as a frat symbol.  My friend and the other girl with us then proceeded to tell me the full story.

I think this story is very interesting because it plays with the expectations of fraternity culture.  You expect the brothers to come back and kick out those who refused to follow orders but in fact the opposite is true.  However the act still portrays fraternities in a negative light.  The prospective members underwent a traumatic experience and in the end they were not accepted.  This is perhaps even more traumatizing than following orders that lead to acceptance.  Either way the story prizes individual thinking over a group mentality.  It is also interesting to note that this story exists in a school where fraternities do not.  The story is probably making a commentary on the evils of the fraternity system and how the school is better off without them.

Initiations

Hazing- skinny dipping naked in fountain

My informant was visiting USC and on the second night of her stay, she went out to find a late night snack. While wandering around campus, she saw a few naked guys, presumably students, jumping around in one of the fountains. They then ran off. She had heard stories of such an act being part of hazing and so attributed the sighting to that.

Seeing that was interesting, she said, because she doesn’t personally see the value in something like hazing but knows it’s important to some fraternities and to some people. To her, though, it was just more evidence of the shallowness and lack of worth of most frats.

Hazing rituals have been going on in colleges for decades, and though administrations try to crack down, it always seems to remain. The rituals are usually embarrassing and uncomfortable, as well as sometimes dangerous. I believe their intention is to humble those who want to join the frat so they know their place. And because of their existence, actually being in a frat seems more significant since hazing makes it difficult to join. It makes it seem more exclusive and special. Hazing is also supposed to bond those attempting to join together via their humiliating experience. Personally, though, I’m not sure I see much point to the rituals. Many frat students seem to want to continue the trend only because they had to go through it; performing the ritual on someone else is like a taking back of power, a revenge for what was done to them, but exacted upon someone else. The rituals also often reflect this human desire to have power over others and even to inflict pain upon them, even if it something we generally repress.

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