Un-Fraternal Fraternities : USC works to get a handle on an outrageous problem

Last weekend's brawl between members of two fraternities on the USC campus provides a test for President Steven Sample. A year ago he warned fraternities: "We cannot tolerate acts of violence, period. And folks who perpetuate acts of violence need to be removed from our academic environment."

The college's new guidelines on Greek organizations, imposed last September, led to some notable improvement. But the new rules have not halted all "animal house" behavior. The latest incident involves--yet again--members of the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity. In past years, members of this same house have been accused of a date rape and other violence.

In last weekend's violence--a battle over turf that resembled a skirmish between rival street gangs--members of Alpha Tau Omega forbade a member of rival Sigma Alpha Epsilon to walk on the sidewalk in front of Alpha Tau Omega's house. When the student did so anyway, Alpha Tau Omega brothers beat him, knocking him unconscious, according to police. After a friend pulled him to safety, his fraternity brothers arrived and a brawl ensued.

Both fraternities have been suspended and prohibited from holding social activities on campus pending an investigation and a student-conduct hearing. Should these inquiries substantiate the allegations, the suspensions should lead to more severe punishment against the individuals and the fraternities involved.

The violence should not tarnish all Greek organizations at USC. Fraternities can be a fun part of college life, but these organizations must not become a cover for thugs. A USC student, asked to explain the difference between frat brothers and gang members, replied indignantly that college students "are educated." If that's the case, then let them act like it.

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