Monday, March 23, 2009

Nicholas L. Syrett

Nicholas L. Syrett is the author of The Company He Keeps: A History of White College Fraternities. From a Q & A at the publisher's website:

Q: What made you want to write The Company He Keeps? Have you ever belonged to a fraternity?

A: I have never belonged to a fraternity. Columbia, the school I attended as an undergrad in the mid '90s, did not have a particularly big Greek scene by the time I was there.

I was interested in writing about fraternities because I was fascinated by examples of groups of men behaving badly, gang rape in particular. It seemed to me that most of the men involved in incidents of gang rape that I read about probably would not have behaved as they did without the influence of others in the group. I ended up trying to answer the question "Where does this behavior come from?" by picking one group of men that participated in such incidents and tracing their history. That's how I settled on fraternities.

Q: Why do you think that this book is particularly timely?

A: It's timely for a number of reasons. The first is that an increasing number of schools of late have been considering either abolishing their Greek systems altogether or forcing fraternities and sororities to go coed. I hope my book can contribute to that conversation. The second reason is that the media continues to report every year on tragic cases of alcohol poisoning in fraternities, hazing gone wrong that results in injury or death, and the sexual assault of women at fraternity parties. My book explores where all of these phenomena come from. The third is that we continue to live in a society in which powerful white men are able to use their connections to forward their careers and interests. Some of those connections have been, and continue to be, forged in college fraternities.

Q: What role has homophobia played in the evolution of fraternities?

A: The short answer is...[read on]
Read more about The Company He Keeps.

--Marshal Zeringue