Letter: Frats Fit the Business Model

To the Editor:

With considerable smugness, the editorial board of Bloomberg News applies a “business-model” analysis to the problem of fraternities at American colleges (“Greek Life,” editorial, Jan. 10), arguing that it is irrational to allow them to continue, and that college administrators are pitiable fools for not seeing that. But the business model is precisely what is keeping fraternities “in business.” The business-model approach for the rational allocation of one’s resources commands that a company’s productive capacities be fully channeled into only those places that lead to profit for the company. What is the main source of institutional income (profit) for private institutions of higher learning in America? Donations from wealthy alumni. (This is true for many “public” universities as well.) Thus, the business model directs those colleges and universities to devote their resources to two goals: first, maximizing the number of wealthy alums; second, maximizing their willingness to donate large sums to the institution. The first is achieved by shifts in the curriculum toward those fields that are believed to lead to wealth. The second by a vigorous maintenance of those institutions that foster an avid devotion to the alma mater on the part of those groups: that is, varsity sports programs (especially football and basketball) and fraternities. No economically rational college president will ever challenge a (winning) football coach or suppress the fraternities. It is the business model itself that is corrupting the soul of higher education in America. The fraternities are merely a symptom.

Eric Miller