Nowadays, it’s pretty tough to legitimately write about Greek life. You’re either glorifying it, defending it, or having to deal with the ire of the looming other--the parents, the school administration, and the girlfriends who for whatever reason, don’t totally get why the whole thing is such a big deal.
The present-day fraternity is both an institution and a lifestyle, and the undue respect (or lack thereof) it requires often creates a force that’s so polarizing, it inevitably defines those who guard its hallowed vomit-stained floors, for better or for worse.
Enter “The Best House on the Row,” a novel written by Jameson Galey, the former President of the USC Chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon. “The Best House on the Row,” which follows a Fraternity at the fictional Southern Texas University, is a refreshingly realistic look into the contemporary Greek System. Here’s why you should read it:
- The story follows two protagonists--Casey, a somewhat naive freshman pledge, and Kip, a hot-shot senior President--through the pledge process of what is widely considered to be the school’s best fraternity. We get a unique, daringly accurate glimpse into not just the highs, but also the insane burdens and pressures felt on BOTH sides of the pledge process.
- As many can attest to, the world in which Greek Life operates exists radically outside that of the rest of college. It’s a world that’s both easily glorified and vilified, depending on who you are dealing with. The novel does an amazing job in contextualizing greek life within the college sphere as a whole.
- As someone who was President of his fraternity, I can honestly say that this is not only a great book, but an extremely important book for anyone involved in Greek Life, particularly in regards to leadership roles. It balances the “why the fuck am I doing this” amazingly well with the “this was by far the best decision of my life” mantra that comes with being a fraternity man.
- The twist at the end is dope.
- This is really just a good book, and you really can’t help pulling for it’s brilliantly crafted characters. Increasingly tough to put down as you get further and further invested into the story.
We will leave you with an excerpt. If you dig this one, check out the rest of the book here. Even if you don’t read that often (let’s be honest, who does nowadays?), this should really be an exception.
Kip entered the IGC meeting over thirty minutes late (his last meeting in the shower having gone a little longer than he expected). The Inter-Greek Council was comprised of all twelve fraternity presidents. They met about once a month to discuss topics that they had generally no control over, like “safety on the row” and “inspiring more Greek spirit.” He tried to slink in the back door undetected but the IGC Director, Mr. Ratner, picked him off right away.
“Nice of you to join us, Mr. Thomas.” He paused in the middle of what must have been a very long winded speech. “We were just finishing up actually.”
Mr. Ratner was a middle aged wart who occupied one of the lowest rungs of the STU bureaucracy and hated seeing young, up and coming people surrounding him constantly. Kip had been forced to deal with him last semester when a group of sophomore Alpha Mu’s had singlehandedly destroyed a Zeta Phi “Lip Sink for Charity” contest with water balloons.
“Sorry about that.” Kip said, taking a seat in the back.
The other presidents didn’t miss the chance to glance back at his late arrival; some eyes watching him with jealousy and anger, others with reverence. There were a few competitors to Alpha Mu (Zeta Phi mainly) but for the most part these other chapters were way behind. They took big pledge classes, threw parties, and clogged the Bookstacks on week nights just like he and his friends did, but they really had no idea what it meant to be a part of a true brotherhood.
“As I was saying,” Ratner continued, “in the president’s manual you will notice that the state of Texas has altered several of its laws concerning fraternity hazing. Last semester we heard several rumors in the IGC Office but decided not to pursue any of them. With these new changes, I can guarantee you–” he stopped for effect, “that we will adamantly follow up with any information that comes our way. Hazing is a FELONY men, and will not be tolerated anymore.
As the leaders of your respective houses we’re looking to you to make a stand on this and eliminate it from our school’s history…” The room was tense. “In addition, please remember that rush this week is absolutely dry. If we find any hint of alcohol on your premises, your pledge classes can and will be capped. Also, if…”
Kip zoned out as Ratner’s sermon droned on. Although he was familiar with the risks of hazing and slept with them on a nightly basis, he really didn’t appreciate having the consequences laid out so bluntly in front of him. It always made him feel nervous, and slightly guilty.
When the meeting ended (only about ten minutes from when Kip arrived), he stood up to leave but heard Ratner ask him to stay. He thought about pretending he hadn’t heard and slipping out the back, but knew he’d have to deal with him sooner or later. He approached the front desk as the other presidents filed out.
“So…how’s your senior year so far?” Ratner asked congenially, as if making conversation.
“Well, it’s only been about an hour long so far sir.” Kip said, his thoughts tracing over the morning. “But pretty darn good since you asked.”
“Good, good. Well, I just wanted to talk to you really quickly, and make sure we’re on the same page for the coming semester.” Ratner said.
“And what page is that?” Kip asked, feeling his heart beat a little faster.
“The alcohol transports, the pranks, the fighting, the hazing rumors–” At this Ratner seemed to gain more confidence, as if remembering why he had called Kip back in the first place. “They need to stop. NOW. Or else there will be consequences.” Kip shifted uncomfortably in his seat.
“Things are changing around here Mr. Thomas, and I suggest you get on board. You need to lead the Alpha Mu house by example or it won’t survive the year.”