Nestled on a picturesque campus in tiny Hanover, New Hampshire, [Darmouth] has produced a long list of celebrated alumni – among them two Treasury secretaries (Timothy Geithner, '83, and Henry Paulson Jr., '68), a Labor secretary (Robert Reich, '68) and a hefty sampling of the one percent (including the CEOs of GE, eBay and Freddie Mac, and the former chairman of the Carlyle Group). Many of these titans of industry are products of the fraternity culture: Billionaire hedge-fund manager Stephen Mandel, who chairs Dartmouth's board of trustees, was a brother in Psi Upsilon, the oldest fraternity on campus. Jeffery Immelt, the CEO of GE, was a Phi Delt, as were a number of other prominent trustees, among them Morgan Stanley senior adviser R. Bradford Evans, billionaire oilman Trevor Rees-Jones and venture capitalist William W. Helman IV. Hank Paulson belonged to Lohse's fraternity, Sigma Alpha Epsilon, or SAE.Reading this article alongside Marxist work on the nature of the State is worth doing. For example, in What Does the Ruling Class Do When it Rules? Göran Therborn argues that:
The qualities required of the personnel of the capitalist state have always been of a special kind, as can be seen from the filtering processes of education, selection and training... experience of manual labor has never played any role in recruitment; only certain intellectual talents of an openly elitist character have entered into the selection procedure. For example, it was in order to deepen this exclusivist basis that the teaching of Latin and Greek was reintroduced or given renewed emphasis in 19th century secondary schools... The influence of this educational system over the patterning of careers is asserted by the informal criteria of entry into the state machine; by the operation of 'good old boys networks'... The training of state personnel has focused on the systematic inculcation of one particular leadership quality. This is not the capacity to weld together a collective organizational team, but the ability to exercise authority over and ensure the respect of subordinate members of the staff. Boarding schools and the student fraternities of elite universities are devoted to the development of self-discipline and self-confidence in such leadership cadres."For many academics, it is easy to forget that the university is one institution lodged within a much bigger system–capitalism. It is not a fully autonomous, self-standing entity where only the unforced force of the better argument reigns. Recognizing the university as, in part, an institution that facilitates the reproduction of capitalist social relations is key. This is especially true when universities attempt to brush against the grain of power, e.g. when they attempt to do away with the Greek systems. With so much social power–and wealth–concentrated in the Greek system, it is almost impossible for some universities to do away with them (or even reform them substantially) given the threat of backlash from moneyed alumni tied to fraternities and sororities. My sense is that it would take a movement to successfully defeat the Greek system on the campuses of big universities. Moreover, defeating fraternities would also require a certain high-profile crisis that could be seized on to turn public opinion against them. This, of course, would have to be combined with a critique–one that highlights the racism, sexism, and, of course, their class power–of the role that they play in society writ large.