Greek Weak

"NOTHING is over until WE decide it is! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? HELL, NO!"

-- John "Bluto" Blutarsky, National Lampoon's Animal House, 1978

Bluto doesn't live here anymore. And that goes for Otter, D-Day and Flounder, too.

In fact, they aren't even welcome in these parts -- parts being Arizona State University and the crumbling shell of fraternity life that once existed in north Tempe. Granted, ASU's Greek history -- "Greek" referring to the letters frats and sororities use to distinguish themselves -- has never been akin to that of, say, Indiana, Northwestern or Auburn universities, where more than a hundred years of fraternity traditions, toga parties, keggers, hazing rituals and stuffy elitism are more than just colorful anecdotes in school lore. Still, ASU didn't earn its reputation as a breeding ground for boneheads and loose morals -- or as America's No. 1 party school -- without some considerable help from the men on frat row.

But the ASU fraternities of yesterday are just that. Gone are the openly rowdy and alcohol-soaked "community service" events, during which, for instance, meathead, oversize frat brothers raced tricycles -- blitzed -- to raise money for, ahem, local charities. Open-house keg parties? Since the fraternity now takes the fall, in this litigious society, if an underage co-ed on her way home in the wee hours gets run over by a speeding drunk, keggers are a no-no. No longer do the elder brethren haze the pledges with various mind-fucks, or force them into sleep deprivation. The frat can't survive the multimillion-dollar headache.

These days, it isn't even safe for a frat kid to shower with a porn star, much less enjoy a hand job from said porn star, lest he become the poster boy for all the Greeks' ills.

"We want something different than all that," Carlos Villicana, the chapter president of ASU's Delta Chi fraternity, says with a straight face. "We're looking for exemplary men of honor."

Villicana says this as underclassmen make their way into the D-Chi chapter room, a homogeneous setting inside ASU's newest dormitory, Adelphi II, that feels more like an apartment complex clubhouse than a fraternity house. It's Rush Week, the beginning of each semester during which fraternities market themselves to freshmen and sophomores, and vice versa. Just a few hundred feet away, at Adelphi Commons, the sororities are doing the same.

Today, Delta Chi is treating its wanna-bes to barbecued wieners and burgers, soda for all, and conversation that emphasizes high GPAs over high BACs.

Inside the freshly painted, newly carpeted chapter room is an unexpected aroma of cleanliness -- a combination of shampoo, cologne and that "new car" smell, or, in this case, "new dorm" smell. There isn't the pungent odor of piss and old beer you expect in a frat house, no broken liquor bottles or broken windows, and no one is passed out on the couch -- massive suede sectionals, by the way, nicely upholstered and spot-free. The walls are mostly bare, with the exception of a Delta Chi paddle hanging on one, and a tapestry of the Delta Chi coat of arms on another. The kitchen is immaculate. Shocking, truly.

And the men of Delta Chi are as squeaky clean as their domicile (at least, that's what's on display for a prearranged visit from a reporter, although it's hard to imagine that any amount of prep work could have created this). There is no keg on tap, no skin flicks on the giant big-screen TV, no sorority girls offering a "secret handshake" to coerce pimply freshmen into joining D-Chi's ranks of "athletes, gentlemen and scholars." Instead, the pledges -- or "associate members," as they're referred to in Delta Chi -- are playing Xbox video games, foosball, and a gentlemen's round of poker -- presumably, there's no wagering.

It's enough to make you want to shake some sense into a Delta Chi, and beg him to scream "TOGA!" But alas, a plea for a little civil disobedience in the form of such revelry would be for naught. This is not Animal House.

Rather, it's more like Revenge of the Nerds -- only without the revenge.

Better yet, call this the Stepford Fraternity. That's just what Villicana, his brothers, and the national headquarters want, they say. But more important, it's what ASU President Michael Crow demands. Which is why the Delta Chis, one of a dozen ASU-recognized fraternities, live here in Adelphi II, better known as "The Prison" to many of its residents who refer to their separate clusters as cellblocks.

Adelphi II is just one more piece of Crow's vision of the "new American university," one intended to corral the fraternities into a controlled environment and eliminate alcohol use on campus. But you'll hear little about the stifling of fraternity life from Crow. He couldn't clear the space in his calendar to talk with New Times about Greek life at ASU, according to ASU spokeswoman Nancy Neff. But the fraternities, including Delta Chi, have plenty to say.

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Joe Watson