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Furman University and the Scarlet F.U.

November 20, 2019

Matthew Vasey MD

This commentary is with regard to my Furman University Family email from the Office of Student Life titled: Furman's Fraternity and Sorority Life Strategic Plan. "Furman will sunset the off-campus housing exemption for senior students to live in fraternity houses starting in the Fall 2020 ... The university implemented a four-year residency requirement for students in 2001. At that time, a limited number of senior students living in off-campus fraternity houses were exempted from the requirement. The sunsetting of this exemption will not impact the eight students currently living in those homes, most of which are leased single-family homes in neighborhoods far from campus."

Some students have responded with a petition, "Tell Furman University that fraternities should be allowed to keep their houses!" Check out and sign the Furman University Petition

I pragmatically protested then, and I am again now. It was sometime in the Spring of 2001 when Furman University legislated the four-year residency requirement during my senior year requiring all students to live on campus. I was one of a handful of students living at an off campus home informally dubbed a "fraternity house" although there was no formal designation of such. My housemates and I signed the usual private rental lease provided by our landlord and honored it.

At the time Furman was a "dry" alcohol free campus, since somewhat relaxed as I understand permitting students of age to consume alcohol in their on campus apartments only. This for obvious reasons would have been quite a transition for an entire student body, particularly when the now vibrant downtown Greenville, SC district was but a glimmer in some venture urban planner's eye. There was a disproportionate amount of decentralized student life controlled by a handful of students including me through leverage of Greek organizations. Then an era before the institutional risk that comes with social media's power to disrupt the sought after controlled narrative.

We did what any rational group of students in a proudly democratic nation armed with a liberal education seeking to get a unified message across that we felt this was a bad idea, we organized. We did so during a Parent's Weekend if I recall. I took my artistic poster with a Furman logo and an arrow going right into a toilet bowl and hammered it into the ground right in front of the fountain at the front gate for all campus entrants to see. I felt Furman and its reputation would go down the proverbial commode if this provincial decision wasn't stopped.

We stood peacefully on the Mall just beneath the President's office window. We made our case to a campus reporter and a few others interested while waving at the honking cars. Sure enough, we were invited into then President Shi's office to have a rational discussion about potential impact, pros and cons of requiring all university students to live on a "dry" campus. We recommended that a few senior class members of organizations have the opportunity to live off campus. This became the policy in 2001, and has continued until it seems, Fall of 2020.

Well, free will is not freedom of consequence. I believe the sooner one learns this, the better. My behavior during college years was not an example of mature logic and reason, rather one of immature irrationality and indulgence within the confines of influence from a then excellent university structure and friends whom I respect, admire and emulate to this day. The real world is a dangerous and slippery slope. I am an emergency physician. I see this on every shift. Irrational limbic, emotional stimulation and temptation are everywhere, ripe for indulgence and sequelae of consequence, sometimes legal, sometimes even deadly, always punitive. The future thought leaders of our nation must be capable and willing to navigate and understand the fragile fluid boundaries of rational individual liberty and its potential for irrational encroachment onto others.

My formal academic shortcomings were offset by the interpersonal strength and fortitude I developed from the trial and error that comes with the privilege and responsibility of free will. The Furman University diploma of mine from 2001, is proudly from a university with reason, rationality and logic that would make the Greek philosophers of Western Civilization proud. The diploma of 2020 and beyond bearing the "Scarlet F.U." will not be the Furman University I attended.

Future students, applicants and parents must understand that you are seeking an institution that preaches on their website a mission of character and value development, but simultaneously enforces that their students are incapable of going to a friend's off campus house or managing the responsibility of their own independent residence.

Furman University, you are an institution of higher learning with an annual tuition and cost of nearly seventy thousand dollars according to your website. Why not embrace the education of reason, rationality and solution with your student body? Or are you just selling the Furman bubble and manicured lawns to parents unwilling to let go of their eighteen year-old adult children? Logic suggests a cohort wealthy enough to afford Furman's tuition might just rent an extra house and continue the status quo. I do however, suspect this might successfully mitigate financial risk of undesired off campus fraternity behavior currently effervescing though the cultural narrative.

Matthew B. Vasey, MD
Furman University, Class of 2001 on Social Media