WASHINGTON — We had keggers.

We smoked, cursed and raised holy hell.

There were unseemly hookups. Late-night capers. Lots of failing grades.

So, yeah, I guess I belonged to a fraternity in college.

Mine was the college paper. That place was my community, my security, an entire floor of the student union filled with my ink-stained people. It was the place where I made lifelong friends and mistakes that carried lifelong lessons.

So how do I dare to criticize the Greek system and question the purpose of fraternities and sororities when I belonged to something similar?

Because of that party bus in Oklahoma, where fraternity members got caught on video singing some shockingly racist stuff.

And that case last week at Washington and Lee University in Virginia, where a Phi Kappa Psi pledge was Tasered.

The incidents have been piling up for years: hazing, sexual assault, trashing places, binge drinking – and those ridiculous, racist parties. It’s become so predictable that a few universities have banned Greek life altogether.

So how is it that frats are getting more popular? The North American Interfraternity Conference said the number of brothers has been swelling by 4 percent every year over the past decade. It’s up to about 372,000, according to the conference’s statistics.

Why?

Community, connection, leadership and charity are what we usually hear.

It’s gotta be a great thing when you start at a university to come to a huge, strange place and instantly have a group of brothers who have your back.

And then there’s leadership and philanthropy.

Look at the mentorship programs and scholarships given to the District of Columbia’s high school students by the local Mu Lambda chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity. Or the school beautification Phi Beta Sigma helped organize at John Hayden Johnson Middle School in Washington. Or the money the brothers of Zeta Beta Tau at the University of Maryland raised for the Children’s Miracle Network hospitals.

But guess what? Nobody’s getting Tasered and chugging vinegar so that they can organize a blood drive.

Let’s take a look at that Oklahoma fraternity, Sigma Alpha Epsilon. Together, its chapters across the United States made it the fifth-most generous fraternity in America, according to 2012 tax forms. It gave $242,225 to charity.

So, with 15,000 members, that makes $16 a bro.

That’s barely weekend beer money.

The folly of the Greek system isn’t in its flaccid philanthropic front, but in that it creates little clans of like-minded people, shattering the most essential learning that is part of the university experience: figuring out who you really are and how to deal with people who are very different.

When you go to college, you’re suddenly thrown onto a campus with people who are very much not like you. The kids of migrant workers, of billionaires, of colonels, of rabbis, of senators, of racists and of restaurant workers are all in the same place.

And learning about each other is one of the great gifts that going to college gives you.

But fraternities and sororities remain among the most segregated institutions. And when you look at some of those leaked emails floating around about the inner workings of the Greek system – from the one telling sorority members how they are allowed to style their hair and what color lipstick they can wear, to strategies for silencing women about date rape – the true perils of such ferocious self-segregation are right there.

Those boys chanting that racist song in Oklahoma probably said or thought something like that long before they got to SAE.

But by finding other guys who are like them and wouldn’t challenge them (except for the one who filmed it and sent the video to the ink-stained people at the college paper, thank you!), their behavior could largely go unchecked.

Same goes for guys who think it’s fine to Taser someone, or rape someone. That behavior is still happening in 2015 because flawed people – and we’re all flawed to some extent – surround themselves with yes men.

I went to a university with double the population of my hometown in the Sierra Nevada mountains and was lucky to find my people in a diverse group of students who shared a passion at the college paper. Anyone who walked into the newsroom could join. And we all walked away from that experience better educated.

And with our share of beer stories.

I even got to know a pretty cocky frat boy I didn’t think I had anything in common with. Oh, I better remind him that we’ve got our kid’s teacher conference tomorrow.