We are coming off a hard year for sororities and fraternities in the news, but that hasn’t seemed to stop students at the College from taking the pledge (if they’re offered one, of course).
Numerous articles and videos showing a darker side to fraternities and sororities have recently been surfacing, and while they have caused a stir within the general collegiate population, it doesn’t seem like the point is fully getting across. Let us explore. A 2007 study (actually, the third to show similar results) reported that fraternity members are 300 percent more likely to commit rape than those not involved in Greek life. Indeed, a Harvard School of Public Health study indicated a link between living in a sorority house and a three times higher chance of being a victim of rape.
At the risk of totally offending the substantial portion of students who participate in Greek life, I will say that the organizations are the epitome of exclusivity at any university. For one, the rushing and pledging processes include weeding out those who don’t fit into the established group for superficial reasons. And it’s difficult to escape the fact that fraternities were started by a group of white guys – what good ever came from an origin like that, I silently wonder. Still worse, many fraternities and sororities have been known to literally segregate themselves by, among other socially constructed categories, race.
When people begin to discuss the idea of rushing, there is always that one guy or gal who pulls out the “So…you’re paying for friends?” card. And it is true that students have to drop thousands of dollars to be a part of the club. This is a fee that not only includes recruitment and semesterly fees, but also formal clothes and shoes, alcohol, and housing costs. On top of the already ludicrous university fees (did you know that you’re charged for science labs?), I can’t seem to understand why one might accept or even opt for more.
I do get why students might want to be a part of an exclusive club, though. Leaving home for another country, state or city can be admittedly daunting, and pledging might seem like an ‘in’ to the fun-filled experience depicted on millions of college brochures. However, I also think that experiencing some persistent level of awkwardness is a beneficial part of growing up.
I’m not trying to say that everyone involved in Greek life is a spoiled, rich, criminal, or even that every fraternity or sorority is involved in practices such as these – that would be ridiculous. But a house filled with “chosen” college-aged, hormone-filled, alcohol-fueled, young people is usually not a great idea.
Granted, there are solid advantages to both participating in Greek life and to having Greek life on campus. They can provide a support system for those students needing it, either academically or personally, they are often cited as the most important experience in participants lives, they contribute millions of dollars and hours to community causes and there are many networking opportunities. All of this is undeniably good. But we have to ask if it’s worth accepting the other baggage that comes along with it.
Greek life can serve to perpetuate pre-existing tensions within the community and has put many into dangerous, and even deadly, situations. Sororities and Fraternities describe themselves as family – but family exists outside the frat house too.