Un-glamorize Greek Life

Issue 7, Volume 113

By Amaryllis Sun 

From comedic children’s movies such as Monsters University to feminist romances like Legally Blonde, Hollywood loves to glamorize the experience of Greek life, or, the role of fraternities and sororities on college campuses.. Impressions of lifelong friendships and nonstop entertainment are portrayed as reality to the audience. However, the actuality of Greek life can be dangerous. Students are calling for action from universities to address these hazards and form regulations.

Within the Greek system, there are subdivisions. Fraternities are for males only, whereas sororities are for females only, which is why the terms “brotherhood” and “sisterhood” are commonly used for the respective organizations. Fraternities and sororities tend to become quite popular due to the attraction of being part of a selective community. Yet the representation of nonbinary and transgender students in fraternities and sororities is extremely limited due to the gender-restricting standards put in place. At the University of Pennsylvania, none of the members of Penn Non-Cis, a group devoted to transgender students, are part of any fraternities or sororities. To combat this, fraternities and sororities have started accepting transgender and nonbinary students. For instance, Sigma Phi Epsilon adopted a clear transgender policy in 2015. The increasing adoption of inclusivity will hopefully inspire other Greek life institutions to do the same, pushing them to be more accessible to all identities.

To become part of a fraternity, one has to go through the process of pledging, which is the time between a bid (an invitation of acceptance) and initiation into the fraternity. Often, this process can last several weeks and becomes intense with challenges of drinking and staying awake for excessive periods of time.

Notably, hazing can be any activity during which an individual is humiliated, degraded, or abused to join a group. It can be disastrous, even leading to death if actions are taken too far. At Penn State University, one of the most well-known party schools in the nation, an incident occurred during a fraternity’s pledge acceptance ceremony. Timothy Piazza, a 19-year-old sophomore, died from traumatic brain injuries after falling down the stairs from heavy drinking. Substance abuse is already common within fraternities, with nearly half of fraternity members showing symptoms of alcohol use disorder by the age of 35. During hazing, drinking is taken to a further extreme, quickly becoming deadly. Universities can address the issue of hazing by controlling the circulation of alcohol and enforcing stricter rules that prohibit the facilitation of hazing. Furthermore, a trusted staff member should be involved in fraternities, ensuring that the safety of students is prioritized. Universities should communicate with their student body to effectively form the distinction between safe and dangerous pledging.

Alongside the practice of hazing, drugging and sexual assault are prevalent in Greek life. Drugging someone, often nicknamed “roofing,” is when Rohypnol or a similar drug is added to an individual’s drink without their knowledge. These drugs are colorless and tasteless, and they are frequently used for sexual assault, which is why they are also called “date rape drugs.” A study led by John Foubert, Jerry Tatum, and J.T. Newberry found that fraternity men were three times more likely to commit rape than non-fraternity men at colleges. Furthermore, statistics have revealed that one in five women will be sexually assaulted while they are in college.

As drug distribution becomes less and less noticeable, being proactive about safety can be lifesaving. Keeping watch over drinks is especially important, and inventions have been created to make this precaution easier. Nightcap, a scrunchie that can be worn on the wrist and transformed into a drink cover when needed, makes it harder for drink spiking to occur. Greek life institutions should also take steps to prevent drugging and sexual assault from occurring at their parties. Members should speak and act against anything suspicious they see, as well as participate in sexual assault awareness workshops, a step that Kappa Alpha Order is taking at UC Berkeley. The top priority at universities should be the safety of students, and Greek life needs to put more emphasis on this focus.

Some universities, such as the University of Notre Dame and Boston College, do not have Greek life. These universities offer the same social expansion and professional opportunities that fraternities and sororities do. However, they do so through specific groups. There are several clubs that students can join to engage in their community, such as religious clubs, service organizations, and sports teams. They demonstrate that schools without Greek life can still prosper socially and academically.

Greek life has been around since 1825, almost 200 years of brotherhood and sisterhood. Despite the frequent occurrence of hazing-related deaths and incidents of roofing in the media, these institutions can serve a great purpose if regulated properly. Fraternities and sororities can create meaningful connections that form lifelong friendships. Additionally, decades of Greek life at universities allow alumni to help current students through business opportunities and college guidance. Members can give back to their communities and learn humility through the act of community service. Annually, Greek life organizations raise over $7 million nationally and provide 10 million hours of community service. Greek life has the potential to fulfill the purpose it was created for if reformations ensue. Universities have already begun addressing Greek life conflicts and instating policies for increased safety. Some argue that there is no solution to make Greek life safe and that abolition is the answer, but that measure would be extremely difficult, as fraternities and sororities are century-old institutions that are immensely popular among college students. Instead, discussion between universities and the student body, parents, and staff is a more realistic way to uphold the original purpose of Greek life.