Dear Universities, Stop Blaming Greek Life For Everything
There’s nothing a university loves more than a scapegoat, especially one made of students and easily cracked down on to make a public overture of “progress” in dealing with a problem. When universities are confronted about their big problems, like campus assaults and other major student body issues, their first move is to yell as loudly as possible to the media that it’s all the fault of those evil dens of sin and privilege known as fraternities and sororities. At this point, maybe we should all start working on our evil laughs and moustache twirling, because we’re basically cartoon villains. Next year, they’ll start blaming fraternities for tying well-respected maidens to railroad tracks to lure out Dudley Do-Right, mark my words.
The issue at hand is simple: universities, like any large community, have social problems. These are not confined to fraternities and sororities, but because of the social nature of Greek life, campus problems are conveniently both easy to observe and easy to cast blame for within the community. That isn’t to say we don’t have issues as Greeks — we do. We need to lock our shit down so national reporters don’t show up at our door salivating like starved dire wolves any time we have a pledge event. Pledging should be tough, and occasionally weird, but it shouldn’t ever be actually fucking dangerous. That’s not the point, and it was never intended to be the point. It should be the best six weeks you’ll never want to do again, but there shouldn’t be lingering PTSD that causes former members to cower in a corner any time the Barney theme comes on. We all know one guy that pledged a chapter like that, and that is definitely a problem. As for the assault issue, we need to make damn sure we’re the most proactive about preventing sexual assaults. We should be the goddamn poster children for consent, because without that ammunition, the university can’t blame it’s own failings on us.
All that said, universities often fail to take responsibility for the problems on their campuses because liability is a bitch and they don’t want the Department of Ed citing them for failing to report things under the Clery Act. It looks bad to prospective students and parents when your school ranks top 10 for “Oh, were we supposed to report violent crimes and sexual assaults? Oops.” I don’t know about you, but that would not have reflected well to my parents on orientation weekend. Dad would have gotten me a concealed carry permit if I was even considering a school like that. As such, it behooves universities to have one easy to target group of students, and Greeks are that group. We host social functions, we plan major events, and we do have some inherent risk associated with us. Most of us are productive, successful and positive contributors to a university community, even if we do throw the occasional wild party on the weekend. I got a lot out of my time in Greek life, and I can say I would absolutely not be the person I am today without it (mostly, I’d still be nerdy as hell and pretty awkward).
The temptation to blame Greeks for campus ills is high for one very simple reason: money. We’re capable of defending ourselves against lawsuits thanks to our national organizations and insurance. Universities want to avoid being named parties to these, so they try to foist blame wherever they can as a risk management option, leaving us to the wolves. The media, of course, jumps on the bandwagon because for that 70% of Americans that don’t have college degrees, we are the highest profile example of what the 1% looks like. To them, we buy our friends, own million dollar houses and vacation in the Hamptons. It’s irrelevant that many of us pay our own way through college, work multiple jobs and contribute to a massive philanthropy outpouring that accounts for much of what universities contribute to charities yearly, or that we generally come out of our houses with work ethic and teamwork skills that you can’t get in a classroom. Nothing teaches you teamwork like setting up a social event for you and your closest 500 friends.
The biggest issue is that situations generally don’t improve at schools that eliminate Greek life. Some other group will take over — sports teams, clubs, professional organizations. It varies from school to school, but the result is usually the same. College kids will always look for social outlets. Responsible fraternities know how to provide those while running afoul of the law as minimally as possible. Universities have relied on us, in an unspoken agreement at most schools, to provide that scene without the rampant chaos disorganized house parties can create. We actually have to manage risk, attend to our guests and ensure that we’re at least trying to keep things legit.
In the end, universities will blame us until they can’t anymore, and then they’ll find new groups to blame and crackdown on in an attempt to deflect from the fact that they, as institutions, aren’t doing a damn thing about most of their specific social ills. They’ll blame school alcohol problems on rowdy fraternities, claim our membership is exclusionary and privileged and target us as the root of all sexual assault when really their observations are simply a microcosm of larger campus issues that can only be addressed by actual education and support of all students involved. Instead, they want to play the blame game because it’s cheaper and easier. It’s a gigantic “fuck you” to alumni and the generally amazing people that make up Greek life nationally in the name of saving face, and it’s fucking disgusting.
We’re willing to do better as Greeks, but you need to step up to the plate yourselves, universities.