Friendly Vibes or Deadly Times: The Issues With Greek Life at College Campuses

By: Samantha Sherman —Guest Correspondent

College students at the University of Mississippi held rush events despite the ban on having in-person recruitment, which resulted in over one hundred and sixty people testing positive for Covid-19, according to the U.S. News College Compass. Throwing parties where enormous groups of people are coming together, and most supporters’ are not wearing masks, have contributed to the backlash colleges have been facing during Covid-19 restrictions. This is merely one of the large numbers of issues associated with Greek Life. There is a desperate need to fix Greek Life to help decrease the number of people affected by alcohol consumption involved with sexual assault and deadly hazing incidents.

Individuals who are Pro-Greek Life argue that Fraternities and Sororities are essential to college students’ experience because it gives them opportunities to demonstrate leadership and have a socially supportive community. According to the North-American Interfraternity Conference, “When fraternity is done right, it provides the premier leadership experience on college campuses.” Through community service, organizing parties/events, and living in a house with multiple other people allows students to work on their relationship skills. It is an opportunity to expand students’ resumes for their future plans and provide them with the skills to function in society after college. Other students go to specific colleges because of the large presence of Greek Life. They see it as an opportunity to meet new people and build everlasting friendships.

One downside is that some students in fraternities or sororities feel the social pressure not to stand up and say something when they see the wrong incidents. This is because they are afraid of looking weak, getting kicked out of Greek Life, or having a horrible experience inflicted upon them. Supporters treat Greek Life as a tradition for the incoming freshman to experience. It is deeply rooted in the culture and environment of the schools. Even though Greek Life has been around for a very long time there should be adjustments to the system. At first, supporters will be against my proposed changes, but I am not seeking to eradicate Greek Life, and instead, I hope to influence reform in college communities.

As a young female, I find it heartbreaking that when I go to college, I will have to carry around pepper spray, not accept open drinks from anyone, always walk home with other people, and more. Everyone going into college will have similar fears to mine because of the high rates of binge drinking and sexual assault at college parties proven by statistics at multiple college campuses. These events give people opportunities to meet new people and have a good time with their friends. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, parties are more dangerous than we may think stating, “an estimated 1,825 college students die each year from alcohol-related injuries, some 599,000 are unintentionally injured under the influence of alcohol, and an estimated 97,000 are victims of alcohol-related sexual assaults. And “alcohol consumption is highest among students living in fraternities and sororities.'” That is an absurd amount of college students who have dealt with alcohol and sexual assault incidents, especially at such a vulnerable time in their lives. The statistics debunk Greek Life supporters’ theory that sexual assault does not happen often. We can prevent this only if we can fully understand that this is a severe issue. In fact, John D. Foubert discovered “in 2007 that fraternity members were three times more likely than nonmember students to commit rape.” Another study found that “sorority members were more likely than nonmembers to be sexually assaulted.” These are unacceptable statistics. College students should be focused on schoolwork and making friends, not worrying about getting sexually assaulted, especially because parties and other similar events are great ways to meet new people. 

There are ways where we can fix this issue for current college students and future generations. College students have enough stress and worries in their lives. They do not need binge drinking/sexual assault and hazing added to that list. It will be hard to make severe changes to the system, though, because so many people are set on the traditions that Greek Life provides. Yet, the safety of the students should be the priority, no matter the cost. There are many ways that, as a society, we can try to fix this. I think the most severe and direct approach we can take is by passing legislation. Matt Salmon, R-Ariz in the House of Representatives, introduced The Safe Campus Act, which required that before Universities begin any investigations, sexual assault victims must file a report to the local police officers about any incidents. It also made it not required to force colleges to make Greek Life co-ed or shut down Greek Life without a hearing on experiences. Another one is The Fair Campus Act, which allows both the accuser and accused individuals to question each other and possible witnesses about incidents because facing one another can be detrimental to the potential victim. Nevertheless, I would hope that educating people on the topic would be enough; “That’s the approach taken at the University of Maryland, College Park, where the 33 sorority and fraternity houses have live-in residential advisers. Under a “Ten Man Plan,” participating fraternity houses have facilitators — faculty members, administrators, or graduate students — who meet with 10 fraternity members in each of the houses 15 times each year to discuss sexual assault. The University hopes those 10 will lead other members in the fight against such crimes, says Matthew L. Supple, director of fraternity and sorority life at Maryland.” Yet, even with education at that point, alcohol is in the students’ system; it immediately impairs their judgment. As a result, more severe measures need to be taken, such as banning alcohol at recruitment. Clemson took this form of action when they “banned alcohol at recruitment and new-member events and at Greek functions attended by underage students.” If none of the solutions give positive results, “Five fraternities have banned pledging, hoping to attack two of the most pernicious problems: hazing and alcohol abuse. “We have been plagued with too much bad behavior, which has resulted in the loss of lives, negative press, and bad lawsuits,” said SAE’s then-president, Brad Cohen, in announcing the 2014 ban. Without reform, he said, SAE could be gone within five years.” These are all possible ways to see improvement in college life and to have Greek Life still. It is up to each University, depending upon what issues they are experiencing, to enforce either one or multiple presented solutions. I understand that Greek Life is a beneficial way to meet new people, make friends, engage in social events, and more. Yet, when it comes to students’ lives and well-being, that is where I draw the line. These are preventative measures to ensure that other college students do not experience the trauma and even deaths that past students have. Nobody goes to college, expecting to be a statistic; they develop deep friendships and gain knowledge, including leadership skills. We owe change to those affected and their loved ones, so we must take action.

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