Greek Life is a Hard No

Fraternities and sororities lead philanthropic events and contribute to charity, but behind closed doors, they may not be all they say to be

John Renfrow, Staff Reporter

According to the New Jersey Institute of Technology, 85 percent of supreme court justices, 80 percent of Fortune 500 members, 76 percent of congressmen and nearly all presidents were members of some Greek life organization. Fraternities and sororities have long been previous homes of now successful or important persons, with 9 million students nationwide participating in some form of Greek life institution.

Though the image they’re going for is relatively convincing on the surface, fraternities and sororities have mastered the facade of philanthropy and charity practices to keep their organizations’ appearance clean in the eyes of the university. Though it’s not always a facade, good works come from it.

A good example comes from the Chicago Tribune, where members of Phi Kappa Tau at Emerson College in Boston raised more than $20,000 to pay for a transgender person’s surgery from a female to a male.

However, despite the numbers, a deeper issue is long-forming under the surface, creating a culture lacking of individuality and promoting a system of beliefs and practices that promote sexism and could prove harmful thereafter.

The Hook

If one is to join a sorority or a fraternity, the price is the exchange of certain individualistic traits, such as attire, company, and time, by way of student authority.

While luring fickle minds of recent high school graduates, fraternities and sororities recruit new students to take refuge in their organization. Once a member is made of a pledge, individuality begins to diminish as the organization becomes your identity.

Naomi Martin, a former sorority member at Tulane University, writes a reflective column in USA Today recalling her experience. Martins writes of the painful elements of greek life, calling out materialism and “fake friends.”

“Not only are sororities a huge waste of time and money, but they also promote artificial boundaries between students (both between girls of different sororities and Greek vs. non-Greek) as well as discourage individualism,” said Martin. College is supposed to be a place that enriches learning, thought, and individuality. Instead, through sororities, female conformity, stupidity, alcoholism, cattiness and materialism are celebrated and promoted.”

Charity works are often the go-to defense for attacks against things fraternities and sororities have supposedly stood for. However, this “charitable safeplace” comes at a hefty price for those interested.

The Culture, the Cost

For Morgan Haycraft, University of Louisville business senior, Greek life is now a part of her past for numerous reasons. The biggest is the culture she said it surrounded her in.

“[Greek life] is a stupid, sexist, and antiquated construct that causes extreme peer-pressure and anxiety among college students,” Haycraft said.

On a much more concerning note, according to a 2007 study in TIME magazine, men in fraternities are three times more likely to rape than other men. In addition, frats in particular control most of the social power in major colleges. They retain and flex this power by providing an immense amount of alcohol, conveniently hosting the parties, and dictating who is and isn’t allowed in them, often by an appearance-based system.

In 2013, Matthew Peterson, a member of fraternity Phi Kappa Tau at Georgia Tech, sent out a letter to his frat members entitled “Luring Your Rape Bait” instructing new members on how to escalate situations with alcohol and dancing to take a girl home.

On top of these risks and demands, students face a much more tangible price for their group. According to USA Today, the average incoming sorority member will pay roughly $1,280 per semester in dues, while incoming fraternity members pay roughly $605. At bigger universities such as North Carolina and Kansas, membership plus dues could equal as much as $5,300 a semester, including housing.

Haycraft said that her leaving was additionally a result of fines sent to her for lack of attendance to sorority activities because of a lack of time available on her part.

Hazing, Another Issue Entirely

Hazing is the humiliating and sometimes dangerous initiation rituals, especially as imposed on college students seeking membership to a fraternity or sorority. Unfortunately in some cases, hazing goes too far.

Last year, Timothy Piazza was a newly-arrived 19-year-old student at Penn State, simply looking for camaraderie and friendship in a fraternity called Beta Theta Pi. Piazza’s thoughts will forever be silenced, however, because of hazing.

Piazza, in search for new brothers, was forced to consume multiple alcohol drinks in a span of a few short minutes. Piazza passed out multiple times, and eventually staggered towards the basement steps, disappearing from camera view. He fell, and died the next morning in the hospital of a ruptured spleen and several head injuries.

[Greek life] is a stupid, sexist and antiquated construct that causes extreme peer-pressure and anxiety among college students.

— Morgan Haycraft, University of Louisville business senior

The Washington Post reports that a lawsuit was filed in 2015 in Alabama after a pledge of Kappa Alpha had to have a testicle surgically removed because of a “super wedgie” by a superior frat member.

A 2008 national study from the University of Maine reports that 73 percent of fraternity or sorority members have reported experienced hazing.

Sure, charity and good works are innate workings of Greek life associations, and done plenty of good. Fraternities often can and do become good homes to out-of-state students or traveling students who are new to an area.

The price for that, however, often eclipses the benefits, especially in the public eye. If Greek life members can hide behind it and remain unanswered for the culture they’ve perpetuated, every good work is in vain. It’s time to abandon this outdated tradition that universities are so dependent on, and begin taking responsibility for the culture it’s heavily responsible for. Good works and charity are independent of Greek life organizations; you don’t need to pay for it. Don’t get peer-pressured into who you want to be, go find it.