By Paula Hernandez Garaycoa
Because there are so few safety regulations in Greek housing, students put themselves at risk of serious harm if not careful. (Courtesy of Flickr)
In the face of the recent tragedy at Louisiana State University, a situation which resulted in the untimely death of freshman Maxwell Gruver, it is critical that we as a society reexamine how necessary Greek life is for college campuses. Adamant supporters of Greek life will tell you that it’s all about building a community while forming lifelong relationships, and students will tell you that it is an essential social aspect of the college experience, but I am here to tell you that the world will not be condemned to the flames of eternal sobriety if we ban school sanctioned fraternities and sororities. As it currently stands, Greek life is, for the most part, a free-for-all, infested with binge drinking, institutional misogyny and hazing which results in unnecessary deaths.
On LSU’s Guide to Fraternities and Sororities, students are warned that “hazing and inappropriate behavior are not tolerated” while parents are assured “that students are afforded the best possible experience to lead their respective organizations as well as the community as a whole” and that “academic support and assistance is a priority.” I would point out that the warning was obviously ignored and that dead students can’t lead their communities anywhere.
Gruver’s fraternity, Sigma Alpha Epsilon, claims “to promote the highest standards of friendship, scholarship and service.” Clearly this was not the case, yet this claim is anything but unusual. Many Greek organizations pledge themselves to the values of charity and honor, but the idea that these words are anything more than a vague and unconvincing lie to appease the school administrators who sign their paper work and turn a blind eye to things like hazing and hell week is a joke. Perhaps school administrations are not turning a blind eye; perhaps their beliefs that these groups are devoted to service and community are sincere. However, as the National Study of Student Hazing found that “when students (who reported experiencing hazing behavior) were asked where the behaviors occurred, one in four said it had occurred in a public space on campus and nearly half indicated the hazing had occurred during the day,” I would argue that any administration which is unaware of hazing that occurs within the Greek system of its school is grossly incompetent.
The vast majority of people do not join Greek life for the charity work; plenty of organizations boast excellence and service without all the negative repercussions. Honestly, I struggle to see how sororities emotionally abusing pledges with “boob rankings” or fraternities asking pledges to swim in a pool of, among other things, rotten food and vomit is helpful in finding and creating committed public servants. Furthermore, these clearly grotesque activities illustrate the dangerous institutional misogyny present in Greek life. A woman in a sorority is two times more likely to be a victim of sexual assault while men in fraternities are three times more likely to be a perpetrator. As most women were, I was personally offended after the heinous stunt pulled by Yale’s Delta Kappa Epsilon (DKE) chapter in 2010 that went viral. While I may not be a parent, I can imagine that sending your child to a school where the message “No means yes, yes means anal” rings loud and clear is not the ideal. This is not an isolated incident; the phrase spread to fraternities around the country. These types of disgusting and degrading stunts are the perfect illustration of the culture of entitlement that clearly exists amongst these groups.
To me, the worst part is the lack of action by school officials. Of course, when someone dies and brings negative attention to the university there is a statement released and the school reiterates its disapproval for the unruly behavior that it knew about the entire time. It is clear that the supposed benefits of Greek life do not outweigh the steep and horrific cost. Refusal to take serious actions against these organizations is not only egregious, but also disrespectful to the memory of Maxwell Gruver and all the others who have prematurely passed away.
Paula Hernandez Garaycoa, FCRH ’21, is an English major from Miami, Florida.