Should Greek Life on College Campuses Come to an End?

Do you think sororities and fraternities should be banned because of reports and allegations of sexual assault involving their members? Or do you think Greek life is a healthy way to support young people navigating college?

By Nicole Daniels
Oct. 12, 2021

Do you have siblings or other relatives who are, or once were, members of sororities and fraternities? Is Greek life something you’ve always imagined you’ll be a part of when you attend college?

How do you feel about Greek life on college campuses? Do you think sororities and fraternities contribute in a positive way to the college experience? Or do you think they foster a harmful campus culture?

In “After Rape Accusations, Fraternities Face Protests and Growing Anger,” Anemona Hartocollis and Giulia Heyward write about the growing movement to shut down campus Greek life:

At the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, hundreds of students protested outside a fraternity house in August after a student reported a sexual assault by one of its members to the police.

At Northwestern University, in Evanston, Ill., demonstrations erupted on Sunday after several students said they had been drugged at two fraternities. Northwestern suspended recruitment and social events at on-campus fraternity houses.

At the University of Massachusetts Amherst, rumors about a sexual assault prompted hundreds of students to show up outside the Theta Chi fraternity house, chanting an expletive, middle fingers raised. Some protesters overturned a car, and two students were arrested.

These protests were just part of a series of similar demonstrations against fraternities that have occurred this fall — not at small liberal arts colleges, but at big universities with powerful fraternity cultures, like Syracuse and the public universities of Kansas, Iowa, and Mississippi.

Some protests are responding to recent formal reports of sexual assault. A few are driven by anonymous reports on social media, which fraternities say lack credibility, and which universities say they must take seriously, given the reluctance of some victims to report an assault.

But many protesters are not fighting what they see as a single case of rape or violence. Nor are many interested in disciplinary measures, doled out case by case.

Rather, many students, feeling newly empowered after the #MeToo movement and the Black Lives Matter protests, say they want an overhaul of campus life.

“A lot of students on campus want to see the fraternity completely abolished,” said Rebecca Evans, a sophomore at the University of Iowa who helps run U for Us, which supports sexual assault victims at the university.

Fraternity officials say that they understand the depth of the students’ anger about sexual assault, but that protesters are not seeing the whole picture.

The article continues to describe some of the steps that fraternity organizations, and individual fraternities, have taken in response:

Mr. Horras said the Interfraternity Conference had taken specific steps to stop sexual misconduct. It requires fraternity members to receive sexual misconduct education, and since the fall of 2019, it has banned the consumption of hard alcohol at fraternity parties and houses.

Fraternity members are told, he said, “You report the incident immediately because we want to have a culture of openness and accountability of individuals.”

Sohaila Ammar and Katie Robertson, first-year students at UMass, say they believe the pandemic has actually energized campus organizing:

“People are conditioned to be ‘Oh, that’s how it is, that’s college culture,’” Ms. Robertson said. “My generation is a lot less tolerant of things that have happened in the past.”

“I feel like we’re a lot more radical even than the juniors and seniors, a lot more bold and forward,” Ms. Ammar said.

Sexual assault was widely discussed on platforms like TikTok over the past year of the pandemic, said Shivali Mashar, a 21-year-old senior at UMass. And, she added, the suspicion of historically white, male-dominated institutions — like the police — has been mobilized against largely white, male-dominated fraternities.

“Whether it be girls who have experienced sexual assault at a fraternity party or Black Americans with the police, both of these groups have been violently targeted in different ways,” she said. They are not the same, she said, just that, “for a long time, this has been swept under the rug.”

Students, read the entire article, then tell us:

What is your reaction to the article? How do you feel after reading about the accusations of sexual violence at fraternities? What do you think the response should be from the police, campus officials and leaders of those fraternities?

In the article, Ms. Robertson said, “People are conditioned to be ‘Oh, that’s how it is, that’s college culture.’” Have you heard people in your school or larger community excuse sexual misconduct as simply part of young people’s behavior? How would you respond to that perspective?

The authors write, “Fraternities point out that they are part of a vibrant campus life — by giving students a sense of belonging on a big campus, by raising donations and helping students in their careers.” To what extent do you agree or disagree with that statement? Why?

The authors also write, “Some research also suggests that violence is more closely tied to alcohol abuse and peer support than to anything intrinsic to belonging to a fraternity.” What is your reaction to that research? How much do you think the problem of sexual assault on campus is inherently tied to Greek culture? How much is connected to a culture of alcohol abuse specifically at fraternities? And how much is an effect of student drinking in general?

Do you think the dangers of Greek life outweigh the benefits? If yes, what do you think should happen to existing sororities and fraternities? What should replace them? If not, make a case for the importance of preserving Greek life.

Want more writing prompts? You can find all of our questions in our Student Opinion column. Teachers, check out this guide to learn how you can incorporate them into your classroom.

Students 13 and older in the United States and Britain, and 16 and older elsewhere, are invited to comment. All comments are moderated by the Learning Network staff, but please keep in mind that once your comment is accepted, it will be made public.

Read the Washington Post Opinion Here. 



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