By TIMOTHY HAYES, student at The Ohio State University and uloop writer
Imagining back to any stereotypical college movie will give you some idea of what people think of fraternities and sororities.
Many people imagine wild parties that get out of hand very quickly with drugs, alcohol, and sex rampant throughout. “American Pie” certainly jumps to the front of the list as representing the ideas people have about Greek life on campus.
Ask a brother or sister however, and you will get very different results about Greek life.
Many people don’t have a good idea of the origins of Greek life. This interesting college phenomenon dates back to 1776 at the College of William and Mary, the second oldest institute of higher education in America (Harvard is the oldest).
The original fraternity formed was Phi Beta Kappa. You may or may not be familiar with this fraternity as it has chapters at campuses across America. The original purpose of this then-secret organization was to discuss topics like literature and politics, all the rage in the Enlightenment. Born in the revolutionary fervor of the American Revolution, Phi Beta Kappa operated in secret to avoid the attention of both the faculty and the British troops.
From 1776 and following, new fraternities began popping up throughout America. These societies adopted mottos, standards to live by, and rituals, particularly for initiation. As the American collegiate system expanded west, so did the fraternities.
Women got into Greek life nearly 80 years after men in 1851 with Alpha Delta Pi originally named Adelphean Society at Wesleyan College in Macon, Georgia. As the years progressed sororities grew just as fraternities did throughout the collegiate system.
Nowadays one would be hard pressed to find discussion groups for politics and literature amongst Greek life. The purpose of fraternities and sororities has changed dramatically since their inception. Some things, however, have remained the same. Most still retain strong heritage and pride in their own organization. Many still retain their coats of arms, motto, pledge, ceremonies, and way of life. They have grown into enormous non-profit groups that help college grads get jobs, find internships, and connect with like-minded people after college.
As common as the Greek anagram-adorned jackets sported by members of these societies are the frequently enormous and/or posh houses of these groups, often adorned proudly with their Greek letters. The first fraternity to own such a house was Alpha Tau Omega at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee.
Houses grew in popularity, allowing closer camaraderie amongst inductees and incentivizing membership. It is now common for fraternities to have houses at major universities, big and small. Typically these do not and cannot house all the university’s fraternity or sorority members under one roof so only certain members may stay in the house.
All this is fine and dandy for those in Greek life, but what does it offer to an outsider? For one thing, Greek life is an excellent networking opportunity. It is a fact that getting a job might not be what you know, but who you know. This ability for people to network amongst influential people who are still members of these societies allows them to get a foot in the door after school.
Greek life is also a huge charitable organization. Brothers and sisters alike give huge donations back to schools, giving the schools incentive to keep Greek life on campus. According to some, Greek students give up to 75 percent of college’s donations. According to a study by NP Catalyst, 90-100 percent of Greek organizations at schools surveyed across the nation give to charity with frequency. Many of them raised money, coordinated volunteer efforts for events, or provided volunteers from their brotherhood or sisterhood.
Sororities have been of particular note. The National Panhellenic Conference has reported that they are instrumental in assisting women throughout the nation achieve degrees and place in jobs post-graduation. They help push women in STEM fields and try to increase involvement in them from within their groups.
So why does Greek life get a bad rap? Some of it is that they deserve it. It seems like every week there’s a new report of a rape case in some fraternity. Oregon State, Old Dominion, IUP, Central Florida, and Ohio University are just some of the names Google News will pull up in connection to rape cases in just the past week. More and more cases are exposed every month as victims speak out. Why is it that suddenly, so many cases are cropping up?
It isn’t exactly a new thing. Many of our parents can recount stories of the fraternities to be avoided at their universities. Ask an elder about it and they can tell you that rape and fraternities go hand-in-hand. The cause for so many new cases coming to light is two-fold.
For one thing, the federal authorities are cracking down on universities. Seventy colleges in 2014 were in serious trouble with the FBI for underreporting cases of sexual assault and sexual harassment. Some connection may be drawn between the universities’ silence and the large donations successful members of fraternities make to their alma mater.
Secondly, victims are beginning to learn their rights and now have new resources to reach out for help. Activist groups like Students Active for Ending Rape or SAFER and widespread media coverage of cases like the infamous Mattress Protest at Columbia University have greatly helped.
The list of grievances against Greek life is too long to list here. Certainly, for the most part, Greek life is a good thing and is not going away any time soon. It does however raise concerns about alcohol consumption, drug use, hazing, and sexual assault and will continue to.
The good that Greek life does is certainly worthy of keeping it around, but it will not excuse or outweigh the wrongs it has done.
From uloop.com, Online Marketplace for College Life