Should Frats (and Srats) Be Banned?
If you've seen Animal House, Revenge of the Nerds, P.C.U. (an underrated personal fave), Old School, Van Wilder, Legally Blonde, The House Bunny, more recently Neighbors [...the list goes on], then you know all the ways the Greek system contributes to the college experience and to communities at large. Namely, those contributions are disgusting pranks, disgusting houses, pillow fights and/or paddling, and parties that would make Bacchus blush.
More recently, though, frats have been in the spotlight for reasons far more nefarious than kidnapping the university president's pet bulldog. There have been a number of reports of sexual assault in the news in the past year (mostly because people are actually paying attention to campus rape now, not because it's a new thing), starting a national discussion about sexual assault on college campuses. Then last week, a bus full of SAEs at the University of Oklahoma were caught on video chanting a disgustingly racist song.
Some of you Sparklers might be in fraternities or sororities. Some of you might be thinking of joining one when you go to college. Some of you might rather eat glass. And some of you might still be thinking about Zac Efron's six pack (^). It's a complicated issue, so what are the pros and cons of the Greek system? Do you think colleges should ban them from campus?
- Brotherhood/sisterhood. There is nothing in the world that will bond two girls for life more than wrestling in a plastic baby pool filled with lime Jell-o™, or bond two males more than the ritualized lighting on fire of Meatlovers Pizza farts. It's about shared experience, fraternité in the French Revolution meaning of the term.
- Networking. Fraternities and sororities will hook you up with their vast networks of alumni. So this is how your future job interview goes: "Well, I see on your resume that you were Co-Chair of Party Planning for Tri-Delt. ME TOOOOOOO!!!!!! You're hired."
- Community service. In fact, Greeks do a lot of outreach on and off-campus. Last year fraternities in the North American Intrafraternity Council served over 3.8 million hours of community service (we're giving them the benefit of the doubt and assuming that's not court-ordered hours) and raised $20.3 million for charity.
- A way to meet people. The Greek system provides opportunities for students to mingle. On my college campus, frat parties were open to all students—no guest list. It's much easier to talk to the cute guy from psych at a frat party than to sidle up to him in the cafeteria or stalk him outside the second-floor bathroom of the science building (hypothetically speaking).
- Parties. Considering that the drinking age in our country is 21, more than half of college students can't legally drink. That means they can't legally frequent bars. So where can they hang out en masse? Answer: Fraternity and sorority parties. Where else is an 18-year-old kid in rural Indiana going to experience his first foam party?
- Housing. At schools where dorm space is limited and apartments are expensive, fraternity and sorority houses often offer housing for their members. Some even hire in-house cooks for group meals. The largest sorority house in the U.S. is the Kappa Kappa Gamma house at the University of Arkansas, with 45 bedrooms. That's a lot of wall space just begging to be monogrammed.
- Appropriate channels for degeneracy and debauchery. On bid day, the sororities at my college would make their new pledges mud wrestle. Yes, it was ridiculous to see a bunch of preppy, Lilly Pulitzer-obsessed girly girls meat out like federal inmates released into the yard on steroids, and it was all fun and games until someone lost a tooth. But let's be honest and admit that college is about acting out. The Greek system specializes in this. Pranks, rivalries, obnoxious costume parties, and stupid but long-held and dearly beloved traditions like mud wrestling are a way for college kids to blow off steam in safe ways.
- Sexual assault. SAE stands for "Sexual Assault Expected," says an interviewee in a new documentary about campus rape, The Hunting Ground. It's a shocking and sad truth that fraternities have become breeding grounds for misogyny, where "no means no" is a gross punch line. Recent studies have found that fraternity members are three times more likely to commit rape than non-fraternity college men. This can't continue.
- Racist stuff. We have video proof that the Oklahoma SAE branch has some issues with racial sensitivity and equality (language we won't use here), but this is not just an Oklahoma problem. As a college student I heard horror stories of black face at frat parties and of KAs at other schools dressing in Confederate garb for their annual "Old South" celebration. Just two years ago, four sororities at the University of Alabama said alumnae blocked them from admitting two black pledges. Like sexual assault, this has to end.
- Hazing. It's true, it does happen, and it can be physical or psychological. Some compare it to boot camp in the military, but when does "breaking you down so we can build you back up" end and victimizing begin? With a senior yelling in your face to bend over so you can receive your spanking before eating that vomit omelet, it's hard to tell.
- Perpetuating privilege and entitlement. It's a common phenomenon for members of an "in" group to develop feelings of entitlement. Add to that the reality that fraternities were historically founded as in-groups of rich, white, already privileged males, and you can see how some frat boys and srat girls think the rules don't apply to them.
- Group-think. Gathering a group of like-minded individuals can be a good thing. It can also be a bad thing. Bad apples rot those around them. This is how otherwise conscientious, well-meaning, educated individuals find themselves attending Pimps n' Hos parties and letting "sisters" circle their love handles with Sharpies.
- Stereotypes. Identifying people by what group they are in—whether it's a fraternity or sorority, a gang, a gender, a race, a sexual orientation, or a post-apocalyptic faction—leads to misunderstanding, bias, and a break-down in community dialogue.
- Inappropriate channels for degeneracy and debauchery. It is one thing for a fraternity to offer its members a couple kegs of watery light beer. It is another to encourage them to ice-luge glorified rubbing alcohol. Binge drinking, alcohol poisoning, drug abuse, drunk driving, poor decision making, assault both sexual and non-sexual—we're not talking blowing off steam anymore, we're talking a recipe for disaster.
So what do you think: Scrap the frats or save them?
Should we do away with the Greek system?
How would you change the Greek system?