Emily Kowalik ‘18
Back in 2014, Wesleyan University announced that its fraternities would have to go coeducational amid claims from students and faculty members that fraternities encouraged sexism and the mistreatment of women. The Phi Delta Theta chapter at Texas Tech was suspended after displaying a banner that read “No Means Yes, Yes Means Anal.” Clemson University suspended all fraternity activity following a member’s fatal plunge from a bridge. While the majority of fraternity members do not commit rape, they are three times as likely to commit rape as non-members, according to a 2007 study.
And, over 40 university hazing deaths occurred from 2007-17. In 2016, an Eighteen-year-old pledge died after falling down a flight of stairs at the Sigma Nu fraternity house at the University of Nevada, Reno, while “highly intoxicated”. In February 2017, a Penn state hazing incident cost the life of a 19 year old pledge. A newly uncovered basement surveillance video shows the pledge being given at least 18 drinks in one hour and 22 minutes, with every drink provided to him by a fraternity brother. Ten current or former students at Louisiana State University were arrested in connection with the September 2017 death of an 18-year-old freshman who became severely intoxicated during a fraternity hazing ordeal, the latest in a series of student deaths following such rituals.
A study published in the NASPA Journal found that 86 percent of fraternity house residents engaged in binge drinking, compared to 45 percent of non-fraternity men. Fraternity house members were also twice as likely to fall behind in academic work, engage in unplanned sex, or be injured after drinking.
Since research indicates that incidents of sexual assault and binge drinking are particularly prevalent among fraternity and sorority members as compared with other students on campus, surely it begs the question: Why don’t colleges just do away with Greek life completely?
Despite these issues, outright bans of Greek life are not really considered to be on the table for most colleges. Most major universities, including Penn state, have taken only relatively minor steps to curtail the excesses of Greek culture. Pennsylvania State University’s Interfraternity Council only banned kegs and all-day parties.
Some colleges, such as Purdue University, have caused all fraternities and sororities to go dry, at least officially.
Those colleges forcing fraternities to go the coeducational route are limited: Wesleyan and Trinity College in Connecticut.
The colleges who have eliminated fraternities are mostly small private liberal arts colleges like Colby, Bowdoin, Middlebury, Denison and Williams. After a report showing Harvard final clubs enabled a culture of sexual violence, the school recently recommended banning single gender social clubs. Amherst went the unusual route of banning both on-campus and off-campus fraternities, declaring that anyone who joins “off-campus fraternities and sororities, and fraternity-like and sorority-like organizations” is subject to suspension or expulsion.