The Greek system is a quintessential feature of American college life. On the whole, one should consider its purpose, which many would claim is to form friendships, to secure connections after college by way of “networking” and, let’s face it, to party. These perks reveal prominent issues revolving around the institution: the toxic culture of deplorable behavior, hazing, misogyny and its blatant appropriation of Greek culture.
Fraternities, in particular, are guilty of heinous behaviors. Consider Alpha Epsilon Pi’s (AEPi) cocaine scandal, the ritualistic hazing that both AEPi and Kappa Alpha have partaken in, the popularity contest of recruitment, and the fraternities’ simply sexist determinations of who gets to enter parties — as they predominately favor women over men.
If we were to hold fraternities to the same standards as the general population, the absurdity of their culture becomes apparent: would we tolerate the blatant objectification of women, the arbitrary rejection of men desperate to find a community or even the toxic culture of cult-like masculinity in any other group? The men in Greek life are willing to go to great lengths to feel accepted by others, just for the pursuit of belonging. Those offenses are frowned upon by the rest of society, but, simply because we are college students, people write it off as permissible. (I urge you to read “Confessions of an Ivy League Frat Boy” for other examples of the dangers of this culture or at least visit an article on it.)
The fact that we continue to overlook this kind of behavior is even more confusing, especially now, three years after the Women’s March and the rise of the #MeToo movement. How are we expected to address gender inequality or fight corruption in business when so many college students are continually exposed to such a toxic culture dooming us to the same problems? Consider for a moment that these are the same individuals going into finance, law and so forth — the future leaders of our society. Without preventative action, we can’t ensure that this standard of behavior is going away after college, especially in these career fields. The fraternity system is in need of an overhaul by way of establishing standards for behavior and conduct with actual consequences. In the current system getting kicked off campus or being hit with social probation doesn’t prevent the behavior from happening, as the frats will simply pregame on their own/in secret, in order to remain relevant in a society progressing beyond its flawed practices.
Regarding the sororities, there is clear discrimination on the basis of gender within the Greek system. For instance, sororities aren’t allowed to have their own parties, unless they are “date parties,” which begs the question of why those seem to be the sole vein for partying, as the fraternities have no such restrictions imposed upon them. How is such a rule considered to be a fair and relevant practice considering it is 2020, and we are allegedly supposed to be reaching a point of gender equality? Moreover, it simply perpetuates a cycle of patriarchal authority, whereby there is a point of deference on when and how to party based on the whims of a few brothers.
To tackle another fundamental issue with Greek life, one does not need to look much further than its name. As someone who is a descendant of Greek immigrants on my father’s side, I take great issue with the appropriation of elements of my ancestral culture and applying them to such a flawed institution. For example, the phrase “going Greek” underpins most rush activities but has no roots in Greek culture; the idea of a “Panhellenic Council” is not even remotely relevant to our people, and events such as “toga parties” make a mockery of our ancient ancestors. Who would want their language (more often than not butchered in pronunciation) and their architectural style, let alone the word used to describe their people — Greek — to be degraded by a culture characterized by misogyny, debauchery, and countless other problems?
Greek life, in its current incarnation, is fundamentally flawed and fails to honor its original intentions of encouraging fraternity, cooperation, and assistance to college students transitioning into the real world. With that being said, many reputable chapters do exist and impact their communities positively through community service and pre-professional advice. My issue, though, once again is not with the aspects of Greek life pushing to contribute to society or in their actions to better their members, but instead with the party culture underpinning the Greek system as an institution. Not to mention once more, the problem degrading Greek culture from the tenuous connection to the abhorrent acts of Greek life members.
In that vein, it would be in the best interest of the Emory administration to proactively address the root causes of fraternities’ flaw, a noxious combination of toxic masculinity and peer pressure, rather than kicking them off of campus for a few years with a slap on the wrist. Fraternities are a place of privilege: there are costs to entry, and, more often than not, the alumni of these fraternities are generally wealthier. Our university system stands scared to truly discipline them because those same fraternity boys become wealthy alumni who donate large sums of money to their alma mater (not to mention Emory itself has a commitment to maintaining this relationship). I believe it would benefit the system to seriously consider reformation, particularly among fraternities, or it may experience a #MeToo movement of its own. If no action is taken to address these structural issues underpinning Greek life, it may simply be best for a storm to come along to force this institution to clean house once and for all.
Demetrios Mammas (23C) is from Atlanta.