Two fraternities have been suspended on two separate campuses in the past month, one due to racist chants and the other for sharing nude photos of women on a private Facebook page. Greek life should not suffer as a whole because of these types of incidents, nor should Greek life be thought of as inherently negative because of them.
Scandals associated with Greek life culture — those involving fraternities in particular — seem to come up pretty often and appear to be perpetuating the age-old idea of all fraternities being a hot mess. That stereotype is wrong in plenty of cases, though. A fraternity, at its core, is nothing more than a group of men with common interests and goals. This is not an inherently a bad thing, so why do all fraternities get flak when incidents like the two above happen?
Fraternity and Sorority Life is extremely diverse, so it’s unfair to dismiss all of it as something disastrous based off a couple misguided organizations. Greek organizations range from those that focus on social growth, to others that focus on a particular area of study or service.
Social fraternities and sororities are usually the ones behind the scandals that pop up, but within Greek organizations, no two groups are the same. For example, the Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter at Colorado State University is much different from the chapter that just got banned at University of Oklahoma. Even the members within the same fraternity or sorority are extremely different from one another.
I myself am in a fraternity, and have seen just how positive of an experience it can be. The common stereotype is that fraternities are crazy, disrespectful, misogynistic and an assortment of other negative traits. That is not a completely unfounded stereotype, but for many fraternities it is completely undeserved. For the one I joined, and many others, it is not a fair depiction of fraternities.
Fraternity and Sorority Life here at CSU is not perfect. There has been a fair share of negative incidents in the past, but the intentions are positive. A huge part of my experience, and what is at the core of the fraternity I joined (and no doubt many other fraternities and sororities), is the goals of trying to improve as a person and making a positive impact in the world. Greek organizations here at CSU, and many of those at other institutions, are committed to both helping members become better people and serving the community. The intentions of improving as a person and helping the community Greek culture have real potential to lead to amazing things, but too often these values fall to the wayside and poor decisions start being made.
No doubt fraternities can get out of hand. When a bunch of college men get together, sometimes bad things can come from that, but fraternities are not the problem. The problem is deeper than the fraternity itself. Behind fraternities that turn to hazing or collective racism, there is a community that fosters those types of individuals — the ones who allow rotten activities and values to be realized. Greek organizations with the right values, right intentions and members can be used to curb activities like sexual harassment, hazing or excessive drinking too.
An important fact to realize is that membership in a Greek organization alone doesn’t actually alter a group of people. For various reasons, the idea of a fraternity as a crazy and wild entity has been implanted in society, but in reality a greek organization is just a group of people working together towards a common goal. There’s nothing inherently bad about that, but sometimes, like any organization, it can turn into something negative.
Though it is not perfect, CSU’s Greek culture is more often than not a positive experience that focuses on community and charity. It is both the responsibility of Fraternity and Sorority Life members and the community to keep greek culture positive and make sure it remains a pathway to improve the community and those who choose to join.
Collegian Columnist Troy Wilkinson is searching far and wide for a date to his fraternity’s formal and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @blumitts.