ATO expulsion in Indiana shows us how far Greek life has come

Alexandra Stettner

Last week, Alpha Tau Omega lost its chapter on the Indiana University campus, after a controversial hazing video surfaced.

The video, can’t be described as anything other than ridiculous. It depicts a member of the fraternity performing sexual acts with a woman, who appears to be doing something along the lines of suffocating him, and his “brothers” surrounding the pair and watching the act. While initially it was thought that this member involved was a pledge, after the investigation it was found that no pledges were made to participate. The national organization of the fraternity still believes it does not follow the values of Alpha Tau Omega and the chapter on that campus will remain revoked. 

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Regardless of who was involved, the initial reaction to the quick action to get the chapter off campus seemed generally surprised. Frankly, I’m not surprised. More and more chapters that haze and break rules have had their chapters suspended or kicked off a campus, and normally within a small amount of time. Last year, the expulsion of Sigma Alpha Epsilon (or SAE) on Oklahoma University’s campus occurred in record time. Within the day of a video surfacing of the members chanting racist statements, the chapter was kicked off campus, and the house was immediately vacated. A friend of mine who goes to that university said the letters were taken off the house right after the decision was made, and the members who lived there had two days to leave. The situation was not taken lightly, and it hasn’t been taken lightly at Indiana either.

California Polytechnic University at San Luis Obispo, has also taken a more firm stance on Greek life after several scandals. After the third sexual assault was reported in connection to the Greek life on that campus, all of fraternity and sorority life was put on social probation. Eventually Pi Kappa Alpha (commonly known as Pike) was suspended for six years, to which they are appealing. 

The perception of Greek life has gone in waves of generally positive views to a negative view, but now it seems to be changing. I won’t deny, there was a definite culture that was created among the Greek life community the past several decades, which fostered habits such as binge-drinking, hazing and sexism. I was one who grew up under this impression, and it affected me wanting to go through recruitment.

Hazing can be so frustrating to those watching from a third person perspective, because it is 100% preventable and so detrimental to the person being hazed, not only physically, but mentally as well. Being removed and looking at it, it doesn’t make sense why it was so prevalent and has gone on for so long. But as traditions continued, it became habit for some of these chapters to just break the rules, it was normalized. Same goes for sexual assault, sexist attitudes were perpetuated and as a result were amplified. 

Eventually, universities started to take much more action. We have seen in the news all those universities mentioned take steps for more aggressive disciplinary action and create several groups and resources on campus for preventing incidents. CSU has several campaigns, including being involved with It’s On Us, a national campaign that Fort Collins became the first entire city to proclaim support for.  

As a result, so many Greek communities are improving and striving to be better. With increased university presence in the Greek community, the members and chapters are being much more proactive about preventing hazing, and protecting their members from making poor decisions in relation to alcohol through education. They also are working to be more inclusive in those new members joining. Just this year, the first woman with Down’s Syndrome accepted a bid to a sorority at Murray State University. It’s not perfect, but it is definitely improving. 

It is as if Greek life is finally returning to what it originally set out to be — a community where members support one another, are philanthropic, strive to grow personally and help inspire others to grow. Before, I was very concerned with joining this community, but after experiencing the community here on campus specifically, and seeing all the good that actually can come from it, I am proud to say I am a new member of Greek life. 

Collegian Columnist Alexandra Stettner can be reached at letters@collegian.com or on Twitter @alexstetts