Tougaw: Fraternity and Sorority Life does not mesh well with CSU — and they shouldn’t have to

Taylor Tougaw

In the last three years, three fraternities have been kicked off CSU’s campus. For a school that certainly isn’t known for its Greek scene, this is a disastrous rate of loss. It is time that the University encourages high standards of personal responsibility from individuals rather than making every single Greek-letter organization conform to its ideals.

If this loss of Greek organizations was due to severe cases of hazing, I think we could all agree that the present level of scrutiny is warranted, but it’s not. In all three cases of the most recent fraternities removed from campus, not a single one was due to injury or death of a “new member” — a term that Fraternity and Sorority Life is now mandated to use to avoid offending those previously known as “pledges.”

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These fraternities were removed due to the entrance requirements for new members, lewd behavior or throwing parties, even if all participants were of age to drink legally and no one was hurt in any regard. In each case, the University has released the following sentiment when removing a chapter from campus: “The values of the fraternity do not align with the values of the University.”

Since when does the University get to determine the values of a completely separate entity?

Fraternities have been around for hundreds of years — many of them longer than the University they’re situated in. Typically, fraternities and sororities have remained very conservative institutions with highly selective membership, while universities tend to remain more liberal with a wider range of student identities, making their clash understandable.

This, however, does not mean the University should have a right to silence a student group due to a difference in values. For example, Colorado State does not call these groups “Greek Life” any more, for a few different reasons, including too many negative connotations. There has been talk of changing Greek Week, a week where Greeks compete with each other for bragging rights and general camaraderie, to Fraternity and Sorority Fest. In fact, we are now only to refer to Greek-letter organizations as Fraternity and Sorority Life (FSL), even though Greek Life is exactly what these organizations are, and exactly what many FSL members themselves would like to be called.

There is an argument here that if a fraternity wants to associate itself with a university, then they should have to play by the university’s rules, and that all student groups do this. Fraternities are no exception, regardless of history. Again, this would make sense if the fraternity was doing something heinous, which is not the case. Censorship should not happen solely due to a difference in values. For example, if the University generally holds a pro-choice belief, they do not have the right to silence a pro-life campus group.

Even if new members were being humiliated or hurt during hazing — which is a bit of a stretch here at CSU — that is their choice to go through with whatever activity they were asked to do. It is not CSU’s responsibility to protect someone from their own decisions.

Of course, it should be noted that many new members do not feel safe or comfortable standing up for themselves in group situations, or in unexpected hazing situations. These experiences can be intense and cause an individual to go along with the crowd despite their discomfort. However, to say that these individuals do not have a choice or can’t stand up for themselves is incredibly condescending and contrary to the values of modern society. Everyone has a choice, all of the time, in any situation, and this should be promoted above all else.

FSL members in sororities are under even harsher restrictions in recent years. I was told that during a chapter meeting, an active sorority member had asked that a new member go to the basement and retrieve and extra chair so that the new member could have a place to sit. The president intervened and said she could not ask the new member to do this as it was considered hazing. Another sorority on campus has members under intense scrutiny right now, as many of the women in its senior class (all of age) went to a bar crawl — you know, a thing that normal people who aren’t in FSL are allowed to do without scrutiny.

Hazing, humiliation and other abuses of membership are in no way values of FSL, nor am I advocating for them in the slightest. Fraternities and sororities as a whole donate over 1 million hours of community service nationally every year. Brotherhood, sisterhood and community service are the core values that FSL organizations strive for. What I am advocating for is personal responsibility rather than University “oversight.”

An argument regarding values of Greek culture is that perhaps we should reevaluate the standards that we hold these Greek communities to. Times have changed since the 19th century, when many of these organizations were founded. These changes in no way undermine the core values of fraternities and sororities. Community service is still a top priority. However, I believe that as ordinary members of society, they should be allowed to do things that non-Greek students would do without anyone noticing or caring. Normal students throw parties, go on bar crawls and generally raise a little Hell, as most college students do.

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Greek organizations and Colorado State University are apples and oranges that happen to be in the same orchard. It is the interested individual’s responsibility to decide what organization best reflects their desired college experience, and certainly not the University’s job to mandate what values each organization must uphold.

*For privacy reasons, the names of specific Greek organizations have been withheld from direct mention.

Collegian Columnist Taylor Tougaw can be reached at letters@collegian.com or on Twitter @TTougaw.