Fraternities: Let's do better
This article pertains to the experiences of male UA students who do not belong to a fraternity that offered to voice their opinion on Greek Life. As a opinions writer, I feel there is validity behind the words of these men and that they are not the only students who feel this way. I write this article and those that follow in this series in an effort to educate the community. Hopefully, by voicing these concerns, others who share them will come forward and the UA Greek system will become a positive experience for all who engage with it, member or not.
As the school year comes to a close, many high school seniors around the country are making the vital decision where they will spend the next four years. After admission, many newly dubbed college freshman find themselves looking for a place to call home on campus.
At the University of Arizona, 17 percent of undergraduate students are affiliated with an IFC or Panhellenic organization, including myself. For the approximately 5,970 students that are active members of a “house,” Greek Life provides a sense of community many students tether themselves to in their college experience. But for some, it is a source of exclusion.
“You’re paying physically, mentally and financially for friends,” Eric Huber said.
Huber did not come to the University of Arizona with the negative view of fraternities he holds now. When he first arrived at UA, Huber did not participate in Spring rush. After learning his roommate and two close friends had pledged, he expressed interest in joining that organization. However, due to the actions of his former roommate, who chose to spread rumors about him before he had a chance to interview, he was turned away from the fraternity.
After almost two semesters at UA, Huber and his peers have felt a growing rift between themselves and those who are affiliated with Greek Life.
Fraternities were established alongside the nation’s first academic institutions, such as the College of William and Mary. Representing an intersection between dining clubs, literary societies and secret initiatory organizations such as Freemasonry, their growth was widely opposed by university administrators, but through increasing numbers and influence of alumni their presence became commonplace.
Sororities followed suit. Their founding was centered around the betterment of their members as young women. The development of “women’s fraternities” was controversial, mostly due to gender differences, but was widely supported as male fraternities became more recognized.
Although Greek organizations have philanthropic mission statements of their own, they are mostly associated with social events at UA. Students have noticed a large social influence on campus by the Greek community. In the eyes of some, the perceived control over social events gives a sense of entitlement to members of the Greek community, resulting in exclusion of non-Greek students.
A notable separation occurred between the men and their friends who joined fraternities. They noticed their friends came around less and stopped extending invitations to hang out. It goes much deeper than that, though. Huber said sometimes, converations would start — and end — with the question of which house you were in.
“What is this?” chided Huber. “Fucking Hogwarts?”
The issue here is two-fold. For those who are in Greek Life, belonging to a house is a source of familiarity, but for those who are on the outside, it’s a negative question. These men, and many other non-Greek Life students, are often met with cut-off conversations and exclusion once they reveal they are not in a “house,” all because they don’t wear letters. It’s a classic case of “you can’t sit with us.”
The exclusion these boys describe isn’t much different from what is seen in high school movies. It’s the male version of “Mean Girls,” to be frank. Raise your hand if you’ve felt personally victimized by IFC recruitment. It’s OK, boys, put ‘em up.
Exclusion is a part of any equation when social groups are formed, but according to many non-Greek male students, they feel the exclusion is rooted in party culture.
The growing number of fraternity chapters being removed from UA’s campus, such as Kappa Sigma and Sigma Alpha Epsilon, have swayed the opinion of many potential IFC members. The Judicial board cases, which are available on the UA Greek Life website, listed a multitude of actions such as sexual harassment, substance abuse, hazing and extreme violence.
“You get hazed, and you become an active,” said Huber. “Because you were hazed before, you want to haze someone else. You do it to the next generation, it’s a vicious cycle.”
The severity and frequency of hazing, sexual harassment and substance abuse have made potential members apprehensive to return to the rush process.
“The good people who are in those fraternities, who know these things are happening, are doing nothing by being a part of it, are allowing it to continue,” said Jackson Beer. “That’s why I don’t even want to be a part of it. Even though there’s good people, and I’d probably make friends, I don’t like the way the system is set up.”
Beer considered rushing, but took the first semester to observe what there was to offer from the Greek Community, and decided not to in the end.
As a member of the Greek community who has attended several sexual-harassment and substance-abuse trainings mandated to be Panhellenic, I am confused why these programs have yet to make a visible change in the campuswide community. It is clearly not enough if sexual harassment allegations overflow and overdoses take another life as the days pass.
Each Greek organization has its own set of values. For example, Kappa Sigma, whose UA chapter was recently revoked of its standing, abides by the following values.
“Kappa Sigma is focused upon the Four Pillars of Fellowship, Leadership, Scholarship and Service. As a values-based men’s fraternity, Kappa Sigma strictly forbids hazing and fosters meaningful college experiences by offering progressive membership development and pledge education,” according to the organization’s website.
When a member of an organization no longer aligns with the values of the chapter, it would be a reasonable assumption that their membership would be questioned. In the past school year, countless sexual allegations have been raised against several houses on campus, and many were met with silence.
The same rhetoric is repeated to me through Panhellenic-mandated trainings: Speak out, don’t be afraid. I do not understand why the system would instruct us to come forward in a community that continues to sweep these issues under the rug. Since these allegations also go unreported, potential victims of these assaults are completely unaware of what kind of party they are walking in to.
The fight to end the frequency of sexual harassment, hazing and exclusion will only come from within the houses themselves. Students who share the same opinion as Beer should be the individuals joining organizations and changing them for the better, but there must be room for them to make change.
Huber, Beer and their peers have found a community in one another. The free time gained from not being in a fraternity leads to different adventures and memories.
“I’m not in a fraternity, but I still have brotherhoods,” said Huber. “The difference is I don’t have to sacrifice to be someone’s friend.”
Being turned away from the rush process resulted in finding fraternity, but not in the traditional sense. Everyone’s college experience is different, and there is something to be said about taking the road less traveled.
As a member of a Panhellenic Sorority, I am proud to say I am a part of a community that has an open discussion about sexual harassment and substance abuse. If all Greek communities shared this attitude, many of their members may make more educated decisions on Thursday night and every other night after that.
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