Greek life should die

Undeclared

samantha shadrow online

When I first arrived on campus as a freshman at Northwestern University, I vowed that I would never go Greek. I had already made some friends the old-fashioned way (i.e. I talked to strangers until they were no longer strangers) and I was certain that by winter quarter, when sorority rush took place, I’d be so flush with people to hang out with that I wouldn’t need the Greek system, an entity I had despised well before arriving on campus.

Still, that didn’t prevent me from sampling the parties they threw. I swear to you, without any trace of hyperbole, all of these parties sucked.

Northwestern students would spend their nights hopping from one fraternity to the next, rarely staying in place for even an hour. Each party was more like a military checkpoint on the ever-elusive mission to have fun than it was a destination itself.

The parties themselves revolved around a molotov cocktail of elements designed to ruin any chance of genuine conversation. Top-40 songs blaring out of portable speakers almost drowned out the voices of students demanding free watered-down drinks served by the wannabe bartender types.

There was good dancing, bad dancing, sweating (so much sweating) and heterosexual coupling. Eighteen-year-old boys with inexplicable levels of confidence would find their way behind a dance circle, plucking girls from their groups. Girls would go up to boys standing with their friends and try to woo them by yelling over the loud music.

After trudging through the wind, cold, rain and snow of Illinois, students could then return home and ask themselves, like any good soldiers, what the point of it all was.

Looking back on my time on four different college campuses, two of which were blissfully Greek-free, I don’t think there really is any possible justification for keeping these social clubs around. They reinforce gender divisions and gender stereotypes, foster racial and economic hierarchies that privilege white and affluent students and perpetuate a clique culture that is second-hand embarrassing at its best and genuinely hurtful at its worst.

Not all of the criticisms of fraternities and sororities are fair. Films that depict sorority girls as vapid and headlines that focus solely on hazing gone wrong are missing the point. These sorts of attacks upon the Greek system fall upon students shoulders, unfairly blaming individuals for the institutional problem that Greek life embodies.

Moreover, in my experience, individual fraternity and sorority members aren’t that different from their peers. They’re just ordinary college students enjoying the built-in social net that the Greek system provides. However, the system they choose to participate in is certainly anachronistic and discriminatory.

Defenders like to point out all of the benefits of Greek life. Upon arriving at college, young freshmen, sometimes far away from home, get to join a robust community with rituals and events. Pledges are partnered with older members who can guide them through college life. They are made to feel important and special, hand-chosen to be part of institutions with long and storied histories.

Sorority and fraternity members also like to point out all the good deeds Greek organizations accomplish. Fraternities and sororities actually do a ton of philanthropy, they say. You know there’s actually great networking with former members, they claim.

Indeed, friend groups, college guidance, charity work and networking opportunities are good things. However, community shouldn’t be formed around gender clubs that create new divisions on campus and reinforce pre-existing ones. Community service and networking can be done without joining cliques with ferocious in-group mentalities.

As institutions, Northwestern University, UC Berkeley and every other college or university with Greek life have the power — and I would argue, the responsibility — to end Greek life. For all of the reasons I mentioned and so many more (rape culture and binge drinking, to name a few), administrators ought to put an end to a system that seems more apt for the colleges from half a century ago — colleges that were by-and-large still segregated and mainly offering white women lessons in “nurturing” occupations such as home economics and teaching — than the colleges of today.

UC Berkeley prides itself on being a leader on social issues, but when it comes to the Greek system, at least, it seems we are falling behind. Harvard University is now considering whether or not to phase out single-gender clubs that, in their view, are antithetical to creating a hospitable environment on campus. Gold star for common sense, Harvard.

So, UC Berkeley, I urge you not to fall behind on this issue that affects all people on campus regardless of whether or not they are affiliated with Greek life. Like Harvard, the UC Berkeley administrators ought to consider abolishing sororities and fraternities once and for all.

Samantha writes the Friday column on undergraduate myths. Contact her at [email protected].

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  • Dear Parents – The problem is that most young adults move from their parents’ house, where drinking is forbidden and done in secret, to college, where drinking is celebrated and done in the open, without ever being taught how to drink responsibly. This explains why, according to the Center for Disease Control, over 26% of college students binge drink on a regular basis. Want to help us solve this public health crisis? Visit https://drinkingtutors.com/ to learn how you can start.

  • Kim Thompson

    What if I want to join an off-campus Feminist club, men’s rights club, or a transsexual support group? What if I want to join an off-campus book club? How do you shut down off-campus clubs that call themselves “book clubs” but are really just drinking clubs? I don’t pay my college to be my Mommy, or to control my entire life outside of class, and off campus. I pay them to provide me with an education in a specific field of study.

    ps. If you’re wondering why I keep saying “off-campus” it’s because that is where all the sororities/fraternities go when threatened by overreaching, illiberal, fascist university administrators.

    Do a quick search for “Harvard women’s groups frustrated by efforts to ban them” and you’ll see exactly what I’m talking about.

  • Left Unsaid

    Berkeley’s SJW culture must be changed. Lets ask the Delts to come up with some “more inclusive language and practices”.

  • ar

    I’m so glad that you think your opinion is more important than anyone else – must be a liberal. why this affects “all people on campus whether or not they are involve in greek life” is a great mystery. Does HIllel or the asian student organizations or the black student organizations ‘affect all peope on campus” as well? let’s just abolish anything where kids can have a social group – great idea.

  • A Scared Student.

    I have been scared to join this discussion because of all the mean sorority girls and frat guys commenting on here but I was full on body shamed from joining a sorority at Berkeley by multiple chapters. I even got a comment from one of the girls saying “this isn’t for you I can tell.” SORORITY GIRLS Just because I’m overweight doesn’t mean I’m not a person. Have fun drinking yourselves into alcoholism.

  • Left Unsaid

    SJW culture should be purged. Victimhood majors abolished. Crybaby students spanked rhetorically.

  • lspanker

    JFC, woman, you are quite the crybaby…

  • Jack Spencer

    Berkeley has respect for a diversity of cultures. Unless they are historically privileged and not liberally minded. Wait a minute have you explored Greek culture at Berkeley in the last 10 years? I didn’t think so.

  • Jenny Jeanette

    Trash journalism. “Bad parties” and “watered-down drinks” and “top 40 music” are not legitimate reasons to discredit organizations that have extensive histories on the campus and within the community. Sounds to me like you just described Kips.

    • A Scared Student.

      Perhaps we can use this as a platform to think about the way the system should change. While it does have its benefits and it is BELOVED by some of the people who join (some end up leaving, not participating, some end up not liking it), its undeniable there are good elements to Greek Life. Perhaps this article can just be a sound board for how certain aspects of it like drinking and exclusion could be downplayed. More social events vs. mixers. things like that?

      • Jenny Jeanette

        There are plenty of social events and mixers, so I’m not sure what you’re referencing. There are a lot of open philanthropy events where they fundraise through ice cream socials, rap battles at Kips, singing/dancing competitions, obstacle courses, clothing and food drives, open-mic nights, etc. These events are open to everyone, multiple times per semester. Why have you not attended?

        Regarding your post below about the “mean sorority girls” commenting on here, the only mean comment I’ve seen posted was your implication that everyone in greek life “[drinks themselves] into alcoholism.” I’m sorry you had a negative experience during rush but you never even quoted a comment about how the girls body shamed you. I highly doubt that happened. In my sorority, a few of us gained weight from pizza night and constantly having cheese plates set out, and we never berated each other about it. It was fun haha.