Don’t join Greek life until it steps into the 21st century

CAMPUS ISSUES: Incoming UC Berkeley freshmen must consider sexism and racism in Greek life

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Kelly Baird/Staff

When incoming students receive their acceptance letters to UC Berkeley for the upcoming fall semester, they should know right off the bat the dangers of campus Greek life.

While one conceptual facet of Greek life — communal living — is not invalid, there’s a systemic problem behind its implementation that makes these houses inherently exclusionary and unsafe.

The expensive price tag of joining the “brother/sisterhood” disproportionally excludes low-income students. Greek community members are entrenched in old, racist ideas and uphold fundamentally skewed power relations that favor fraternity brothers over sorority members.

Just recently, the Daily Orange obtained videos of Theta Tau brothers at Syracuse University chanting racist, sexist and homophobic slurs. And let’s not forget the two-year cover-up by Greek leaders about the drugging and sexual assault allegations against Sigma Chi at UC Berkeley.

Greek life has remained unchanged for so long that many people in the community are unwilling to overhaul it — especially the national branches, which have immense power over their campus chapters. Last year, the national organization of Chi Omega kicked 22 members of the UC Berkeley chapter out of the sorority because their private Instagram account featured pictures of topless women and alcohol bottles — both of which, because of sororities’ regressive gender norms, violate the national branch’s “human dignity” rule.

Meanwhile, a fraternity accused of drugging and sexual assault gets a mere slap on the wrist with a “social probation.” The issue of sororities getting policed more than fraternities accused of sexual assault is emblematic of the system’s sexism problem. And incidents such as the ones at Sigma Chi just prove that the Interfraternity Council is incapable of overseeing its own members.

Some incoming ASUC senators and Greek life members have made it their mission to propose solutions to “fix” this system, but we’ve yet to see substantive reforms. Other college campuses have taken more drastic measures — Harvard University’s president implemented ruthless sanctions against fraternities, and Florida State University, or FSU, banned Greek life altogether.

Of course, these crackdowns are all reactive. FSU only banned Greek life after a pledge died from acute alcohol poisoning after a party. Why must we wait for someone to die or be sexually assaulted before acknowledging that the Greek system is rooted in problematic patriarchal ideals and that we need to do something about it?

The UC Berkeley administration must protect its students. Fraternities associated with allegations of racism, sexual misconduct or hazing should not be eligible for campus scholarships. And they most certainly should not be listed as a “Gold Star” organization on the campus website — as Sigma Chi still is listed.

To the incoming UC Berkeley students: You don’t have to join the Greek community to make friends or have fun in college. Communal living is a great idea, but the Greek system provides neither a safe nor an inclusive space to learn and grow. There are so many other places on campus where you can get a more positive social experience — places that won’t force you to abandon your morality.

Editorials represent the majority opinion of the Editorial Board as written by the opinion editor.