Does Greek Life Build Character or Corrupt It?

Greek life claims to be all about leadership, service, responsibility, unity, and character, but the reality isn't always so idyllic.

6 mins read

This story is syndicated from The Vision, the newspaper of Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science in Columbus, MS. The original version of the story ran here.

Leadership, service, responsibility, brother and sisterhoods and character: These are all main values in university Greek life that many claim to make up the base of what these organizations offer to their members and communities. Verbal abuse, humiliation and forced consumption of alcohol and drugs: These are what some students receive instead when they are only looking to fulfill the values of Greek life. 

Greek life has been a popular and growing organization since the 1820s, when it was first founded. While it can be a great opportunity for students to find lifelong friends, scholarships and career connections, there are also problems when it comes to joining one of these groups.

Art credit: Dominique Greene

I think many sororities and fraternities are more well known for the terrors they put their members through than they are known for being upstanding organizations. That seems so backward, but there’s a reason why society has come to have stereotypical conclusions about these groups. Startling statistics from show that, even though it has been outlawed in 44 states, 73% of students in fraternities and sororities are hazed. In 2021 the University of Mississippi was forced to suspend two different fraternities in the span of a month because of violent hazing behaviors, with some members even being arrested. Although physical violence is seen more in fraternities while sororities deal with mental harassment such as being rated based on their appearances, all types of hazing happen throughout Greek life organizations. To put this in perspective, found that from 1959 to 2021 there was at least one student death every year due to hazing-related behaviors. 

If the way some sororities and fraternities treat their members wasn’t a clear example of how messed up the fundamentals of Greek life are, then perhaps their extreme exclusivity is. Although I understand Greek organizations are known for their exclusivity, it has gone too far. It is 2022, yet shows 77% of sorority members are white, with their fraternity counterpart made up of 73% white members. During the 1900s, there were actually chapters that changed their constitution to exclude people of color from being admitted into their organizations. So, not only are some fraternities and sororities terrorizing their members, but they are excluding people based on race and appearance. 

Then comes the issue of how they treat members of the LGBTQ+ community. According to the North American Interfraternity Conference, which oversees 6,000 chapters, the definition of a men’s fraternity is left to the discretion of each member organization. Simplified, that means each chapter can make and change their own rules as to how they treat transgender members. Personally, I feel like this is unfair to any potential transgender members, not only because of the inconsistency between chapters and different houses, but also because it’s just not human decency to treat people this way. Members of a sorority at Tufts University also felt it was unfair. When a transgender woman’s application to join the organization was delayed, over half of that chapter quit en masse in protest.

To address these issues, some sororities and fraternities alike will post on social media about how inclusive they are, but then will continue to exclude people based on appearance or sexual orientation/gender and haze their applicants and new members. Although there are many groups making real changes to their behaviors, these changes need to be more widely enforced throughout all of Greek life. 

I understand a large part of Greek life’s culture is how exclusive it is. However, it’s 2022, and there must be a way to incorporate diversity into that exclusivity. In fact, I know there is because there are a lot of other organizations doing it. Many sororities and fraternities are successful in how they approach inclusivity, but for the ones that aren’t, there need to be some fundamental changes in what makes up Greek life. When it comes to the issue of hazing, it is another part of Greek life’s culture that needs to be re-evaluated and changed. There is no reason people should have to go through weeks of torture and humiliation just to be a candidate of qualification for an overzealous extracurricular group. 

Before you join a Greek life organization in college, make sure you think about all the factors that come along with joining that community.

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