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Should Colleges Ban Fraternities?

Should Colleges Ban Fraternities?

Earlier this week, a working group on social life at Princeton (my soon-to-be alma mater) recommended that the university put restrictions on campus Greek life, which already exists in a tense relationship with the administration.  The working group specifically targeted freshman rush, suggesting a minimum penalty of suspension for any student who participated in or facilitated rush for freshmen.  The recommendations were mainly concerned with ending dangerous practices of hazing, which exist mostly within campus fraternities.

This came on the heels of the revelation that a peer institution, Yale, was being investigated by the Department of Education for alleged Title IX violations related to their handling of sexual harassment and assault.  The complaints, raised by students and alumnae, are recent, and one of the most egregious infractions occurred when a group of fraternity pledges marched through a residentail college chanting, “No means yes! Yes means anal!” 

Last month, an article in my school newspaper claimed that Princeton was also undergoing a Title IX investigation, although this has received far less press coverage.  All of these events point to a growing need – and willingness – on the part of universities to weigh the benefits of fraternities, and to restrict their actions if need be.  The various arguments for and against fraternity life are explored in a series of short articles for the New York Times.  I recommend that you read all of them, but I’ve excerpted some of the most compelling quotes and ideas.

Nicolas Syrett, a professor and the author of a book about the history of white college fraternities, saying that by approving fraternities, colleges tacitly condone fraternities’ “promoti[on of] one version of masculinity – hard drinking and sexually aggressive – fraternities pressure men to change in order to earn membership and status within them.”

Another professor, however, said that we have a tendency to highlight the most horrible aspects of Greek life, without emphasizing the benefits.  He cited several examples of positive ways that fraternity bonds had shaped young men, concluding that “single incidents of young people making poor choices seem to be trumpeted and echoed multiple times.”

This perspective was, however, in the minority.  Another professor pointed out that fraternity dominance of college social scenes can be extremely detrimental to female students’ safety, although she also expressed doubts about the efficacy of universities relinquishing oversight of fraternities altogether.

Because Greek life is very important on most campuses (at Princeton, unlike most institutions, the fraternities and sororities exist underground, making the situation even more complicated), the stakes are high.  Students who are involved in frats or sororities are more likely to defend their benefits than students who are outside them, who may disapprove of Greek life for a variety of reasons.  As these short essays show, there is no easy solution – but it’s hopeful to see that universities and the Department of Education are recognizing the need for some kind of action.

 

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Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

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54 comments

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4:30AM PST on Jan 25, 2014

thank you

3:13PM PST on Mar 2, 2012

Interesting.

2:42PM PST on Nov 30, 2011

thanks

10:00AM PDT on May 27, 2011

This article is biased and even the question at the end is misleading. Where are our freedoms going to I ask? Everyone is willing to ban something or make it illegal, what will the people who think banning everything is good when something they enjoyed as a growing human being in America is being banned or made illegal? Cry to the hills saying it is unfair is what they'll be doing, but as long as they are not affected who cares right? Crap!

6:25AM PDT on May 27, 2011

hate banning, but how do you regulate.
I wasn't a member of a frat, but at our college sororities weren't housed (although at the time frats were) in an effort to decrease issues w/r rush, drinking, party emphasis, etc....

1:55AM PDT on May 12, 2011

I banned, these guys will have to create academic credentials. Too many frat guys hire other frat guys or their kids rather than hiring based on accomplishments.

2:35PM PDT on May 10, 2011

should be regulated and not banned

4:41AM PDT on May 10, 2011

They should be regulated rather than banned. You can't do both to any one organization.

4:41PM PDT on May 9, 2011

Judith, tuition does not go towards "greek" life. Students who join a "house" pay annual dues.

Samuel - comparing frats to gangs, which often require taking a life of another person in order to join! - is totally irresponsible and insensible.

I went through sorority rush as a freshman simply because I didn't know anything about sororities and didn't want to spend an extra week at home at the end of winter break, and decided to join one. I made some good friends, but since I was rarely there on the weekends my junior year to attend meetings or events, I decided that paying dues and attending required functions was not worth it to me, and I dropped out.

While frats should definitely be held responsible if students are purposely placed in clearly dangerous conditions and are subsequently harmed, taking things like the repulsive, but clearly not serious, chant regarding "no means yes" too seriously is paranoia and crying wolf. I also find it irresponsible of the author of this article to input a vague opinion of ONE professor that "fraternity dominance of college social scenes can be extremely detrimental to female students' safety," without providing any statistics whatsover, or evaluating cause and effect for these alleged, but unspecified, detrimental effects.

11:33PM PDT on May 8, 2011

I selected leaning yes, because I think although banning fraternities and sororities is not the answer, I do agree that they should be carefully regulated and hazing should be banned.

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