Fraternity and sorority Greek organizations across the country have received plenty of negative press recently regarding safety and health violations arising during the hazing process.
Report after report has been released documenting the trials and tribulations of past and current students during their pledge terms. For example, Rolling Stone’s article on hazing at Dartmouth bashed the school’s Greek system, stating that it was “at the core of the college’s human and cultural dysfunctions.”
Although many of these activities are unfortunate, they are not wholly representative of the vast majority of outstanding fraternities and sororities throughout the country.
There are many positive aspects of Greek life that go unmentioned in these exposés that I have especially observed as a student at Dartmouth.
The following are four reasons why I believe Greek organizations have enhanced life on campus for millions of students:
1) Camaraderie: The first and most important reason why Greek organizations are valuable to colleges and universities is the brotherhood and sisterhood that they foment.
Although the word “camaraderie” is a cliché defense of fraternities and sororities, the bond that is created between members as a result is certainly visible, durable and genuine; the relationships between brothers and sisters are bonds that last a lifetime. Aside from having strong ties with current students, Greek organizations are also great ways to connect and network with past and future students not only from the chapter of the school you attended but also chapters from other schools. This unique networking system between past, present and future students helps create opportunities as small as shared housing and as big as future employment opportunities.
2) Entertainment: From formals and cocktail parties to an amalgam of other events that are associated with Greek life (including community service events), the social opportunities presented to those in a Greek house are innumerable. In addition, without Greek activities and functions, many schools and universities would lose an integral facet of their social scene due to a lack of alternative social interaction.
3) Support: Whether it is academic assistance or social advice, having access to experienced students to supplement university guidance is a huge benefit. In terms of academics, many schools’ all-Greek GPA’s are higher than their all-undergraduate GPA. As an example, the University of Georgia, which was voted Princeton Review’s Top Party School for the 2010-2011 academic year, had a 3.18 undergraduate average GPA and a 3.30 average Greek GPA, which suggests the fact that having older students as references puts members of Greek organizations at an academic advantage. Socially, not only do younger members have access to unfiltered advice from those older, but also many schools’ Greek societies hold open forums educating others on topics such as sexual health. Dartmouth Greek organizations, for example, hold open forums almost daily on a variety of topics ranging from sustainability to recreational drugs.
4) Safety: Although the word “safety” may seem absurd given the negative press of fraternities and sororities, the presence of Greek life benefits the wider student welfare. Most Greek organizations are located on campus, and, as a result, there are far fewer serious alcohol-related incidents resulting from either the commute to and from campus (over 3 million college students drive under the influence of alcohol per year) or interaction with other residents of the community (over 10% of college students report that they vandalized property under the influence of alcohol) due to a decreased presence off campus. Accordingly, most universities and colleges would rather have students remain on campus after classes.
If hazing takes place without malice or cruelty, with good intentions, and poses no health risks, I believe that the Greek system is a positive institution that encourages camaraderie and tradition; hazing is not necessarily a bad practice or one that should be prohibited.
Hazing practices that harm or humiliate pledges should be banned by Greek organizations without interference from schools.
Fraternities and sororities are positive influences on campuses nationwide that have received undue criticism of actions by a few overzealous members. Unfortunately, these actions will likely result in more oversight from school administrations for safety and legal reasons.