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Pro-Con | Con: It’s all Greek to me

Published: Thursday, November 8, 2012

Updated: Thursday, November 8, 2012 08:11

Since the establishment of the first fraternity in 1776, people have debated the advantages and disadvantages of fraternities and sororities on college campuses. This year, as rushing season draws closer, we once again rehash the moral permissibility of Greek life at Tufts. I am staunchly opposed. By participating in this institution, we’re condoning and contributing to the problems nationally.

Traditionally, joining a sorority or fraternity consists of rushing, bidding and pledging. While rushing, prospective members spend time at the fraternity or sorority of their choice getting to know the upperclassmen brothers or sisters. Some may receive a bid — an official invitation to join the sorority or fraternity. Students then choose whether or not they want to pledge that group. It is at this stage where hazing may occur. After this period, the fraternity or sorority decides whether or not to officially initiate the prospective student. This all lasts a matter of weeks.

So, what is wrong with this process? For one, it is exclusive. As most mission statements assert that friendship and community building are the cornerstones of Greek life, it seems highly unnatural that the existing members of a fraternity or a sorority handpick their future friends after only a handful of interactions. This is insufficient time to get to know anyone intimately, and I cannot imagine all pledges feel comfortable and act like themselves knowing their behavior is being assessed. Putting some people in a position of power is not viable way to create and sustain a mutual feeling of equality and respect among peers.

The more dangerous side of this undertaking is the prevalence of hazing. Extreme cases of hazing at other schools have resulted in paralysis, amputation, heart failure, sexual assault and even death. At best, hazing causes embarrassment and discomfort. These terrible practices are then perpetuated by the students who once endured them.

Tufts has a strict anti−hazing policy, and — for the most part — they do a damn good job, which does not go unappreciated. I have noticed that students in fraternities and sororities that do not include hazing in the initiation ceremony wear it like a badge of honor, like a girl in Alpha Omicron Pi who proudly told me she would have walked out the door rather than participate in any of the psychologically abusive rituals she’s heard about. But in spite of all this, rumors of hazing still float around campus, unaffected by these policy dictates.

Hazing rituals can include dangerous alcohol consumption. In fact, binge drinking in general is a serious problem encouraged by Greek life party culture. A United States Department of Justice study showed that 47 percent of fraternity members report themselves as heavy drinkers, compared to 14 percent of students in general.

Sometimes this alcohol consumption can lead to sexual assault. According to a study conducted by San Diego State University, almost 50 percent of reported college rapes occur at a fraternity house, and of that, 50 percent are perpetrated by a fraternity member or during a fraternity function. Moreover, sorority women are four times more likely than non−sorority women to be sexually assaulted.

I am by no means suggesting that all or even most fraternity members are sexual assailants. However, whether it is the overwhelming party culture that encourages people to get too drunk and make bad decisions, or some warped code of brotherhood that promotes indiscriminant sexual behavior, some aspects of Greek life exacerbate the pernicious and often−ignored pandemic of sexual assault.

With all this said, I recognize Greek life at Tufts is unique. However, fraternities and sororities on the Hill should not be excused from scrutiny. All of the issues I have discussed transcend Greek life at Tufts. I think we’re better than that.

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Shea Maloney is a sophomore who is majoring in psychology. She can be reached at Mary.Maloney@tufts.edu.

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