Give Greek life a shot at the U of S
The University of Saskatchewan could benefit from the adoption of a Greek sorority and fraternity system.
What many U of S students know about fraternities and sororities was absorbed from their portrayal in popular culture — think Old School and Legally Blonde. The problem is, students are left with a glammed-up, sexed-up and messed-up idea about the Greek system that skims over the positive aspects and highlights the frivolous.
Starting university can be intimidating. Often, students in first year feel lonely or isolated, and being faced with the task of forming a new friend group from scratch can feel overwhelming. Fraternities and sororities are a ready-made fix for this problem.
At universities that have Greek systems, the first month or so of school is pledge time, meaning that the various sororities and fraternities host parties and events in an effort to get students in any year of study involved in their organization.
This means that after “welcome week” ends, new students aren’t left out to dry — there are still structured, student-friendly parties happening that someone who is friendless and unsure can use to meet people. Even if they don’t end up pledging, it can be an opportunity to create a base of friendship.
If they do pledge, however, the benefits only continue. The Greek system can be immensely helpful for new students learning the ways of college life.
Many fraternities and sororities have a big brother/sister program, in which new pledges are paired with older members for the year to learn the ropes. These relationships can help with everything from class or professor recommendations to the inside scoop on the campus party scene.
The Greek system also facilitates intramural teams and volunteer projects. It can be daunting to get involved on campus all by yourself. Sororities and fraternities make it easier to have a diverse extracurricular life — in fact, it’s often a core requirement of being a member.
This is not only beneficial to students during their time at university, but it can help make a resumé stand out from the crowd later in life.
That being said, the Greek life’s demanding social aspect may seem like a detriment to the reason students are at university — to learn and get a degree. Luckily, fraternities and sororities are filled with people balancing the same type of workload, so there are plenty of other students to turn to for help.
The lifestyle also requires students to learn effective time management skills, which everyone knows is a skill students like to claim they learned from their degree. Being in a sorority or fraternity adds credence to that claim.
The networking aspect is another benefit of Greek life. If a student can find a member from another chapter of their fraternity or sorority, they can use that as a conversation starter and as an “in” to that person’s own network. In competitive job markets everywhere, having that little boost can mean the difference between being employed and being up to date on daytime television.
Finally, it’s been said many times that the Greek system promotes rape culture. Yes, there certainly are documented cases of rape and sexual assault at fraternity and sorority parties, and that isn’t acceptable.
However, if the U of S were to adopt the Greek system, it would show that they were unwilling to punish the many for the sins of the few. The majority of students involved with campus chapters at other universities are not felons.
In short: U of S students wouldn’t have to be a part of Greek life if they didn’t want to be, but for those who did, it would provide a multitude of opportunities.
Greek system a breeding ground for male entitlement
As we debate the issues with the Greek system, please join me in taking a collective sigh of relief that it is not a system with which we have to contend at the University of Saskatchewan.
Arguments for fraternities often point to networking opportunities, philanthropic ventures, mentorship, volunteerism and the chance to socialize and attend structured parties in a supportive environment.
Additionally, the University of Waterloo chapter of the Sigma Chi fraternity put out a public service announcement condemning rape culture in March 2015. While I applaud this, I need to see more evidence to convince me that change is occurring.
The merits of Greek life are applicable to privileged heterosexual white males with social status — but what about the majority of us who don’t fit into that cushy box? A number of Canadian universities have adopted this system that favours wealthy, white, heterosexual and entitled men.
But what about sororities? While those aren’t for men, we must consider who actually benefits from them. Sorority recruitment practices are said to be disempowering for women, who in many cases are simply objectified rather than valued on their merit.
Like their fraternal counterparts, sororities in North America have also been heavily criticized in the media for their noted lack of diversity overall.
In preparation for this article, I decided to watch The Hunting Ground — a 2015 documentary about the prevalence of sexual assault on college and university campuses in the United States, and those featured institutions’ reticence to address those crimes. Camera crews followed courageous survivors who fought through their own trauma to effect change.
In line with the U of S’ own figures, the documentary revealed that 20 per cent of women will be sexually assaulted while attending university. According to The Hunting Ground, it also appears that a number of fraternities actively encourage sexual assault, providing substances like Everclear to slip in women’s drinks and then dishing about their crimes at weekly meetings.
If word gets out, enrollment and financial contributions decrease and survivors of assault are frequently blamed for unduly ruining young men’s lives.
Women in the documentary also reveal that the fraternity Sigma Alpha Epsilon, founded at the University of Alabama, has been nicknamed “Sexual Assault Expected.” Despite this, the fraternity and others like it are allowed to stay afloat.
After Yale University’s Delta Kappa Epsilon chapter stood outside a freshman girls’ dorm chanting, “No means yes! Yes means anal,” in October 2010, student groups eventually lobbied to have it disbanded from that school and the chapter suspended for five years.
Thankfully, the U of S has of late been working on a standardized policy regarding sexual assault, and gathering input from the university community.
Peer pressure is also a significant problem with Greek life. This is perhaps nowhere more evident than in that party atmosphere referred to in the list of benefits above.
A study by Harvard University suggests that students who live in Greek housing are four times more likely to binge drink on a regular basis than other university students. Figures surrounding drug abuse are similar.
Students who hope to join sororities and fraternities to achieve that elevated social status often undergo hazing rituals. These involve public humiliation and pressure to engage in acts that are unsafe and sometimes unethical.
From a university administrator’s perspective, unsupervised fraternity and sorority housing are a substantial cost-saving measure. Further, Greek system alumni make generous financial contributions to their alma maters, leading university administrators and faculty to turn a blind eye when fraternity membership commits egregious acts.
Left unaddressed, these problems fester.
Chelsea Powrie / Culture Editor and Patty Hails
Image: Hannah Komarnicki