For those of you that haven't heard what happened at Penn State in February, here is a brief rundown, the excerpt taken from an article published by the New York Times :
"On the night of February 2nd, the Beta Theta Pi Fraternity house at Penn State University was having a party where a pledge initiation ritual took place. Fraternity pledges were lined up for a “gauntlet” of drinking stations. Each station required the pledges to drink a new alcoholic beverage before they were led down to the basement of the house for beer pong.
On his way to the basement Timothy Piazza- a sophomore, tumbled down the stairs. All of the fraternity brothers there failed to help at the time. It was not until the next morning- nearly 12 hours later- one of them called 911.
The doctors said he had suffered multiple injuries from the fall including multiple non-recoverable brain injuries.
The father of Timothy, Jim Piazza, asked if his son had been brought to the hospital sooner, could he have been saved. The doctors told him yes."
Three months following Piazza’s death, the charges of the eighteen students involved in Piazza’s death were announced: eight of them were charged with involuntary manslaughter- as was the Penn State chapter of Beta Theta Pi. The other 10 faced lesser charges including hazing and furnishing alcohol to minors. Authorities also found the fraternity brothers guilty of tampering with evidence during the investigation it attempts to foil it.
Following the May 5th announcement of the changes, an article by Johnathan Zimmerman entitled "Close Down All Fraternities" was posted in the viewpoint section of The Philadelphia Inquirer. In this article, the author calls for universities to close fraternities because they “embody some of the worst behaviors of American men.” The perspective in the article by Zimmerman mentions nothing about the positive side of Greek life on college campuses.
Greek life only accounts for a little over 10% of college students.
He fails to mention that a study of students at Harvard and Syracuse showed that 90% of Greek life members were enrolled during their senior year of college, compared to 70% of non-Greek students. It has also been proven with numerous studies that the average GPA of the Greek community is higher than the average GPA of the non-Greek undergraduate student. Being a part of the Greek life community also means having a larger support system- according to a University of Nebraska study. Having a big support system helps students deal with loneliness, depression, and anxiety, which are all rising issues amongst college students.
Not every fraternity chapter parties.
Not every fraternity hazes new pledges.
Not every fraternity behaves like the Penn State chapter of Beta Theta Pi.
Yes, it is infamously known that numerous parties go on at fraternity houses across the country, but not every house hazes new pledges to drink until they are belligerent.
Hazing has become a topic of debate in the last few years with an increase in deaths that were a result of hazing activities. Many colleges have now begun to crack down on hazing including Cleveland State University and the University of California, Berkeley.
The issue that led to Piazza’s death, and countless others, is not the Greek community; the issue is alcohol abuse on college campuses. Extremely elevated levels of alcohol being consumed mixed with the groupthink mentality are the issues that need to be dealt with. The entire fraternity system should not be blamed for the behaviors of a few individual fraternity chapters. What happened at Penn State was the result of alcohol abuse. It meant that people at the Beta Theta Pi party did nothing to save another human being’s life, which is horrific. It does not matter where this incident occurs, it only matters that what happened was wrong and it should never happen again, anywhere.
Greek life is not a perfect organization, but in the society, we live in, nothing is perfect. This doesn’t mean that the Greek life community should be eliminated, it means awareness and a zero tolerance should become widely accepted by colleges and universities.