Florida State chose to place a ban on Greek life after a fraternity hazing incident resulted in the loss of a life. Over the previous few years, we hear of quite a few organizations who engage in such atrocious behavior. Tensions can be cut down the middle with a knife between pro-Greek life and anti-Greek life perspectives because of these events. Evidently hazing is becoming problematic and the issue should be dealt with effectively. On the other hand, the “one goes they all go” resolution the university is taking is just….. unfathomable. Flat out unreasonable.
I am Greek. I’m proud of my letters, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t be intellectually honest when discussing the Greek community and even its issues. It’s easy to assume that these life-like Barbie and Ken dolls with these Barbie like houses with triangles and different circle-looking symbols are as plastic as the concept of Greek life itself, but that is by far the biggest misconception our society faces on this topic.
Back to the Barbie metaphor, people also assume that below the exterior of the organization lacks anything of substance—once again, another big misconception.
People perceive sororities and fraternities the superficial aspect of college culture. We’re seen as the people who only talk to “our kind”— since I guess we’re considered our own species now. It’s kind of hard not to assume considering it might get kind of annoying when you hear “biggie” and “little” just to see four girls who literally look like a family brigading campus in the same shirts. Or when you see about 50-100 guys dressed in the “daddy will sue” suits for class, I get where these stereotypes may seem true. Then, all it takes is one news headline reading something along the lines of “pledge dies from hazing and multiple members involved” to digest all negative thoughts on Greek life possible and vomit them right into the garbage.
While each of us are concerned at the lives lost to hazing incidents gone wrong, my larger concern is how we are going to be proactive moving forward.
Most Greeks do not condone hazing (I say most since obviously there's been hazing taking place). We can’t change what has happened; we can only fix the source of the issue to prevent it from happening again. These tragedies are happening too often. Let me go ahead and say it; Greeks are not the issue. Non-Greeks are not the issue, either. What we see here is a culture issue—a culture that undermines mutual respect and upholds individuality. We forget that to have individuality, you must have freedom. To be free, you must have compassion. People have become so passionate about their freedoms and beliefs that they forget this is a two-way street.
Greek life is a community; just like how the non-Greeks, athletes, and other groups have their own sense of community. Communities and group bonds form on the basis of shared principles and values—and this is exactly what Greek life is. Meanwhile, community ultimately breaks down to the individual, and in Greek life that is the person who commits the crime and the organization in which the offender associates with.
This ban does serious injustice to what Greek life contributes to campus life and personal development. It holds us to an unrealistic standard that is not as directed to other college groups like it is us. Educational institutions have a responsibility to not only shape scholarship, but also implement a hidden curriculum that shapes our moral and ethical integrity as well—Greek life being among one of its largest participants. I find it incompetent to put a collective ban on Greek life and for those who are not Greek to fully back the decision on a concept they have no understanding of. When people say it’s something you don’t understand unless you’re a part of it, they aren’t exaggerating. Let me just break it down for you:
First, every Greek organization adheres to national standards enforced by their national headquarters who has a role in damage control of any acts committed by one of its members.
I understand that any organization on campus is also in jurisdiction of university standards and policy—and this applies to Greek life. Mostly all Greek organizations have bylaws that specifically acknowledge and respect university policy. Guess what—national representatives visit each chapter to evaluate its performance and compliance to national and university bylaw. Also, every organization has strict anti-hazing policies and have serious consequences if violated—ultimately being termination of a member or a chapter who engage in such behavior. Unfortunately, there are chapters who have hazed and some are continuing to do it.
Banning the entire Greek life community or any organization who has a member mess up does the opposite of damage control. It brings negative attention and perpetuates the stigmas already in place—therefore making us more reactive than proactive. This not only makes the national organization executive body’s job for damage control that more difficult, but it also violates mutual respect between the organization and the university. So, is the answer banning all Greek life? Absolutely not. Think about this aside from the university Greek scene. Hypothetically speaking, say a member of the baseball team allegedly sexually assaults a girl. Should the university shut down its entire athletics program? No. You minimize the outreach of the information so there’s less external involvement for the dignity of both the members and the organization. Shutting down Greek life at a D1 National Championship school? Congrats, the rest of America is now involved, and damage control is about to be 10x more difficult.
How do we expect to see improvement in a community that contributes so much when we bash it anytime one individual or group messed up? I guarantee that any Greek organization who is aware of any hazing will act immediately. It isn’t the organization’s job to babysit, and we can’t act on anything we don’t know about. It’s unrealistic to hold large numbers of people accountable when they aren’t even the problem or have any prior knowledge to it. Most of these hazing incidents are unknown until they’re publicized—then what do we do? Too late, everyone’s made their assumptions already. Any chapter who causes that big of a fiasco will have its nationals shut it down either how. So, it’s honestly pointless to ban all Greek life when there’s policies set by the organization to begin with. On FSU’s behalf, I say it’s overstepping their boundaries in the self-governance of the national organization. The only time FSU should act is if the national organization does not—which 99.9% chance they will.
Next, every organization has a unique belief and value system while it also strives to diversify its members.
Many don’t participate in Greek life for financial reasons, lack of time, or strong involvement in something else. However, many don’t because they either think they will risk their individuality or they worry about the bad reputation of Greeks in which they wish not to associate with. Some are concerned over hazing when that isn't even a key aspect of Greek life. Some people choose to separate themselves from it for whatever reason—then have the audacity to criticize it like they actually know about it? They can’t have their cake and eat it too… then demand we respect their individuality when they can’t even respect ours. It’s okay to not be Greek—it just isn’t for some people. While some people choose involvement in something else (which serves a similar purpose as Greek life), many choose to sit back and be pretentious towards Greeks which is intellectually dishonest. Disagree with Greek life all you want, but don’t deny that it at least serves some good purposes.
“Greek life” is a general term that describes a number of individual organizations. These organizations have their own belief and value system that we consider our “ritual”—which is taken very seriously. These rituals are general principles that each of us uphold as our own because it naturally resonates with us. In most cases, the member cannot connect to the chapter without possessing at least some of those values. While different organizations may share similar values, each is unique somehow. This is what organizations recruit based on values; meanwhile, we also look for diversity because each person has something to contribute in their own way.
The term “cookie cutter” for Greek life is false because each organization is fundamentally contrasting. Are the organizations “cookie cutter”? Not really. I’m in a sorority, and when we rush girls we look out for girls of different backgrounds we can benefit from in different areas of the chapter’s success. Yes, this applies to fraternities. In all honesty, that’s what makes us appreciate each other’s strengths and talents. Just because one chapter seemingly has the smart girls and the other blonde bombshells doesn’t necessarily mean that the chapter lacks diversity.
Any Greek organization or member that engages in hazing? They deserve to be terminated. It's about excreting those who don't appreciate what Greek life is about and maintaining those who do.... not shutting the entire Greek community down. We are not all the same by any means.
Lastly, removing all Greek life does injustice to the members who invested a lot of time, effort, and energy into shaping the entire organization.
Being a member of a sorority or fraternity is an investment. People act as if all Greeks do is party and engage in destructive behavior. That is another huge misconception that needs to be addressed.
People act as if the numerous hours, GPA requirements, social events, and campus involvement are a façade to Greek life when it isn’t. Then, people criticize the dues we must pay—which yeah, they fund everything we do and the chapter accommodates to your financial situation. It’s called investment. Athletes and other organizations pay dues, too. Also, Greek life teaches us how to be more selfless and demonstrate benevolence. Okay, FSU, and I’m sure none of these Greek organizations’ efforts didn’t benefit campus, right? When you’re surrounded with hundreds to thousands of people who share similar beliefs and values as you, I can’t even describe how we develop this collective conscience with one another. Groupthink is always thought of to be bad, but when there’s positive stimuli—it can have a positive impact. Greek life encourages participation on campus and in the community for causes that we all connect to somehow. People say Greek life is divisive? Excuse me, I beg to differ.
In addition, each organization has a range of leadership positions that cater to different interests and strengths. Many of these positions—to include social chair, public relations, so forth—require collaboration with other organizations and even executives on campus. Meanwhile, you work together with other chapter members to build your overall organization’s brand. There’s competitions among different organizations that people assume is for “status”, but really it’s promoting healthy competition when almost all aspects of life involve competing. When you graduate, you’ll be competing for a job. Yes, we might take it a little too seriously at times… but that’s what makes members work hard and strive for progress! Failure is essential to success, and little things like that prepare you for life’s failure. However, it’s the differences/individuality of each member and the shared values among each of them that allow them to do this and work together for their personal success as well as their entire organization.
It’s not just for resume building—it’s for character building also. Educational institutions are not just academic; they are also moral and ethical. Greek life builds ethic—i.e. leadership skills, teamwork, respect, motivation, etc. Removing the Greek community from campus isn’t fair to the members who did want to make the most of their experience and contribute to more—to include campus leadership or scholarship. Put on their resume, “I was president of sigma apple pi at Florida State”. Yeah, I don’t think they want to do that right now. The time, energy, and funds they invested into lacks the substantive credibility considering the entire Greek system is removed from a heinous incident that didn’t even involve them or even their chapter.
In conclusion, this is how we should move forward:
Any organization where hazing and fails to recognize the true purpose of their organization should be shut down, yes. The entire Greek community? No.
This situation should’ve been handled more rationally than it was. This shows a lack of mutual respect and tolerance. Speaking as a Greek myself, there really is only so much we can do to be proactive. I get it—hazing is one of the challenges the Greek community is confronted with ending. We aren’t perfect, and all we can do is keep our individual members and organizations accountable. Much how Greeks aren’t going to demand a sports program to shut down because of one member’s behavior, we should be shown the same respect.
You deter hazing by strengthening public dismay towards it. You could get rid of Greek life, but then we'd be losing more than achieving. Doing this isn't going to deter people from hazing. In addition, different organizations deter their own members' behaviors through their policies, values, and positive and negative incentive. Many Greek communities are rising in anti-hazing initiatives to stigmatize hazing instead of Greek life itself. In large groups, especially thousands, someone’s going to do something damaging. It’s about damage control, mutual respect, and ending a stigma that only fuels the fire with misinformation. This can only be achieved when different communities work together with Greeks to prevent it. It’s unrealistic to think there will never be a misdeed in any community—to include Greeks. As I’ve said, we’re only responsible for ourselves and our own organization. We set the example for others to follow rather than suppressing us. Any community faces issues of one acting violently or coercively. Stop making Greeks the central enemy here.