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The Greek System: Ought to School Students Be a part of Fraternities Or Sororities?

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Since I began writing and speaking about greater schooling in preparation for my forthcoming book, How one can Succeed at School and Beyond: The Art of Learning, I’ve been asked about my views of the Greek System. While fraternities and sororities are fairly great experiences for some, we need to inquire whether or not on steadiness they have outlived their usefulness.

I. The Greek System in 2015
I start with a question: Were the Greek system proposed at this time as means of improving campus life for faculties and universities, would or not it’s approved? I’m satisfied that at most colleges and universities, the reply could be “No.” At Cornell, where I teach, with over a thousand extra-curricular and service actions and a plethora of the way to find a comfortable group of pals, what would be the explanation for approving such a system? Would anyone imagine the necessity of the Greek system in 2015 have been it not here already?

Fraternities and sororities date to an period of campus parietal rules that governed men’s interplay with ladies residing in residential amenities. These guidelines have long since disappeared. They also date from a time when there have been far fewer other activities on campus. The fraternities and sororities provided a social community and held the promise of precious future business–largely for males within the early days–and social contacts with those that belonged to chapters at other colleges of the same home.

In some unspecified time in the future, main universities and schools that still retain the Greek system will need to contemplate whether or not the Greek system, on balance, still serves a helpful purpose or is an anachronism from a special time. This is especially relevant at those universities and faculties that offer many opportunities for social interplay, neighborhood service, and leadership, all of which draw upon numerous scholar abilities and fulfill numerous scholar interest and needs.

I consider fraternities and sororities have outlived their usefulness. Were they proposed at this time, directors, professors and hosts of students would agree that leadership might be developed in a whole bunch of present groups. These groups include athletics (varsity, membership, and intramural sports), student authorities, religious organizations, and political clubs, as well as campus publications, musical teams (band, orchestra, a cappella singing, and so on.), and dance and theatre teams.

Fraternities and sororities tend to breed homogeneity and conformity within the type of shared social, ethical and political attitudes and conduct. Most of them encourage alcohol consumption, including underage and illegal drinking. Lastly, they absorb time that could be higher spent on tutorial work and extra-curricular actions, together with neighborhood service. Because of these elements, Greek organizations may at times cut back scholar innovation and creativity. From my commentary, fraternities and, to a lesser extent, sororities impose a form of conformity that stifles progress and creates anxiety about being different or not going together with accepted mores.

Right here is a fair question for college kids to ask: In phrases of private growth, which includes growing independent views, is it higher to reside in a dorm or residential college where there may be extra financial and social range and the place getting alongside doesn’t mean subscribing to the views of your fraternity brothers or sorority sisters?

In keeping with Cornell former President David Skorton, “At Cornell, high-risk drinking and drug use are two to 3 times extra prevalent among fraternity and sorority members than elsewhere within the scholar population.”

In gentle of that statistic and my different objections, I doubt that the Greek system is worth maintaining and imagine Cornell and other universities and faculties ought to a) take the daring step of looking into alternate options; and/or b) use cases of fraternity misbehavior—and sorority misbehavior which happens a lot much less often–to permanently eradicate the offending homes one by one and use the buildings for one thing just like the very successful Cornell undergraduate residential faculty system that has been instituted as an alternative. I am a home fellow at one of the residential faculties at Cornell; right here the scholars are more diverse than those in the Greek system, hazing does not exist, and there is a rich mental life complemented by social actions.

II. Dartmouth
Dartmouth students have grow to be increasingly impatient with the Greek System. Tyler Kingkade, Huffington Post Senior Editor, experiences: “Greater than four times as many individuals urged the Greek system was an issue than those that stated it was not. In addition to the roughly 260 who stated it should be abolished, dozens of others referred to as on the school to increase regulation or to require all homes to go coed.”

A front page editorial in the Oct. 17, 2014 Dartmouth Pupil Newspaper referred to as for abolishing the Greek system:

Let’s do what must be performed, the one motion in step with our ideas of group, and abolish the Greek system. . . . For a lot of, Greek life takes priority over academics. It is an investment (maybe a dangerous one), a path to acceptance, friends, sex, medicine, love and jobs. Since so many students’ lives seemingly rely on the system, it’s no wonder that administrators have didn’t abolish it, despite the numerous accounts of hazing and abuse which were documented over the years. . . . The Greek system undeniably enables and institutionalizes harmful behaviors.

No, Greek life will not be the basis of all of the Faculty’s issues or of broader societal ills. However as a system, it amplifies college students’ worst behavior. It facilitates binge drinking and sexual assault. It perpetuates unequal, gendered power dynamics and institutionalizes arbitrary exclusivity. It divides college students — the system as a whole separates freshmen from upperclassmen, males from ladies. Membership draws strains among pals. . . .

Many attribute increased confidence ranges and higher management and management abilities to their Greek homes. We do not seek to discredit the constructive experiences that many have inside Greek spaces. But we can not let emotional arguments cloud what’s objectively finest for our college and its college students. We have to look past our brief years right here and suppose about the Faculty’s future, which suggests eliminating an antiquated system. Abolishing Greek life, although not a be-all, finish-all solution, would provide Dartmouth a chance to rebuild its social life from the bottom up.

Some months later Dartmouth President Philip Hanlon announced a ban on laborious liquor and that Dartmouth was monitoring the habits and position of the Geek system.

In keeping with a 2014 Bloomberg editorial:

Although a majority of faculty college students drink, abusive drinking is much more prevalent in fraternities. One research of 17,000 students at 140 four-12 months schools found that just about ninety p.c of fraternity house residents engage in binge drinking (5 or extra drinks at a time), compared with 45 % for nonmembers. Binge drinking is related to a host of ills, from neurological harm to assaults.

Alcohol abuse additionally plays a central position in probably the most corrosive features of fraternities: hazing of new members in initiation rituals that are sometimes brutal and vile….

The anti-intellectualism that dominates a lot of fraternity life–the frat-boy tradition of spring-break lore and “Animal House”–also takes a toll on its members’ academic performance. Even adjusting for variations in ability, age, and mars t shirt other elements, fraternity members tend to have lower grades and underperform in contrast with their nonmember peers in assessments of cognitive expertise.

Fraternities also are at cross-functions with the purpose of promoting campus diversity. As a complete, they’re extra homogenous than the overall faculty pupil inhabitants.

III. Why Does the Greek System Survive?
The Greek system thrives for a lot of causes, but an important one is its emphasis on school partying which–along with other calls for the Greek system makes on its members–results in a substantial decline in research time. (Study time is the inclusive term for class preparation, homework, paper writing, and examination study.) For some students, fraternities and sororities turn out to be extraordinarily time-consuming and replace a deal with teachers or other activities. The Greek system typically encourages a kind of sectarianism during which membership within the fraternity or sorority takes place over commitment to the bigger neighborhood.

While residential faculties and universities have always had a social component, that element appears to be greater now, although it in fact varies by program and university. Certainly a few of the partying–happening even on weekdays with Thursday being a specific focus–derives from the Greek system, the place beer might be accessible 24-7.

Why has this occurred? Why have some faculty directors and trustees allowed colleges to be become occasion circuses on weekends and generally throughout the week? Why do they turn a blind eye to underage drinking and on occasion use of illegal substances? Why do they fail to acknowledge that sexual harassment and abuse in addition to demeaning and dangerous hazing are rampant on campuses? Usually these points are generated by the Greek system, particularly fraternities.

One reply to the questions above is that administrators and trustees are following the money. They’re supporting a system that attracts college students and, they hope, will flip some of the wealthy and financially profitable college students into donors. They believe that this partying tradition is what many students want and why they select a specific college as well as in some circumstances why they select a particular Greek system “occasion home” by which such habits is inspired.

Many students attend schools with social actions–the prospect of “having a blast”–uppermost of their minds. College students spend grant and loan money on bar payments and social actions which have little to do with schooling. As soon as rowdy drinking events revolve around fraternity and sorority tailgating events at soccer and basketball games, but at some giant universities these campus-wide celebrations are held for almost any event or vacation.

With many less competitive faculties keen, if not desperate, for students to enroll college students and to pay soaring tuition, fraternities and sororities serve that objective by attracting some college students who might not in any other case be in faculty. Moreover, some of these soaring bills of main universities derive from their competitive need to turn their dormitories, dining halls, and gym services into those of a three star resort and their athletic services into that of an Olympic site, remodeled and new Greek homes may add to the student costs.

As Caitlin Flanagan places it in her March 2013 cover story in the Atlantic entitled, “The Darkish Energy of Fraternities”: “[F]raternities provide colleges with unlimited social programming of a kind that is highly engaging to legions of potential college students, most of whom should not making use of to ivy-covered rejection factories, however somewhat to vast public establishments and obscure personal colleges which are determined for students.” I’ve been informed by students at numerous colleges that they would not have attended a college with no Greek system, but when i ask Cornellians if they might have turned down Cornell for another college or chosen not to use have been there no fraternities or sororities, they by no means reply sure to both query.

IV. Issues to contemplate Earlier than You Join the Greek System

A. How A lot Does the Social gathering Culture, during which the Greek System Plays a big Position, Affect the nature of the Faculty Academic Experience?

It would be unfair to place the predominant blame for the decrease in study time on the Greek system. But the calls for of the Greek system–including the pledging period and, later, obligatory conferences as well as numerous actions and expectations—might contribute to the decline in study time.

Even when the proof is just not clear about whether or not Greek college students study less or get lower grades–and I’ve found studies both pro and con–the fee in hours is excessive. A few of the Greek social activities, like making by hand silly required gifs by older sorority scholar for their younger or “little sisters” and vice versa, usually are not only time consuming, however appear extra applicable to 12 12 months olds than to mature younger adults. Different required gifts are simply financially expensive.

All too few school students think of their schooling as a full-time job requiring an funding of day out of class equal in hours to twice the credit hour. This formulation for research time was once considered the essential rule of thumb for college success; actually this was true in 1959-63 when I was an undergraduate. Two hours per credit remains to be the standard I use for impartial research courses.

In keeping with Richard Arum and Josipa Eokas, “[T]here has been a 50 % decline within the number of hours a pupil spends learning and making ready for classes from several many years ago.” They speculate that “[O]ne attainable motive for a decline in academic rigor and, consequentially, in writing and reasoning skills, is that the principal evaluation of school performance comes from student evaluations at the tip of the semester. These evaluations, Arum says, tend to coincide with the anticipated grade that the student thinks he or she is going to obtain from the instructor.”

In a single 2011 research mission, school students averaged 15 hours per week of study time, with engineers averaging 19 hours, and people in the social sciences and enterprise averaging 14 hours. A 2014 study puts the common at 17 hours. I’ve seen numbers as little as 10 to 13 hours. Some colleges nonetheless recommend 2 hours per week for every credit score hour, however this suggestion seems not to be taken severely by most students at most schools. In reality, I have discovered that most present college students have by no means heard of it.

B. At Many Schools, Significant Social Problems are Related to the Greek System.

In some places, as Flanagan observes;

[F]raternities at the moment are mightier than the faculties and universities that host them. . . The organizations increase millions of dollars for worthy causes, contribute hundreds of thousands of hours in neighborhood service, and seek to steer young males towards lives of service and honorable action. They also have a protracted, darkish history of violence against their very own members and guests to their houses, which makes them in lots of respects at odds with the core mission of college itself.

Hardly a week goes by with out a report of an alcohol associated dying or a story about date rape or other abusive misbehavior going down at a fraternity, and often nothing more happens than a ritualistic announcement from the school administration about “deep remorse” and “wanting into the incident.” Outrageous misbehavior occurs, partially, because many fraternities demean women by objectifying them as sexual objects, and that stereotyping can lead at worst to non-consensual sexual behavior. We now have ample evidence that fraternities and sororities are websites of extra frequent anti-social behavior than is the case for every other websites where students reside.

Let me cite some data:

In accordance with the U.S. Department of Schooling’s Larger Education Center, seventy five% of fraternity members engaged in heavy drinking, compared with 49% of other male college students. Likewise, 62% of sorority members engaged in binge drinking versus forty one% of non-sorority members. . . . .More students engaged in drinking at fraternity and sorority homes than some other on-campus venue or residence corridor. In line with the Harvard College of Public Well being’s College Alcohol Examine, seventy five% of scholars living in fraternity and sorority homes had been heavy drinkers, compared to 45% of students who lived in non-Greek housing and 35% of the overall student inhabitants.

We even have proof that more sexual assaults occur in fraternities and that the victims are likely to be sorority members:

Fraternities’ group norms and attitudes towards ladies and sex have led to this rape culture setting. Based on analysis from the journal Sex Roles, individual fraternity males usually tend to display objectifying photos of ladies in their rooms, . . . and consider girls need to interact in rough sexual acts even if they act disinterested.

IV. Other Greek Life Issues
Earlier than becoming a member of the Greek system, you also need to consider the monetary and personal costs. In “Greek Letters at a Value,” Risa C. Doherty provides an interesting perspective on the hidden prices of joining a sorority. Not solely are there month-to-month or semester dues, but there are house fees and numerous social expenditures incurred by social activities and large sister (or brother) relationships with incoming little sisters (or brothers); these expenditures for each youthful and older college students can be in the lots of of dollars. One dad or mum claims to have spent over $3200 in the student’s first 12 months.

Since fraternities and sororities tend to choose members who’re like themselves, they tend to contribute to campus ethnic and socio-financial divisions. They usually change into enclaves the place similar political views, social codes, and financial standing prevail. Often the fraternities and sororities focus extra on social events–mixers–than on serious issues. Hardly ever do campus protests towards social injustices originate in the Greek system. Traditionally, fraternities have been less than tolerant of gays and at worst have inspired homophobia.

Another significant downside of the Greek system is that students who do not get chosen by the extra prestigious homes usually question their self-worth, and people not chosen in any respect really feel ostracized. Furthermore, the selection process typically doesn’t measure intellect, social maturity, or ethics, but physical attractiveness, economic standing, and “fitting in” to the existing home tradition and mores. In fact, one could argue with some cynicism that not getting every part we wish when we would like it is good preparation for all times, however that doesn’t alleviate painful disappointment.

Abusive hazing polices related to initiation have at times resulted in injuries and even deaths. However, we do must remember that hazing will not be restricted to fraternities and sororities. Varsity groups, particularly males ones, and college bands have also been implicated in abusive incidents and unacceptable conduct that jeopardize the well being of scholars.

My advice to students: If anyone asks you to do one thing that is abusive, compromises your dignity, or negatively impacts your bodily or emotional health and sense of self in the identify of pleasing somebody or creating commitment to a bunch–whether or not or not it’s a fraternity, sorority, crew or different group–stroll away instantly.

V. The Counter-Argument (and a few Responses)
Allow us to turn to reasons proposed for joining the Greek system, and likewise consider their validity.

Travis Apgar, Associate Dean of scholars, and the person immediately in control of Cornell Greek Life, claims: “The management, self-governance, integrity, and interpersonal abilities which can be developed, combined with the skin of the classroom academic experiences comparable to community service opportunities is what makes belonging so particular.”

I have learned from college students is that the principle advantage of membership within the Greek system is that belonging overcomes a sense of loneliness and gives college students a way of being part of a group that cares about them. In a way it breaks down the campus–particular that of a large college with many lecture classes numbering in the lots of– into smaller manageable units. Many members kind lifetime friendships.

Many college students and alumni consider fraternities and sororities do enrich the lives of younger adults. They provide a group and should give college students a chance to take on a management position within the group. Proponents of the Greek system imagine that fellow fraternity and sorority members from other schools and universities provide an essential networking base and will likely be more doubtless to hire them or advocate them for membership in prestigious social and neighborhood mars t shirt groups. While local networking might be discovered not only in other additional-curricular campus actions as well as numerous different dwelling preparations, these networks are limited to particular person campuses and graduates and the Greek system’s network extends into the a lot bigger social and enterprise world of graduates of all chapters of a selected sorority and fraternity. However, in at the moment’s world, with its emphasis on benefit, skills, and range, I am undecided this “previous boy” network is as essential because it as soon as was, particularly for employment.

Another argument I hear is that fraternities and sororities do worthwhile philanthropic work and group outreach and such outreach can add to a resume. Lately, however the sturdy place of the Greek system on some campuses, many other organizations have developed to contain college students in the community. In truth such involvement in other organizations has turn into a vital half in resume constructing. Furthermore, Greek members have informed me that the truth is little time is devoted to group outreach and claims of philanthropic activity are largely window-dressing.

I have often been advised by college students–together with by some who excelled academically–how a lot the fraternity and sorority system meant to them, particularly in the second time period of their freshman yr and their sophomore 12 months. Nevertheless, I’ve been told by many juniors and seniors within the Greek sysytem–and in my opinion some of the easiest college students–that they feel that fraternities and sororities are a tad claustrophobic and that they now search a wider variety of friendsand activities. My recommendation: When you do be part of, be sure you take part in a minimum of one different campus activity, and do not let your fraternity or sorority turned the focal point of your faculty life.

Understanding of my skepticism concerning the Greek system in 2014, my honors thesis student Christian Kinsella, Cornell ’14 observes, “I admire [your] acceptance that fraternities do work for some. I agree that they don’t seem to be vital or even superb, however my various group of associates from Cornell would have been non-existent with out Zeta Beta Tau (I do know this is contrary to the norm, the place fraternities perpetuate separatism).” Camille Finn ’15 adds:

[T]he most useful thing I have gotten out of my sorority expertise has been the lifelong buddies that I’ve made. My first semester at Cornell was very hard and i did not have many friends; I felt pretty lonely at occasions. Once i joined a sorority second semester I began to feel a way of belonging right here, and the enjoyment that I acquired out of the sorority [was] mirrored in my overall happiness and success at Cornell. The community of those who a sorority offers you contains girls from completely different backgrounds who share your similar values and interests, and alumni who actually care about developing a personal connection with you and the sorority. You can positively discover this stuff through totally different organizations and venues at Cornell, but my sorority has given me many irreplaceable experiences which have formed my growth as an individual at this faculty and beyond.

I have indicated within the previous pages why I’m skeptical that the experiences she values could not be discovered elsewhere.

One other argument in favor of the Greek system that I typically hear is that main alumni donors could be offended if the Greek system had been abolished, partly because their allegiance is as much or extra to their fraternities and sororities than to the university. Nevertheless, I’ve recognized and know many of the key givers to Cornell, and I am most doubtful that their interest in Cornell derives from fraternity affiliation. Have been Cornell to abolish the Greek system, there could be some alumni dissatisfaction and grumbling, however I might argue that the lengthy-time period acquire in civility and prestige would greater than offset the loss in funds, and that loss would come not from the foremost givers but from secondary ones. Many of the trustees and principal donors think of themselves as representing Cornell and never their fraternities and sororities, if they belonged to at least one. To an extent, these individuals and families consider themselves as custodians for the life and future welfare of the university as an entire.

Yet one more argument against abolishing the Greek system right here and elsewhere is that such a move would go away schools and universities without enough housing, particularly since they don’t personal most of the buildings housing fraternities and sororities I’ve seemed into this at Cornell. Of the 39 fraternity residences at Cornell, about a 3rd are owned by Cornell. The rest are owned or rented by the fraternities and sororities. But, if the Greek system had been abolished, to whom might the fraternities and sororities that own their houses sell them besides to Cornell which would then use most of them as residences and maybe a number of for some other operate.

Landlords who rent homes to fraternities or sororities could just as simply rent them to the college or particular person students–or promote the homes to Cornell. That homes on campus cannot be sold to a business enterprise and that the ones off campus are zoned as residential would restrict if not stop the potential of gross sales to companies. Cornell could buy people who they don’t own and turn them into faculty residences or websites for academic applications, though housing wants most likely would demand the former.

VI. What Occurs When the Greek System is Abolished?
Travis Apgar, the aforementioned Cornell Affiliate Dean of scholars accountable for the Greek system, argues that it will take less effort and cash to enhance the Greek system than to abolish it, but I am undecided.

Schools which have abolished the Greek system, corresponding to Middlebury, Amherst, Williams, and Colby, are hardly immune to such social problems as excessive drinking and sexual harassment. But the directors of these colleges do assume they’re higher off with out the Greek system.

Apparently, a small number of scholars at among the aforementioned schools might belong to so-called underground fraternities. Certainly, Amherst as of July 1, 2014 threatened to expel or suspend all the 90 (of a pupil physique of 1800) college students who belong to underground fraternities.

VII. Conclusion:
Whereas not dismissing the optimistic role that fraternities and sororities have performed and do play for some students, my recommendation to college students is to be wary of the Greek system and alert to the alternate options when it comes to dwelling preparations and sources of friendship, I’ve known many students whose preliminary enthusiasm waned and have been afraid to deactivate lest they can be ostracized by their former brothers and sisters. Do not be a part of a fraternity or sorority just because a few buddies are becoming a member of; if they are real buddies, you won’t lose them. If you are excited about joining, consider “dry” houses the place alcohol shouldn’t be permitted. For some college students, ready till their sophomore year to rush offers them time to suppose extra maturely about joining reasonably than simply following the herd as freshmen. Ask your self whether or not your student life shall be richer for those who strive just a few terms without the Greek system; you might discover by your sophomore yr that you’ve got found other sources and don’t need that system at all.

Writer of the latest Reading the European Novel to 1900 and the effectively-obtained 2012 e book Endtimes? Crises and Turmoil at the brand new York Times (Excelsior Editions of SUNY Press), which appeared in an up to date 2014 new paperback version, Daniel R. Schwarz is Frederic J. Whiton Professor of English and Stephen H. Weiss Presidential Fellow at Cornell University where he has gained Cornell’s main instructing prizes. He also writes on larger education, including his ebook In Protection of Reading: Teaching Literature within the Twenty-First Century, and a book in press on the undergraduate expertise entitled How to reach College and Beyond: The Artwork of Studying.

Daniel R. Schwarz is Frederic J. Whiton Professor of English and Stephen H. Weiss Presidential Fellow at Cornell University where he has gained Cornell’s main instructing prizes. He also writes on increased training, including his e-book In Protection of Studying: Instructing Literature in the Twenty-First Century, and a guide in press (late Feb. 2016) on the undergraduate expertise entitled How to reach College and Beyond: The Art of Studying. (Hardback:ISBN 9781118974841; Paperback: ISBN 9781118974858).

Amongst Schwarz’s different books are the latest Reading the European Novel to 1900 and the nicely-obtained 2012 e book Endtimes? Crises and Turmoil at the brand new York Times (Excelsior Editions of SUNY Press), which appeared in an up to date 2014 new paperback edition.

He blogs on increased training and the media for the Huffington Publish. He may be reached at [email protected] and followed on twitter at and

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