I won’t start off with my original disclaimer that I’m ambivalent towards Greek life. I deleted it when I realized that it would be a lie. I’m not ambivalent, I’m just not fully for or against it, and I’ll ask you to keep that in mind. I like to drink, I like to party, I like sex. They’re all great things! But I have more than one friend who has been raped at a party because people assumed that they both were voluntarily dancing with each other. If you can still say that we don’t have a problem, then quit reading now, write a snarky comment, and rate me one star. Then go to your room to think about what you’ve done.
Many people are surprised to learn that I actually rushed sophomore year. I was actually perfectly open to the idea of joining something if it felt right, but nothing did. In fact, I ended up not joining a fraternity because something felt pointedly not right about the entire thing; not that any of the guys were fake or I had a problem with what was going on, it just didn’t sit right. I finally figured out why later that year: my biggest problem with Greek life is that (for the most part) fraternities and sororities are groups that exist for the purpose of being a group.
Yes, they do philanthropy. Yes, GPAs are higher on average in many cases. I get that, but the primary purpose of any Greek organization is to exist. I can’t keep track of the number of times I’ve heard that “such and such has been around since whenever” or that “we were the first fraternity to have ______.” Awesome- that’s legitimately really cool! So, what were you doing back in _____ when you were the first group to accept _______? (We’ll disregard the objectification where you devalued that piece of his identity and claimed it as an object to show off and move on because that’s a different issue).
Like, how is that more/less/as notable as the fact that Bucknell opened classes to women in 1883?
And, to you, anonymous friends who tried to convince me that I’m wrong, don’t fucking try and tell me that you joined a frat because they do community service. They participate in the Adopt-A-Highway program. So did my high school’s German Club, and the high school kids whined about it a hell of a lot less than some of your frat brothers. I’m not here to discredit the work that anyone here does, and I’m well aware that the philanthropy and service were deciding factors for many happy greek members- they were part of that for me too!!
But I will argue that those lead people to choose which specific group they wanted to join, and don’t usually actually induce people to join one in the first place. People make that decision because they want to be part of a group. I have no problem with this, I truly don’t. It’s not always a bad thing, and I know a great number of people that need that social support, but I’m not one of them.
With that said, my problem is what comes from having campus life dominated by groups that pride themselves on being that particular group, because it leaves little room for anything else. For some people, no other extracurricular activity will ever really get priority over their frat/sorority- I mean, they don’t need to!
For example, why would I need to go see the show at Uptown if I don’t really know anyone else that’s going and my brothers are all hanging out at the house? Also, I have to miss my radio show this week because I have to help clean the basement and I don’t want to deal with the guys I live and eat with being pissed because I blew them off for something that they’re not involved in.
You know what? From his perspective, that makes total sense and I won’t argue that our fictional Bucknellian is wrong in any way. But yeah, that really sucks for me, who has to fill the airtime that I thought would be occupied, and I have to apologize to Frankie Muniz, because he was playing in the band at Uptown and 7 people were there. That’s not even accounting for the fact that I personally put in a week’s worth of work to get the sound and lights ready for a kick-ass show.
To Bucknell’s credit -sincerely, this makes me super happy– I’ve never been maliciously excluded because I’m not a Brother anywhere. That happens a lot at other places, and we largely have an incredibly accepting student body. Kudos. But that doesn’t mean I’ve not been excluded not on purpose. Yes, it was my choice not to join a frat. I made it quite purposefully, and I don’t regret it. It was NOT, however, my choice to have to scramble for a new roommate when one of our group (since freshman year!) was told last-minute that he would have to live in his frat’s house. It was not my choice to fail to come to his room to console him after a bad breakup because his frat was having something or other and I couldn’t come in without waiting in line outside. It was not my choice to be asked what was wrong with me when I mentioned offhand that I wasn’t Greek.
Removing Greek life from campus would not necessarily better the campus climate at all. Lessing the group mentality associated with it, however, would make the biggest difference of anything. One of the neat initiatives that Bucknell has taken was the SpeakUP program, which hopes to combat alarming rates of sexual abuse by talking about the “bystander effect,” where people assume that someone else will take action. It all comes from Groupthink (no, I’m not accusing frats/sororities of Orwellian nightmare fuel!) and the fact that as a big group of people, individuals let more things slide than they normally would. We all have friends that are great as long as they’re not with some other friends of theirs, and I’m talking about the same concept.
How else would you objectification of our females surrounding frat parties? I’ve heard countless guys (that I normally know to be kind, caring, and thoughtful toward people of all gender) tell some poor freshman that he “needs more girls” to get into a party. The response? Usually “I should go find more!” Yes, everybody, let’s go collect girls! It’s basically like an Easter egg hunt, right? We’ll just pick up a few more so that the frat brothers have a better chance of getting laid. I won’t keep going with this because it’s a different discussion, and I’ll start getting actually bitter if keep on it right now.
Look, I’ve said a lot of things. I’ve been accusatory, overly general, and probably a bit too negative. If I’ve offended you, then I’m probably sorry, depending on what it was that you took issue with. But I’m sick of hearing these 5 things:
- There’s nothing else to do!
- I actually joined for the philanthropy.
- Students should just drink less! They aren’t forced to do anything.
- Well, it was your choice to not join a frat…
- Greek life isn’t the problem! Bucknell just needs a scapegoat! The organizations are nothing but helpful.
Each of these is right on at least some level, but they each all disregard a lot of commonly accepted facts of life, and belie a lack of perspective that I find, frankly, quite concerning. Maybe “minimizing the dominance of Greek life on campus” isn’t really about forcing Greek life to shrink or do less things or have less parties and less freedom. Maybe it means we need to lessen the dominance that it has over each of our individual lives, because there’s a world out there and we’re fucking missing it.