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Greek Life Isn’t Worth The Risk For College Campuses

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Introduction

Nolan Burch’s night started out similar to any other college students. He went to a pledge event for the fraternity he was rushing at West Virginia University, Kappa Sigma. He hung out and partied with his future brothers, presumably having a good time. The night then quickly turned sour. Burch and the other pledges were then blindfolded, brought to a second location, and were forced to excessively drink by brothers as part of a hazing ritual. That had been the goal of the whole night, according to texts from another brother. Those texts from that night read, “Nolans getting my family bottle of whiskey,” and “I’m probably just gonna get him real (drunk).” (O’Shei, 2018) When the pledges were brought back from the second location about 90 minutes later, Nolan couldn’t even walk himself back into the house and was laid down a table by some fraternity brothers. The party raged on as Nolan laid there, completely still. Brothers took pictures and videos of him, danced on the table he was on, and continued on with their partying. (O’Shei, 2018) By that time, Nolan’s blood alcohol level had reach .493, more than six times the legal limit. (West Virginia Frat, 2015) It wasn’t until about more than half-an-hour later, when a brother who hadn’t been in the room walked in and finally noticed Nolan. His face had turned blue and he barely had a pulse. On the 911 call placed from the house, you can hear the brother who found him trying to perform CPR on him and save his life, repeatedly saying, “One, two three. Nolan, breathe for me, buddy!” (O’Shei, 2018) But, it was no use, Nolan died two days later, only a week after his 18th birthday. Stories like Nolan’s happen to college kids every year on campuses all over the country. In fact, there has been at least one hazing death reported by a U.S. student/school organization almost every year since 1953. (Nuwer, n.d.) One of the most common places these deaths occur is in fraternities and sororities on college campuses. Because of this fact, traditional Greek organizations on college campuses, fraternities in particular, should be suspended until they seriously reconstruct how they run because they continually perpetuate cultures of sexual assault and violence, hazing, and alcohol/drug abuse, which is harmful to the college and its student body, even past college years.

Sexual Assault and Violence

One problem a lot of college campuses face is sexual assault and rape. During their time in undergraduate, approximately 23.1% of female students and 5.4% of male students go through one of those events. (Campus Sexual Violence. n.d.) A way Greek life contributes to this problem is their way of creating power through alcohol. For example, in 2018, the National Panhellenic Conference banned the 26 sororities they monitor from throwing parties with alcohol. (Jackson, 2018) If these sororities want to have any sort of event with alcohol, it has to be a joint event with a fraternity. So now, on college campuses where these sororities exist, all the power to throw off-campus parties with alcohol now shifts to only the fraternities. This shift in power now creates a potentially dangerous situation because they have all of the power and, most of time, all of these fraternities are comprised of men. Now they control what there is to drink, who’s allowed in, and where the parties are, leaving few other party options for people who don’t feel safe at these events or if the fraternities have a reputation for bad behavior. It creates an unequal power dynamic between males and females on campuses, creating more potential situations where sexual violence can occur. In fact, according to Seabrook and Ward (2018), “fraternity members were three times more likely to commit sexual assault than nonmembers,” and if the only places where people can go and socially drink and hang out is frat houses, the amount of sexual assaults and rape that occur may spike. (Seabrook & Ward. 2018) This fact can also be blamed on another way Greek life contributes to problems with sexual violence which is their views on sexual violence and who is to blame. Seabrook and Ward did a study comparing participants’ opinions on who is to blame in a case of sexual assault. Their variable factor was whether the male was a member for a fraternity or not. They found that males rated, “the perpetrator as less guilty, and the victim as more culpable and less credible,” in cases where the perpetrator was part of a fraternity. (Seabrook & Ward. 2018) This idea is a summation of a common thought fraternity members’ share. They will often excuse their brother’s bad behavior because they are part of the same group and they don’t believe that someone they know can do something that bad. A lot of them also hold, “more traditional attitudes towards women,” meaning they see women as inferior to men and as sexual objects only around to pleasure men. (Ramirez, 2017) This mentality is why there are so many stories of perpetrators getting off scot-free. Women and their safety just aren’t as valued in Greek life culture due to the power difference between sororities and fraternities, the traditional view of women some brothers hold, and this attitude of protecting people they hang out and sweeping their bad behavior under the rug with instead of addressing the problem of sexual violence that exists in this culture.

Hazing and Being Part of a Group

Many people believe that one positive that comes out of Greek life is having a new group of friends that you can create life-long bonds with. But, do you actually want to be part of a group of friends that only allow them to hang out with you if you let them beat you up, make you drink excessively, or embarrass you beyond belief? Hazing has been going on in colleges for a long time, with the first death due to hazing being recorded in 1873 at Cornell University. Mortimor Leggett was pledging the Kappa Alpha Society when he fell to his death in a gorge while blindfolded. (Ramirez, 2017) But, in recent years, more and more students have been reporting incidents of hazing. Ramirez (2017) reports that, “73% of students involved in a Greek letter organization reported they experienced at least one hazing behavior.” One of the most compelling instances of hazing comes from James Murtha for the Houston Chronicle (2018). In 1956, he decided to rush Alpha Sigma Phi at Marietta College in Ohio. Some of the lesser intense behavior he talked about include, “cleaning toilets, scrubbing sidewalks with toothbrushes, and polishing shoes of the ‘actives,’ while they verbally abused him and called him names. But the worst came with the end of their “Hell Week.” Murtha and his pledge class were blindfolded and drove to a “sacred site” in the woods. They were then forced to climb up and down a hill and an embankment of a stream while brothers whipped them with rope and hoses and kicked them. They then had to mount a log and pretend to “screw” a log named Gracie as again brothers beat them. Murtha remembered, “stand[ing], soak[ing], dripping. My butt burn[ed]. I feel a welt beneath my ribcage. I shake. Not cold. Pissed.” He also remembered thinking, “Did these guys look forward to beating us? Who invented this crap? Why do they propagate it? Do I want to call this scum ‘brothers’?” (Murtha, 2018) He makes the point of asking why this is still happening. Why are we still letting students hurt each other so bad that they are being killed? Just for some life-long friendships?

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Another way Greek organizations hurt students is through rejection. Being rejected creates a different type of hurt than hazing, but it hurts none the less. Martin, Richman, and Leary (2018) did a study analyzing the depression symptoms and overall life happiness of girls before and after they were either rejected or accepted by the sorority they wanted to rush. They found that even after three months after bid day, the rejected girls’ levels of depression and satisfaction with life never returned to their baseline measurements. Being rejected from these groups caused these girls distress. Even though it isn’t physical harm, this proves Greek life is harmful to students.

Alcohol Abuse

One of the first things people think about when they think about frats and sororities is alcohol. According to Ward, Galante, Trivedi and Kahrs (2015), alcohol consumption leads to, “an estimated 599,000 injuries, 646,000 assaults by intoxicated students, sexual assaults of 97,000 people, and 1,800 college student deaths,” each school year. And while most people already associate college with excessive drinking in general, Greek organizations take it to another level, making already dangerous situations worse and making it more likely for members to develop life-long drinking habits and self-esteem issues. To start, students involved in Greek life are at an increased risk to perform risky behaviors associated with binge drinking. For example, they are more likely to drink and drive, have sex without getting consent, and drinking to a point of not remembering what they did the next day. (Brown-Rice & Furr, 2015) Sorority members that binge drank were also more likely to, “be injured, drive under the influence of alcohol, be sexually victimized, and engage in unwanted sex than non-Greek female binge drinkers.” (Brown-Rice & Furr, 2015) This is indicative of the common sentiment that Greek organizations carry that excessively drinking is cool and that’s why many people are attracted to Greek life. They drink more and more frequently than non-Greek students. (Ward & Galante & Trivedi & Kahrs, 2015) Because of this increased risk of binge-drinking, members of Greek life are more susceptible to other risks that come from binge-drinking. Some of those risks include alcohol dependence, disordered eating, and increased self-esteem issues. For example, Ward, Galante, Trivedi and Kahrs (2015) found that students that are Greek associated, especially females, use more disorder eating techniques to avoid the extra calories from drinking and to get drunk faster. They eat less or food with less calories to avoid those calories. College-aged females are also more susceptible to body image issues and binge-drinking goes hand in hand with body issues because of the extra calories it brings. If they’re sorority members, they have an extra social pressure to look good because there is a certain image that society has of sorority girls in its head, which is skinny. (Ward & Galante & Trivedi & Kahrs, 2015) Because of the increased social pressure to drink in Greek life, all of these factors snowball into bigger issues that can affect them later into their lives, like eating disorders and alcohol dependence.

Conclusion

Until they can change the way they run to get rid of the harmful effects they cause on college campuses, traditional Greek organizations should be suspended on all college campuses. They increase the risks of sexual assaults on campus, increase the amount of violent injuries and death on campus through their hazing traditions, and cause students to develop alcohol-related illness including addiction and body image issues related to the calories in alcohol. All of these issues stem from the power they have on campus as the main off-campus party locations due to their popularity and access to alcohol. One possible way to fix this strong tradition to make all houses dry or to enforce alcohol violations properly and with heavier consequences. Heavier consequences like expulsion and ending the chapter on campuses instead of fines will also decrease the amount of hazing injuries and deaths and sexual assaults because it will actually hold those Greek members physically accountable instead of just being able to paying them off or sweep them under the rug to be forgotten about. While some people argue that Greek organizations allow people to create meaningful, life-long friendships, how much are those friendships actually worth if they’re built on a tradition of alcohol abuse, suppression of sexual assault victims, and seriously hurting or even killing people that want to be friends with you?

References

  1. Brown-Rice, K., & Furr, S. (2015). Differences in College Greek Members’ Binge Drinking Behaviors: A Dry/Wet House Comparison. The Professional Counselor, 5(3), 354–364. doi: 10.15241/kbr.5.3.354
  2. Campus Sexual Violence: Statistics. (n.d.). Retrieved November 10, 2019, from https://www.rainn.org/statistics/campus-sexual-violence.
  3. Martin, J.L., Richman, L.S., & Leary, M.R. (2018). A lasting sting: Examining the short-term and long-term effects of real-life group rejection:. https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/8c69/0147df117d687d0c52c3ea372a166a5a8d7f.pdf?_g a=2.176121826.134614399.1572808528-771076731.1572808528
  4. Murtha, J. A. (2018, September 13). I was hazed in a fraternity. I never forgot what happened. Retrieved October 27, 2019, from https://www.houstonchronicle.com/local/gray- matters/article/fraternity-hazing-haunting-memory-13227406.php.
  5. Nuwer, H. (n.d.). Hazing Deaths Database. Retrieved November 7, 2019, from http://www.hanknuwer.com/hazing-deaths/.
  6. O’Shei, T. (2018, December 4). Hazing, heartbreak and, finally, helping: What’s next for Nolan Burch’s family. Retrieved November 7, 2019, from https://buffalonews.com/2018/12/04/nolan-burch-hazing-west-virginia-university- fraternity-death-drinking/.
  7. Ramirez, D. (2017, May 10). Greek Life or Death. Retrieved October 27, 2019, from https://escholarship.org/uc/item/3jf4n056#main.
  8. Seabrook, R. C., & Ward, L. M. (2018, December 28). Bros Will Be Bros? The Effect of Fraternity Membership on Perceived Culpability for Sexual Assault – Rita C. Seabrook, L. Monique Ward, 2019. Retrieved November 3, 2019, from https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1077801218820196?casa_token=hdHjpcU JS60AAAAA:EruMvCC_hO9sHfdFY0_NCD5YsvvscVrfC8y06eZEurtDJcw1THqrbZw
  9. kRx-JB7nsSecN6NVaY-A#.
  10. Ward, R. M., Galante, M., Trivedi, R., & Kahrs, J. (2015). An examination of drunkorexia, greek affiliation, and alcohol consumption. Journal of Alcohol and Drug Education, 59(3), 48- 66. Retrieved from http://www.libproxy.wvu.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/177354922 0?accountid=2837
  11. West Virginia Frat Pledge Nolan Burch Had 0.493 Blood-Alcohol Level. (2015, June 11). Retrieved November 7, 2019, from https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/west- virginia-frat-pledge-nolan-burch-had-0-493-blood-n295101.
  12. Nuwer, H. (n.d.). Hazing Deaths Database. Retrieved November 7, 2019, from http://www.hanknuwer.com/hazing-deaths/.
  13. O’Shei, T. (2018, December 4). Hazing, heartbreak and, finally, helping: What’s next for Nolan Burch’s family. Retrieved November 7, 2019, from https://buffalonews.com/2018/12/04/nolan-burch-hazing-west-virginia-university-fraternity-death-drinking/.
  14. West Virginia Frat Pledge Nolan Burch Had 0.493 Blood-Alcohol Level. (2015, June 11). Retrieved November 7, 2019, from https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/west-virginia-frat-pledge-nolan-burch-had-0-493-blood-n295101.

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Greek Life Isn’t Worth The Risk For College Campuses. (2022, February 17). Edubirdie. Retrieved August 12, 2022, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/greek-life-isnt-worth-the-risk-for-college-campuses/
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Greek Life Isn’t Worth The Risk For College Campuses. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/greek-life-isnt-worth-the-risk-for-college-campuses/> [Accessed 12 Aug. 2022].
Greek Life Isn’t Worth The Risk For College Campuses [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Feb 17 [cited 2022 Aug 12]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/greek-life-isnt-worth-the-risk-for-college-campuses/
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