Last week, after yet another student death in a Greek-related incident, President Denise Trauth released a statement announcing the suspension of all Greek life from Texas State until further review. As only one of a series of universities across the U.S. that have taken similar actions, it seems time we seriously consider what it really means to attend a university with no Greek life.
The Greek community is historically exclusive, financially elitist, and, according to EndRapeOnCampus.org, have been described in academic journals as “dangerous places for women.” Without the pervasive influence of Greek life, younger students can now look elsewhere for their introduction to college culture.
The social aspect of the Greek life should be the least missed for the simple fact that it’s likely not leaving. An institutional suspension of Greek life can do nothing to change who someone sits next to in class or calls on the weekends. Within legal limitations, these people can even still throw parties together so long as they don’t brand them with their national letters.
According to The Fraternity Advisor, “Greek life is all about maintaining a tight-knit social circle, making lifelong friendships, and learning about leadership. ”This is perhaps the most confusing part of the uproar over the suspension because a ban on the Greek system at Texas State University is in no way a ban on socializing, networking or philanthropy. These supposed primary elements of Greek life are not at all at stake, unless, of course, there is some other element that draws this community together.
The first taste of college freedom for many students is the week before classes start. During the day, incoming freshmen are confined to packed schedules of college preparatory workshops on topics ranging from good study habits to drug abuse and sexual assault. The real learning, however, begins at night, as crowds of over-dressed pre-students fill the sidewalks on the way to their first college party, the majority of which are hosted in fraternity houses near campus.
Utilizing Twitter hashtags and word of mouth, the parties during this week are marketed to new students as the only place they’ll be able to drink and to introduce them to the power dynamics of this new social structure. Their unspoken rules become immediately clear as it is not a rarity to get turned away from an otherwise open-invite party for being deemed not attractive enough (if you’re a woman), if there are too many guys, or at frats such as previously-suspended Kappa Alpha, simply for being black.
To be clear, getting turned away from a party dominated by toxic masculinity, hormonal outbursts and a high potential for sexual assault is not the bad part. This culture that is promoted and upheld by the Greek system also exerts its influence on the overall college experience. The sexism and racism that hide within the walls of various Greek organization slow the progress of the modern university as it tries to address its institutional issues.
The gang-mentality of such organizations insulate the students who most desperately need a diverse educational experience. Besides the piss-poor cultural awareness Texas public schools equip students with on their way to higher education, the price point alone is enough to limit the diversity of said organizations.
The University of Central Florida, one of the few schools to produce information on the average costs of Greek life, suggests a new sorority member can expect to pay $1,280 per semester and pledging a fraternity can cost an average of $605 per semester.This estimate does not include the cost of events that first-year pledges are often required to attend.This financial cap plays a deliberate role in maintaining the Greek communities’ upper-middle-class-and-higher standard and is a defining factor in their notorious exclusivity.
Without this institutional framework, students who may otherwise default to Greek life can start or join professional organizations more closely related to their majors and upperclassmen can devote their energy to the growth of their educational communities rather than gendered loyalties rooted in elitism.Greek life is the firmest stance Trauth has taken on any of the pressing issues Texas State faces. Hopefully, it is the start of a trend to make the school’s educational goals a new priority over its financial ones.
– Tafari Robertson is a public relations senior