Tim Piazza. Collin Wiant. Victoria Carter. Chun Deng.
Most people that hear these names will show no recognition. They will never learn about the lives of these, and many more college-aged students, who died too young.
Beta Theta Pi. Sigma Pi. Delta Sigma Theta. Pi Delta Psi.
These, however, are widely recognized names. Oftentimes, they are names that are met with respect and fondness. They are also the institutions that led to young men and women losing their lives every year in order to secure their spot within the “sisterhood” or “brotherhood.”
In order to understand why the death toll related to greek life incidents continues to trend upwards, it is necessary to look deeper into its foundation. In the early 1700s, Phi Beta Kappa was the first fraternity established at the College of William and Mary. Due to the time period, its members were all white upper-class men, which meant it was a very exclusive group at the time. However, the power white people instilled into the Greek life system remains today.
A study done at Princeton University displays the lack of diversity within their greek life system. According to the Century Fox Foundation, 77% of sorority members are white and 73% of fraternities are white. However, only 47% of the student body is white.
What’s even more concerning is that less than five percent of those that partake in Greek life are from middle or lower-class families. Not only do fraternities lack in their racial diversity, they also lack diversity within the socioeconomic status of their members. This can most likely be linked back to the fact that Greek life is an institution founded by all white men, and can also correlate to the use of legacies.
Special treatment towards members can also be called into question. One of the major controversies regarding fraternities is the major number of sexual assault and harassment incidents that occur every year. The Guardian shared a statistic that fraternity members are 300% more likely to commit rape. While some fraternities have been shut down due to sexual assault incidents, most of the time there are inadequate punishments given, which perpetuates the problem.
Insufficient punishments are also common when it comes to the numerous hazing incidents that occur every year within Greek life, even when they lead to death. Men and women who join these fraternities and sororities do so in order to gain a family and support system away from home, but what they find is peer pressure which can set them on the path to serious danger. The rushing scene can generally be connected to the act of hazing. While some fraternities make their incoming members commit silly acts for fun, others pressure prospective members to over-consume alcohol. Members also have a history of not calling for help at appropriate times and only seeking out medical assistance when it is too late. Efforts that universities and colleges have made to end the hazing are not very effective and do not normally lead to any notable changes.
This, however, isn’t to say that everything about Greek life is immoral. Yes, members can form deep bonds with friends that can last a lifetime. Yes, members serve their community. Yes, members can develop leadership. However, it is also, more importantly, a fact that members may be risking their lives to be part of these groups.
At this point in time, even an overhaul on the way Greek life is run would not change the decades of deaths and mistreatment that has occurred. In order to truly protect students and allow parents to feel safer sending their kids off to school, the entire system needs to be reformed. Not only do fraternities and sororities preserve a culture of exclusion, but they also foster worldwide issues such as sexual assault. Never again should a student have to feel unsafe at what will be their home away from home for four years of their lives.