Greek life organizations: A tainted tradition

Leah Ulatowski, Copy Editor

The Greek system is an outdated, potentially dangerous tradition with few benefits and a disturbing history. While Lakeland College has managed to keep their Greek organizations safe and productive, there is no denying the negative undertones associated with Greek life or the problems it has caused for other colleges. In my opinion, higher education would benefit from the dissolution of the system.

Firstly, fraternities and sororities are inherently exclusive. Even the friendliest Greek chapter cannot possibly accept every pledge, and because it is difficult to truly learn about a person during the chaos of rush week, it is easy to imagine that many students gain membership for superficial reasons.

As a result, it is not unusual for chapters to utterly lack diversity. The members may all come from different backgrounds, but their personalities and values are often very similar. After all, people are naturally drawn to those most like themselves, especially when choosing potential housemates.

Considering the above, Greek organizations are also breeding grounds for groupthink. It starts innocently with likeminded people comprising a single chapter, and it progresses when new members obey inane commands, such as not speaking to the opposite gender. While the “rules” may seem harmless, they teach newcomers that it is best to go along with the group in order to maintain harmony.

Unfortunately, some members are afraid to speak up when their needs could start conflict, and this fact is the root of all problems associated with the Greek system. Bestselling author Alexandra Robbins investigated Greek life for her book entitled Pledged: The Secret Life of Sororities. She discovered that one sorority would not allow a sister to report a fraternity member who raped her because it would put strain on the chapters. In other cases, students remained silent during deadly hazing rituals to avoid conflict or the termination of their memberships.

Although most states have anti-hazing laws, the structure of rush week appears to invite bullying and manipulation. Pledges are often vulnerable and desperate for acceptance while senior members hold significant power over them. It only takes one examination of Philip Zimbardo’s famous Stanford Prison Experiment to see how happy-go-lucky undergraduates can easily become tyrants or submissive victims when only a select few hold disproportionate authority.

Again, I must applaud the Lakeland College chapters for appearing to avoid the problems common within the Greek system; however, I personally question the ethicality of associating with the tradition. In essence, it would be like me saying, “Hey, I started a little group on campus called the Ku Klux Klan. Although the organization is responsible for countless lynchings, it’s okay to associate with them because we won’t do any of that naughty stuff.”

While there are many incredible people who partake in Greek life, the fact remains that the tradition has been tainted by downfalls such as hazing and dangerous parties. It is a bit chilling to think we invest in a system that has played a role in the deaths and traumatizing of countless students.

What’s more, the benefits that Greek life offers, such as friendship and superb community service opportunities, are easily achievable through an institution’s alternative organizations, clubs or sports teams. For example, I joined The Mirror staff freshman year, and it has rewarded me with close friends and countless new experiences. Moreover, I’ve never had to avoid the opposite sex for a week or submit to any other ludicrous demands to find acceptance here.