Fraternity and sorority members have historically been portrayed by the media as shallow, drunken, and irresponsible. Sororities are filled with vapid bimbos who wear matching heels and blow glitter into cameras. Fraternities are glorified drinking clubs whose members double as sexual predators. Films and TV shows like GRΣΣK, Neighbors, and Scream Queens novelize real issues that Greek communities nationwide have taken serious steps to address.
This continuous onslaught of patronizing media coverage has formed corrosive stereotypes of the Greek community which it has desperately tried to dispel.
While some Greek chapters throughout the country do face consequences for valid reasons—i.e. sexual assault, hazing, etc.— we can’t help but question this new climate of fear instilled in the members of AU’s Greek Community.
One misplaced Red Solo Cup in a photo, one overheard conversation in MGC, or even one unfortunate use of pepper spray can bring an entire organization to its knees— leaving its members barred from social events and with a tarnished reputation.
But it’s just Greek Life that feels this pressure.
Why aren’t other student organizations under constant scrutiny from the administration? What about the sports team houses that freshmen can go to during Welcome Week? Why doesn’t the E-Board of every club have to tell their members to watch out for fake social media accounts of administrators rumored to be spying on our online profiles? Why are Greek members the only ones mandated to go to additional sexual assault prevention workshops?
Greek Life is used as a scapegoat for the larger issues that every college student faces: sexual assault, binge drinking, and pressure to conform, to name a few. These issues aren’t exclusive to Greek Life, yet we are treated like a parasite that infects the entire campus.
There is an overwhelming propensity to conclude that getting rid of Greek Life is the solution for the malpractices most often seen in the media. But to protect this community we value so much, there needs to be reform, not outright removal of these chapters.
One New Member Educator says, “I think the administration wants to shut Greek Life down because they think we’re a group of kids that just wants to party. But the community is not a minority anymore. You can’t ignore it, and you can’t just step on it and pretend it’s not there.”
The Greek community recognizes our shortcomings, and we’ve taken steps to address these issues. We’re talking about consent. We’re opening up conversations about diversity. We’re addressing hazing.
The question, however, is if the AU administration will recognize our efforts and be partners, not adversaries.
People and organizations make mistakes; they grow and should be given the room to do so. What’s significant is whether those mistakes are taken as experiences for future growth or as excuses to shut down a chapter completely. Currently, the university’s only response is to hand out cease and desist letters, but an alternative solution exists: collaboration.
The administration needs to be proactive in fostering positive growth, not reactive in dishing out unconstructive punishments.
Our organizations do already have an inherent level of secrecy– secret rituals, secret mottos, and, yes, even secret handshakes. But there is a place for these secret traditions, a “common bond” between our chapters, as President of the AU Interfraternity Council Tom Florczak put it.
There is also a place for transparency and open lines of communication.
However, with this fear of the administration, we are being pushed to cloak every aspect of our organizations in a dangerous silence. There is no safe space for us to openly voice our concerns or ideas. We don’t want the administration to nod their heads and say “I told you so,” but we do not want to be silent about these issues.
“As much as the FSL office is aiming to build a relationship with sororities and fraternities on this campus, there is still no transparency. It’s hard to build a relationship with an administration that has actively put so much effort in distancing itself from us.” –Panhellenic Delegate
It’s the fake Facebook accounts, one-sided meetings, and lack of communication from the administration that create a need to protect ourselves from intrusive tactics. At its core, our secrecy is an act of self-defense.
So where do we go from here?
We’ve done what we can. We have consistently shown that Greek Life is a formidable and valuable community that empowers members with the necessary experiences and relationships to grow into the best versions of themselves. For American University’s campus and wider community:
- We give people a home– 25% of American University Students have found it in Fraternities and Sororities.
- We cultivate academic rigor and success– the Greek community has a cumulative GPA of 3.22, higher than the 3.17 GPA of the entire student body. Not to mention that in the spring of 2015, SigEP had a cumulative 3.44 GPA, and DG had 52 women with above a 3.65 GPA.
- We participate in philanthropies nationally and internationally– from raising awareness of domestic violence to raising funds for cancer research.
It’s time that the Greek community is valued and represented rather than marginalized and torn down by the administration. We’re here, we’re ready, and we’ve been waiting.
We know you hear us. The ball’s in your court.
Feature Image credit: AU Photo Collective, Kristie Chua.