Are Greek organizations actually beneficial to college campuses?

Greek life has been a pillar on college campuses since the first organization was created in 1776. With their deep-rooted histories within hundreds of colleges and universities, Greek organizations are rarely questioned. Although they started simply as underground literary clubs, fraternities and sororities have evolved into groups that embody many of the values that schools themselves embrace. Almost all Greek organizations encourage strong academic performance, engagement with peers, and community service. With over 9 million members nationwide, fraternities and sororities hold substantial power not only among the student body, but also in areas of administration at schools due to the significant monetary donations which come from Greek alumni.

Stories of hazing, binge drinking, and even deaths flood newspapers and websites

While universities often shy away from discussing issues with Greek organizations on campus, they are given plenty of attention from media outlets. Stories of hazing, binge drinking, and even deaths flood newspapers and websites. RollingStone recently did an article on Andrew Lohse, a disaffiliated member at the university of Dartmouth, who was ridiculed for speaking out against his fraternity. Lohse made a public statement recommending that Dartmouth should overhaul the greek system entirely, as it perpetuates a culture of “pervasive hazing, substance abuse and sexual assault,” as well as an “intoxicating nihilism” that dominates campus social life. Concluding that “fraternity life is at the core of the college’s human and cultural dysfunctions.” Andrew is not alone in his accusations and beliefs regarding Greek culture on college campuses. Many research studies and incident reporting have backed his claims regarding his fraternal experiences.

In addition to hazing incidents, CBS news recently reported a tragedy that struck Penn State Thursday, March 30 2017 where a pledge of Beta Theta Pi died in a hazing related incident. At the age of 19, Timothy Piazza, passed away due to injuries sustained from falling down a flight of stairs. The autopsy reported an excessive amount of alcohol in his system. The college took precautions to assure it’s students future well being by enacting a program to monitor underage drinking. The Beta Theta Pi chapter at Penn state has permanently been disbanded for hosting the party and delaying to report Piazza’s injuries until the next morning. Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident as 73% of students participating in social fraternities and sororities have experienced at least one hazing behavior. Stories such as this one are spread nationwide when they do occur, shedding a negative light on all Greek life. It is important to note, though, that these events are rare and do not apply to all, or even most fraternities and sororities. However, media attention, especially nationally, almost exclusively focuses on these tragedies.

While we cannot ignore these pressing issues, it is important to look at the positive aspects of these organizations when evaluating if they are truly beneficial to higher education institutions or not. With so much negative attention paid to Greek organizations, it is easy to forget the positive impacts that they can have on communities. Benefits include philanthropy, networking, and leadership opportunities. Philanthropy efforts by fraternities and sororities benefit not only the people they serve but those doing the service. Community service requirements as well as individual charity events held by Greek organizations encourage students to be engaged in their communities and create a better campus environment.   

Charles Gallagher: Greek Philanthropy is too Good to Get Rid Of

Thomas Flournoy: Greek Life Through the Eyes of an Active Member

Darby Cochran: Social Dynamic Creates Division

Shaan Buttar: How Greek Alumni Benefit the Entire College Community

Community Greek Life Additional Resources