Without reform, the greek systemshould go

If I were to create a “Top Ten List” of things I have a strong distaste for, three things that would appear at the top of my list are: drugs (especially alcohol and tobacco), violence (particularly sexual violence) and silence (or the refusal to communicate). When these vices are perpetrated by institutions, my blood boils. This is because we are a society that hesitates — refuses — to hold institutions accountable not only for wrongdoing, but also for fostering an environment where people find encouragement and coercion to embrace destructive attitudes and behaviors.
The greek system, most notably the fraternal portion, is an institution with insufficient measures in place to deter the abuse of alcohol and drugs and the perpetration of violence, specifically sexual violence, by its members and their allies. University systems, in conjunction with the greek system, perpetrate the third aforementioned vice by ignoring these issues or downplaying their importance and impact in the University community. Therefore, the greek system and the University alike can be found guilty of fostering destructive, oppressive environments. The University should be required to make changes in policy, or be forced to eliminate the greek system from the University community.
We can begin our examination of the problematic nature of the greek system with a look at alcohol abuse. The results of a 1993 survey of more than 17,000 students at 140 four-year colleges in 40 states show that 86 percent of students who lived in fraternity houses were binge drinkers. This means that they had consumed at least five or more drinks at a time in the two-week period prior to being surveyed. In comparison, 50 percent of male students overall were classified as binge drinkers. Another finding reveals that students living in greek-system housing drink three times the number of drinks as the average student.
At the University of Minnesota, the fraternity and sorority houses are on property that is not owned by the University. These houses do not fall under the jurisdiction of the University’s alcohol policies, which are unclear and easily bypassed. Sororities prohibit alcohol from their premises for insurance purposes, while fraternities, under different insurance regulations, are not required to attain a permit by the University to sell alcohol at parties. In fact, University policy prohibits the sale of alcohol on its premises. Fraternities, with the special privilege of separate land ownership and all the benefits of being immersed in the University, gain financially from the sale of alcohol, quite often to minors.
It would be difficult to discuss sexual violence on campus and in the greek system without studying the role of alcohol. Studies have shown that on college campuses, 90 percent of reported rapes involve the consumption of alcohol or some other drug, and 84 percent of rapes are perpetrated by someone the victim knows.
Although alcohol itself should not be blamed for the occurrence of acquaintance or date rape, it must be recognized as a relevant factor. A quick, informal study of a fraternity party reveals several conditions that make sexual assault highly possible. Men and women are together in a festive mood and a sexually-charged setting. The presence of alcohol in the mix increases male aggression and sexual desire, while simultaneously causing a breakdown in judgment and the ability to communicate effectively. Throw in fraternal peer pressure to “score,” and what develops is a situation that promotes rape and rape culture.
Of course, alcohol abuse and sexual violence do not occur in a social vacuum. Nor do they occur solely in the greek system. Athletics and ROTC are other programs that have been targeted as havens of destructive attitudes and behaviors. Residence halls, where young men and women test the waters of social independence for the first time, also have a responsibility to promote healthy lifestyles.
There are many other issues beyond alcohol and sexual violence that foster a desire for change in the greek system. Some of these are in-group superiority, ostracism, the social elitism attributed to membership, misogyny in fraternities and the privilege that can be attained with the pocketbooks of alumni. These factors are cause for policy development that can make the greek system more proactive in promoting healthy living among its members and more accountable for members’ actions.
The final responsibility, then, lies with the University to break its silence on the issues facing the greek system. As a single fraternity brother or sister is within the institution of the greek system, so is the individual institution of the University’s greek system is within the larger institution of the University. Therefore, it is the University’s responsibility (and our responsibility as its constituents), to speak out against destructive behavior and attitudes and to create an atmosphere that fosters respect and responsibility toward ourselves and each other.
If change is not brought about in a collaborative effort by the greek system, or in University offices that are able to adjust policies on alcohol and sexual violence, then I favor the termination of the greek system and an investigation into the shortcomings of University policy as a consequence.
Emmanuel Ortiz is a junior in the College of Liberal Arts. He is co-founder and chair of Men Against Rape and Sexism,a former coordinator of the Peer Education Program at the Program Against Sexual Violence and a member of the University’s Alcohol and Tobacco and Other Drug Policy Review Committee.