Seeing both perspectives in the Greek Life debate
The stereotypes surrounding college Greek organizations can often lean toward the negative, with the usual images of partying, drinking and hazing coming to mind. Media and movies like the 1978 film Animal House reinforce these images and continue to churn out false beliefs of what Greek Life is meant to be about. At Grand Valley State University, there is a strange teetering of viewpoints when it comes to Greek organizations, between the various fraternities that have been suspended or kicked off campus and the large fundraising contributions for sake of philanthropy.
Both viewpoints are valid, which makes it difficult to come to a conclusion on the matter—but that's probably a good thing. Allowing a few bad seeds to represent all of Greek Life is ludicrous, yet glossing over reoccurring issues in the community is just as insufficient.
Two fraternities were removed from campus in 2017 alone, both in response to underage drinking and hazing incidents. Delta Upsilon was shut down in the Winter 2017 semester following several alcohol and drug violations of the Fraternity Loss Prevention Policies. The following semester fraternity Sigma Phi Epsilon (Sig Ep) was slapped with a five-year suspension following hazing and underage drinking incidents, which resulted in the hospitalization of one student.
Many will retaliate that underage drinking is a common aspect of college. Others will say that electing to be a part of a Greek organization is to set a higher standard as a college student. In the end, it's not going to change the poor habits some Greeks fall into or remedy the reputation of the fraternities and sororities actually making a positive difference.
GVSU's Alpha Tau Omega fraternity is well known for their 160 mile walk for multiple sclerosis, which has raised more than $100,000 in the past five years. Sig Ep, prior to its suspension, raised over $20,000 for childhood cancers through St. Baldrick's Foundation. While an amount of fundraising money doesn't prove the quality of an organization, the concept of philanthropy demonstrates the deeper rooted purpose and goals of a Greek organization.
Joining a fraternity or sorority is one of the biggest campus commitments in terms of time, energy and financing. It is an opportunity to network and create lasting relationships while being a part of a larger community that strives to make a difference. Many cite their experiences in Greek Life as some of the best of their college years, whether it be social or philanthropy events. Every year Greek Life contributes thousands of dollars to their respective charities all because it is what they signed up for when they accepted their 'bid'.
Each individual chooses their respective Greek organization based on what they hope to get out of the experience, which could be volunteer opportunities, lasting friendships or even parties. Realizing the mistakes made by past Greek organizations reside in the select few who chose to make the poor decisions and not every brother or sister within the organization can help reduce the stereotyping of the community.
At the end of the day, humans are going to make mistakes whether they
"rep their letters" or not. Focusing solely on the wrongdoing of some and not the positive actions of others is failing to see how an entire group can overcome the discrepancies of a few. Hopefully, the Greek Life community will continue to make strides to improve their campus reputation and shy away from the negative stereotypes that still loom over them.