Editor’s Note: The views the writer expresses in this column are his own and do not reflect that of the Daily Lobo as a whole.
The history of Greek Life on university and college campuses has no shortage of drama. In recent years, fraternities and sororities across the nation have faced troubling incidents, including racism, homophobia and sexual assault.
One fraternity at Syracuse even achieved the trifecta by mocking or doing all of these acts in one video.
Even at the University of New Mexico, Greek organizations face their fair share of troubling behaviors. Pi Kappa Alpha (PIKE), Phi Gamma Delta (FIJI) and Phi Delta Theta (Phi Delt) came under investigation last year for violating university policies relating to alcohol and hazing. FIJI had its entire charter revoked, while PIKE and Phi Delt were both placed on probation, the latter of which just ended in January.
One sorority, Kappa Kappa Gamma, came under fire last semester for racial remarks made by a member during a meeting with other Greek organizations.
UNM's fraternities and sororities are showing symptoms of a much larger problem with Greek organizations, one that fosters an exclusive, dangerous and unaccepting image. In response to these scandals, Greek organizations and their members often tout their charitable and philanthropic activities. It’s an argument made by journalists, student newspapers and even ASUNM senators.
And, in all honesty, the numbers raised by Greek organizations are nothing short of impressive. According to the National Panhellenic Council’s (NPC) 2017-18 annual report, their 3,352 sorority chapters raised nearly $28 million. Fraternities and sororities at UNM raise large amounts of money for the Lobo Food Pantry and LoboThon. These are good causes that create valuable resources for the community and help lots of people.
Here’s the thing: until Greek Life orgs stop engendering an environment that allows and excuses racism, homophobia and sexual assault, I don’t care. I really don’t.
The good causes members of Greek Life contribute to cannot be fully appreciated until these systematic issues are taken care of. It’s not just me; even the bodies overseeing the chapters realize that. The first three pages of the NPC report focuses exclusively on the need for their chapters, and Greek Life in general, to change.
The report notes that more than 50 percent of sexual assault against sorority members take place in a fraternity house, at a fraternity function or were committed by a fraternity member. NPC also lists joining a sorority as a risk factor for sexual assault.
Around one in five women in college will be sexually assaulted, and NPC said members of sororities are even more vulnerable than their peers. The suffering that many students in these organizations experience makes it difficult to focus on anything good that comes out of them.
Greek organizations are not the only charitable organizations to be ridden with scandal. I was a member of the Boy Scouts of America for 12 years. Like many members of Greek Life, I credit Scouting for helping me learn many leadership and interpersonal skills. The Boy Scouts perform incredible amounts of charitable service, both in the community and the wild.
However, it would be shortsighted of me to point out all the amazing things the Boy Scouts do without mentioning the homophobia, sexism, racism and multiple sex abuse scandals the organization has been responsible for. An investigation by the Washington Times found that 1,151 boys reported being abused in the program over a 19-year period, around 60 a year.
While the organization has bettered itself in recent years, I can’t recommend anyone join it until I feel they’ve fully dealt with these problems, many of which still need addressing today.
Of course, there are no absolutes in this argument. Not all members of Greek Life organizations are victims or perpetrators of sexual assault. Members who are LGBTQ and people of color find support in Greek Life and don’t experience discrimination. And most members don’t die as a result of merciless hazing — but too many do.
Far too many students, searching for a vague sense of brother/sisterhood, are harassed, assaulted and sometimes die because of the environment that Greek Life organizations cultivate, or at least allow to exist.
And until that is remedied, any charitable works done by Greek organizations will always ring a little hollow.
Kyle Land is the editor-in-chief for the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @kyleoftheland.