As students re-adjust to college life in person, predominantly white Greek fraternities are facing a reckoning for their histories of unchecked sexual assault. According to The Chronicle for Higher Education, “students at nearly 20 colleges have protested what they describe as a culture of sexual assault and drug abuse at fraternity parties,” with some going as far as to flip over a car that belonged to a specific fraternity. And the students are asking for more than just reforms of fraternity chapters—in some cases, they’re demanding that their schools shut down the Greek-life system entirely.
It would seem that every academic year, there is one story or another about fraternities and sororities on individual campuses doing horrible things. But coming into the current post-pandemic school year, after a year of no Greek life at all, there’s been an even greater concern from institutions that the social situation on the ground could be the worst it’s been in years. Plus, as the Chronicle reports, “more than half of sexual assaults occur between the start of the fall semester and Thanksgiving break.”
As a result of an unchanged system and a stunted social season, students against Greek life have made their stance abundantly clear. “One gathering, at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, turned violent, with people shattering windows and flipping over a car,” according to the Chronicle. This particular event was in response to an anonymous accusation of assault that was posted on social media but was not yet reported to the school at the time. In response, the accused chapter asked that Amherst’s chancellor defend them over what they perceived to be baseless allegations.
While it is crucial that the attitude toward Greek life evolves and becomes more critical of the system, the question is who is to blame? Removing every Greek organization that has ever done wrong from college campuses won’t erase sexual assault and risks increasing hazing deaths if organizations choose to operate “underground.” Certainly, there is blame to be placed on the schools themselves, which do next to nothing to punish individuals who can simply take a suspension or transfer to an entirely different school with the help of their frat brothers.
If the first step in the process is admitting you have a problem, then the Greek system has been stuck on it for the last few years. Whether the system is incapable or simply unwilling to take a second step really comes down to which side of the pledge line one finds themselves standing.