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Reframing the Socialization of Greek Life

Reframing the Socialization of Greek Life

Today, several institutions of higher learning are considering excluding single-sex fraternities and sororities from their campuses. Dartmouth College’s quest to abolish all-male and all-female Greek arrangements from their campus and substitute them with a coeducational model constrains the formal socialization among the sexes. The collegiate landscape indeed has become complex with a myriad of ancillary vehicles linked to an academic mission, however barring single-sex organizations is not the answer to improving the quality of campus life.
The National InterFraternity Conference (NIC), National Panhellenic Conference (NPC), and the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC) represent 99 national and international men’s and women’s fraternities with more than 700,000 undergraduate members in chapters on 800 campuses in the United States and Canada. More than 10,000,000 alumni can boast of the accolades of their memberships and accomplishments in society. The basic tenets of most Greek letter organizations include service, scholarship, fellowship, brotherhood, and sisterhood. Greeks have united people from various racial, religious, and socio-political backgrounds within a context of principals, rituals, and beliefs.
Yes, many organizations have their darker side of rambunctious behavior and undesirable conduct, however college educators must challenge — firmly — violations of university policy without hesitation. Furthermore, the student Greek leadership must police itself, and remove members who are not fulfilling their obligations and who jeopardize their organization’s existence.
But the premise that barring single-sex fraternities and sororities will resolve binge drinking, eliminate hazing, improve the socialization between genders, and serve as a powerful antidote to some complex problems is one that may only provide topical relief. One question speaks for itself — can you remove alcohol abuse from a campus environment by eliminating single-sex fraternities? The answer is no.
As for membership intake processes: The acts of hazing, in all its manifestations, are unnecessary and have proved to cause harm to individuals, families, and the careers of promising men and women. Expectations of college administrators, and Greek officials on the national, regional, and local levels must be explicit so that unfortunate incidents of malice will dissipate. College students should ably select the framework in their preferred “rites of passage.” Isn’t college an opportunity of personal and social development and growth, notwithstanding the tidal wave of coeducation?
As a student affairs director and a member of the Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc., I retort that education with policy enforcement will combat issues espoused by some of my higher education colleagues who insist that elimination is necessary. Colleges teach values to students by the standards they set for themselves. By constraining student social structures, we separate people — or worse, we reinforce stereotypes and prejudices. Perhaps single-sex fraternities and sororities should employ more systematic collaborations to advocate their celebrations and traditions in a way that the university community can embrace them.
Choices indeed have consequences and I suggest that educators seek other means of resolution to address the perceived social-ills of fraternal men and women on campus.

— O. Darryl Butler is the director of campus life at Fairleigh Dickinson University on its Teaneck/Hackensack campus in Teaneck, N. J.

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