Opinion General

Frats are a plague and universities don’t care

Yes, we still need to argue this in 2017 for some reason.

The frat bro is a stereotypical part of university life. They’ve become such a cliché that it’s getting hard to notice their everyday shitty-bro antics. But at the end of the day, they’re just some dim dudes only hurting their livers, their gross houses, and each other, right?

The reality of fraternities is, of course, much starker. It’s not just time to get rid of frats now, it should’ve been done a long, long time ago. And administrations shouldn’t wait until someone dies to take action.

But why are the defenders of fraternities so quick to yell some idiotic variant of “not all men!”? If you legitimately want to join to do “philanthropy” work or aid your community, why do you need to join such a decrepit society to do it? It’s not hard to see why droves of University students are drawn to fraternities and sororities. The promise of elitist status, partying, and feeling of belonging to a group are commonly cited reasons. But why do males students want to associate with a group that has been shown to rape 300 per cent more than their counterparts? The “they’re not all bad!” angle is a useless yet classic favourite.

Repealing Greek life from American and Canadian campuses is obvious when tackling the issues of sexual assault, hazing, and alcohol abuse. These are real issues happening both out in the open and behind closed doors. And yes, even if you think your frat is one of the good ones, you big dope. It doesn’t matter if you don’t think it happens around you. It does happen and you’re enabling it to do so.

Though anti-frat editorials have been published in the Wall Street Journal, Time, and The Guardian, the idea of dismantling frats is not new. It’s as old as The Gateway itself. But so are convoluted pushbacks from frats.

The cycle is the same: someone points out the obvious reason why frats should be gone, and they angrily say why they’re actually good. Then we all forget. Their cliché responses are tiresome and sad: “It’s not really that bad,” “everyone is just too soft,” “people knew what they were signing up for,” and my personal favourite, “it’s just the fault of a few bad apples elsewhere.” But our own campus is rife with “bad apples,” and has been for quite some time.

Take U of A’s Delta Kappa Epsilon chapter. In 2010, video from DKE surfaced, showing sickening hazing. This included: pledges being forced to eat their own vomit, sleep deprivation, verbal abuse, and cramming up to thirty pledges in a claustrophobic piss soaked plywood box called “The Hilton.” This house full of Guantanamo Bay wannabees was suspended for five years following an investigation. After lobbying and doing “charity work,” the ban was lifted after three. In 2012, DKE planned a “Western Bros and Nava-hoes” event at the Ranch (of which the only action following was the frat having to take “sensitivity training” by one of their former alumni who is Aboriginal). The racism in the latter comes as no surprise when many frats are elitist groups often made up of mostly white men.

DKE’s “good boy” streak remains unfettered, when on September 7 of this year, a U of A student was savagely beaten at the DKE house and suffered a broken jaw and severe head injuries. I know what you’re thinking: “But they did so much ‘charity work!’ How could this happen?!” Truly incredible that the guys who held an off-campus party to celebrate being banned did not change.

That’s just recorded misconduct too. This doesn’t include sickening anecdotes that don’t make it out, or cases from the other ten frats or six sororities at the U of A. So don’t tell me the university cares about what happens on campus frats. They don’t.

In frats as a whole, one of the most widespread and destructive problems is rampant sexual violence. There’s no denying that rape culture is heavily perpetrated through frats across North America. As mentioned earlier, a 2007 study found that frat bros are 300 per cent more likely to rape than their counterparts. Another 2016 study also found that “sorority members are four more times as likely to be sexually assaulted than non-sorority members; this increased risk has been attributed to higher rates of alcohol consumption by both perpetrators and victims.” These two statistics alone should be enough to shutter every frat in the country. But they’re not.

The cause for dismantling frats continues with hazing. Hazing has always been and always will be attractive to fraternities, sororities, and sports teams because of its perception as a secret ritual that binds a set of common values. A 2017 study titled “It Happens, Just Not to Me: Hazing on a Canadian University Campus” explored the attitudes of students and how they justify legitimate cases of hazing. It cites hazing as “a large and complex social phenomenon, often publicized with stories and images of rapid alcohol consumption, harassment, physical beating, and humiliation.” This study outlined the lack of awareness towards what constitutes as hazing and what doesn’t. Students overwhelmingly thought that “an activity must be against one’s will in order to be defined as hazing” and largely did not account for the power of coercion in hazing dynamics. This is why hazing can be so hard to stop. Members view the humiliating acts as “voluntary” when they’re really just forcing a shit ton of scared first years and rookies into accepting tolling abuse. And schools “prohibiting” hazing does little to nothing. The researchers concluded that, “Although university administrators create policies to eliminate these activities, hazing traditions that are ingrained in the culture of organizations and groups tend to persist and thus continue to be problematic on many university campuses.”

Alcohol consumption is often the first thing blamed for the toxic atmosphere surrounding Greek life. So an obvious action would be to give drinking intervention seminars and courses, right? Well, it turns out frats are almost immune to alcohol intervention. A 2016 meta-study looked at 27 years of alcohol interventions, where researchers from Brown University concluded that fraternity members are incredibly adverse to alcohol education, because, among other reasons, members “view alcohol use as a means to achieve their social and sexual goals.” Not only do Greek members drink more, but so do non-Greek members at their events, further demonstrating the enabling environment. It should be noted that alcohol is obviously not the sole cause of rape. It’s men who are rapists and will continue to be if they drink or not, many of whom seem to flock to frats.

Banning these institutions isn’t some sort of 2017 no-fun or politically correct softie move either. The University of Alberta banned frats in 1909, when President Henry Marshall Tory ordered all societies disbanded. Students formed a lobbying group in 1927 and bans were reinstated when Tory left in 1929. Hmm, frats being banned for legitimate reasons but lobbying to get reinstated? Where have I heard that before?

Sadly, the problems with frats won’t completely go away if they’re banned. You can’t ban douchebaggery or fully stop entitled bros. Even if you do kill the frat, the problems with institutional misogyny, inequality, and white supremacy will still remain. But it’s a step up from what many universities, including the U of A, are doing: pretty much nothing.

Frats don’t need our sympathy. Not from students and not from administrations.

A first step should be kicking frats off their subsidized on-campus housing and stripping them of their status as recognized campus clubs. Even banning predatory on-campus recruiting would be a stellar start. We’ve all seen those shitheads running around orientation week trying to indoctrinate a bunch of 17- and 18-year-old first years.

If frats are unaffiliated with and away from university grounds, then administrations won’t actively bury stories and choose to protect them from liability. But this just pushes the problem elsewhere. Frats at Queens and Carleton University have been banned as far back as the 1930s, but the organizations continue to exist and recruit off campus. Universities should follow the footsteps of schools like Amherst College and prohibit students from even being in off-campus frats. End of story.

All of this just scratches the surface of decades of willful ignorance towards fraternities and sororities. If universities are happy with loudly exclaiming their support for ending sexual violence, racism, and hazing, here’s a place to start, where maybe their streaks of hypocrisy can end.

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