Opinion Submission: If you abolish Greek life, you don’t do anything positive

| Class of 2020

The Sigma Nu house on a snowy February day. Photo by Nina Bergman | Student Life

Without doubt, fraternities have not been held to account for their actions — for our actions.

I joined Sigma Chi my freshman year at WashU. I loved it. I met some of my best friends, people I will consider brothers as long as I live.

We weren’t hazed, but we were initiated. Being in a fraternity offered a level of baseline social clout that attracted a wide array of people: athletes, rich kids, poor kids who wanted to meet rich kids, middle class kids, kids who liked to drink, kids who liked to smoke weed, kids who like literature and French film, kids who liked to drink…

It was an awesome experience that I wish more people could live. It was fun, but it wasn’t perfect.

We made mistakes and I made mistakes. Innocuous things, like smoking weed indoors. Serious mistakes, like fighting or drug abuse. The vice was inextricably linked with the fun. 

When people in a social climate predicated on resistance and change see an imperfect facet of an institution, they are always going to attack it. Frankly, they should. 

Change never comes without disruption, and I relish such disruption. I worked for the Prison Education Project while at WashU, and I am a proud prison abolitionist. Generally speaking, I distrust and despise authority.

Based on that paragraph, you would imagine that I, too, wish to abolish Greek life. I don’t.

I loved being in Greek life and I love my fraternity brothers as I love WashU. It was a vital part of my experience and I don’t want other people to miss out on that experience. Male, female, gay, straight, Black, white, Latino, Asian, Jewish, Christian, Muslim. Whomever. I want that person to share my joy.

If you abolish Greek life, you don’t do anything positive. Perhaps you feel better for reaching an arbitrary goal set by a digital mob, but you don’t achieve anything that will improve anyone’s life.

You don’t stop sexual assault; you don’t end exclusion or racism. You just eliminate a fun part of a university that already takes itself too seriously.

Here are some alternatives that may actually lead to positive change:

  1. Further entrench Greek life in the University to guarantee organizational accountability.
  2. Mandate that every student in a fraternity become a mandatory reporter, and make the mere accusation of assault grounds for dismissal from Greek life.
  3. Mandate that 20% or more of Greek organizations’ budgets be directed towards scholarships so first-generation college students can join Greek life. This will allow the most economically disadvantaged students to more easily access the most privileged and connected students.
  4. Give fraternity houses to sororities and queer organizations, and designate a house for WashU’s Prison Education Project. The men can take the lounges that sororities have been forced to use for years. (Sorry, lads.)

Don’t cancel my fraternity. Don’t cancel Greek life. Don’t cancel fun. Don’t cancel: think. College is for thinking and having fun. Lean into both. If you want to be an activist, read Foucault and help me try to dismantle the carceral system. Don’t waive signs at guys drinking beer on their porch. It doesn’t make you a hero, and it definitely doesn’t make you cool. 

If you really want us gone or off campus, protest to your heart’s content. Practice your right to free speech with vigor, and respect our right to assemble.

To the current students, I’m sorry your experience has been interrupted by COVID-19. Sometimes the revolution isn’t televised and sometimes cable just sucks.

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