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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Column: It’s time to confront frats

    The past few weeks have not been good ones for Greek Life as an institution. In mid-November, campus was abuzz with news of the assault on Jewish fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi by another fraternity, Sigma Alpha Epsilon, on Nov. 14. According to KVOA, around 15 members of SAE went to the home of AEPi members, yelled ethnic slurs and physically attacked a handful of AEPi brothers.

    The incident caps a disturbing pattern of violence, rape and drug abuse that seems to accompany Greek Life, not just at the UA, but nationwide. It is becoming increasingly difficult to justify its presence at the UA.

    Even before the attack, both fraternities were on unstable footing with the law. SAE and AEPi are currently under investigation at the UA for events related to hazing and alcohol. A Bloomberg study released last December declared that SAE is the nation’s “deadliest fraternity” — a catchphrase that is now commonly associated with the brotherhood. More people have died in relation to SAE events than with any other fraternity. Nine students have died from intense hazing practices, including an Arizona State University student whose body was found dead in a lake after alcohol intake at an SAE party.

    In 2013, an SAE member at Salisbury University, Justin Stuart, came forward with a firsthand account of the fraternity’s infamous pledge process, which included physical abuse with paddles, drinking to the point of passing out, standing naked in buckets of ice and isolation in a black basement with no toilet, food or water while blasting one loud, foreign song on repeat for nine hours.

    These accounts seem antithetical to a healthy academic community, but they are not the only strikes against fraternities. Just at the UA, more than 75 percent of fraternities are either under investigation or under sanctions for wrongful conduct. That’s not even including the five that have lost recognition status, four of which have the opportunity to return to campus within the next five years.

    Rolling Stone recently released a groundbreaking story about a historical tradition of rape and assault in the University of Virginia fraternity system. It centers on a fraternity that was expelled from the UA but will be allowed to return in 2016, Phi Kappa Psi. Rolling Stone unearthed a long series of violent rape cases that have been an integral part of the fraternity system at UVA, in which brothers systematically gang rape young, female partygoers.

    The article tells the story of one student who was led into a room by her date, only to be attacked by seven brothers who violently raped her under instructions and encouragement from the others. The event was likely hazing-related. The girl recalls one of the brothers egging another on by saying that the older class of pledges had to do it, so the new class did as well if they wanted to be part of the frat. Similar cases of gang rape at the house date back at least 30 years. The article also cites a statistic that has become common knowledge over the past year: Joining a fraternity makes a student three times more likely to commit rape.

    This is not to say that students in fraternities and sororities are evil. They are not. Many of my closest friends are involved in fraternities, and I have enjoyed various greek events.

    Fraternities and sororities are hubs on campus that raise thousands of dollars every year for charities. They provide friend groups for new students and require a minimum GPA, ensuring a baseline level of academic excellence. However, the current system is not necessarily beneficial to a university community.

    Greek Life is not the “opt-in” system it appears to be. It dominates the social scene of a university. As Rolling Stone put it, “Frats are often the sole option for an underage drinker looking to party, since bars are off-limits, sororities are dry and first-year students don’t get many invites to apartment soirees.” Male students are not allowed into fraternity parties unless they are members. If they want to be a part of the nightlife, they are compelled to rush, which divides them into exclusive groups based on their personalities, physical appearances and economic situations. It costs thousands of dollars to be a member for four years.

    These divisions foster unnecessary tensions among groups, climaxing in stories such as AEPi and SAE’s. The groups claim to foster brotherhood and academic excellence, but in reality, they push the university social scene into a threatening cycle of abuse — one universities are refusing to end because the system is such a draw among alumni and students.

    If we are going to continue to allow fraternities to dominate our university system, we need to take cases against them seriously. If they abuse their power, the university should stand behind student safety and take bold measures against them — not merely slap them on the wrists with training and probation. A middle ground needs to be reached where a university can reap the benefits of Greek Life while maintaining a safe, inclusive social sphere.

    Anything less is bad not just for universities but for fraternities. It’s hard to make use of leadership and networking skills with drugs, violence and rape on your record.

    Julianna Renzi is a sophomore studying environmental science and economics. Follow her on Twitter.

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