October 6, 2017

HAGOPIAN | Greek Life Should Not Exist: Part II

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I’m fairly certain that one of the Confucian philosophers advised his pupils to learn something from everyone and everything from no one. And if Donald Trump has taught me anything, it’s that successful people always double down. My last column, “Greek Life Should Not Exist” elicited some negative feedback two Fridays ago. I’ve read these opposing viewpoints, I’ve considered them, and I remain convinced that I am right.

A 50-year old conservative alumnus sees the world in a profoundly different way than I do. I can see why he would disagree with me on this issue, but I was profoundly disappointed by the pushback I got from my fellow liberals. People that are socially conscious enough to decry the phrase “not all white people” turn around and say “not all fraternities.” People that see the problem with calling protests divisive claim that the debate over Greek life shouldn’t be “us vs. them.” They post paragraphs on Facebook saying that we should “facilitate dialogues and confabulations to foster heterogeneity and beget Pan-Hellenic emendation.” Some of the words in these manifestos might be good to know for scrabble, but otherwise I see no point to them.

I’d like to bring your attention to something I call Rule #47 of The Whiny Liberal’s Ad Hoc Rules of Progressivism: when the group with all the power starts complaining about being stereotyped, it’s probably a sign that there’s a turd in the proverbial punch bowl. Whatever people like me might say about you, the title of your guest column should never be “The Attacks on Greek Life Have Gone Too Far.” The toxic culture within your institution is literally killing people. The fact that you rush to defend your image while these issues persist tells me everything I need to know about where your collective head is at. Such a thing almost brings to mind… oh, I don’t know… the president tweeting in defense of himself and his administration during the crisis in Puerto Rico. It’s a bad, bad look.

Give me one more chance to try and sway you to my side. I state my argument as eloquently as I possibly can in the next four paragraphs; if you read them and remain unconvinced, we shall have to agree to disagree.

I’m told that some of the pros of Greek life are friendship, fraternal brotherhood, and a sense of community. The list of cons includes sexual assault, substance abuse, hazing, and discrimination propagated by systemic exclusion and hyper-masculine posturing. If you take what I just said to be true, then I’m sure you agree that the cons far outweigh the pros.

A commenter on The Sun’s Facebook page said that if I was going to make claims about the negative effects of aspects of Greek Life, I should at least have numbers to back them up. In a brilliant and time-saving rhetorical swish-of-the-cape on my part, I say to you that I don’t need statistical evidence. Instead, I concede for the sake of the argument that the popular conception of fraternities is indeed nothing more than a stereotype. And I assume for the sake of the argument that the number of bias incidents, overdoses and sex crimes attributable to all fraternities everywhere is a grand total of one. You pick which; it could be the hazing death of Penn State student Timothy Piazza, the recent assault in Collegetown, or any other despicable under-punished incident that tickles your fancy. Now I ask you, o reader, to revisit the evaluation of pros and cons, weighing that one incident against all the brotherhood and male bonding in every fraternity in America. Maybe it’s just me, but I think the cons still outweigh the pros. And it’s not even close.

In her letter to the editor entitled “This is not ‘us versus them’,” Sarah Karkoura writes that “trying to squash the Greek system will only produce alternative social hierarchies with less regulation and more toxicity than their predecessor.” The logic of this statement seems a little suspect, but against my better judgment I will again concede for the sake of the argument that it is valid. And I ask you yet again, o esteemed Cornell Daily Sun patron, to bring your mind back to that metaphorical set of old-fashioned brass scales you’ve been picturing. And I want you to weigh two options. On one side there is the option of letting all fraternities everywhere continue to exist and keeping all that down-home melt-in-your-mouth fraternal brotherhood. On the other side, the option of having an outside chance of possibly preventing the next Timothy Piazza. It’s not a sure thing (thank you, Sarah), but it’s an outside chance all the same. I pick the second option every day of the week and twice on Sunday. And just like before, it’s not even close.

I admit that the above logic doesn’t apply in all cases. Some institutions do bad things in order to prevent worse ones. There are a great many difficult decisions that have to be made in this world. But the decision on fraternities is not one of them. They’re social clubs. They don’t have to exist. What do you think would happen if someone drank themselves to death at a meeting of the Society for Debate in Sciences and Health? They’d be disbanded faster than you can say “cisgenic GMO.”

I do not believe that every member of the Greek system is a terrible person. But a truly good person is willing to give up certain things in their life to benefit others whom they will never meet. I come from a family of very experienced drivers. My stepdad is a car savant that races trucks in his spare time, and I spent a great deal of my formative years on the farm driving tractors. When I turned 16, I probably could have gotten a few quick lessons from my family and started driving on the road without posing any more of a threat than the average motorist. Yet I still sat through those god-forsaken rules-of-the-road classes and those guided driving lessons and whatever else. I gave up something I valued, in this case my free time, even though I had done nothing wrong. I did so because graduated licensing (as my driving instructor called it) reduces accident rates and saves lives. The metaphor isn’t perfect, but the point remains. Society is built on a people’s willingness to give up small freedoms for the good of their fellow man.


Ara Hagopian is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at ahagopian@cornellsun.com. The Whiny Liberal appears alternate Fridays this semester.

  • NV81Grad

    Who needs stats you say , well all those things that you associate with Frats are more common among the general student population living in dorms at Cornell. There are far more drug overdoses in dorm rooms than in Frats and there are far more sex crimes that occur in dorms than in Frats and there are way more bias incidents that originate in the dorms than Frats. You obliviously have your opinion and that’s fine, but when you try to project your opinion as fact then you do need stats, and in this case without the facts (stats) your just making yourself look foolish.

    • Jay Wind

      Cornell conducts “customer satisfaction surveys” of its students. I would be that students who lived in fraternities and sororities have a higher overall satisfaction with their Cornelll experience than students who did not.

      I would also bet that if one looks at the composition of the students in fraternities and sororities, they are more diverse than the students living in the Latino Living Center or Ujamaa. Fraternities and sororities take the mandate to have a diverse membership more seriously than have the LLC or Ujamaa.

      I would urge Cornell to make all of the data public.

  • Thomas Sowell

    I stopped reading at “I don’t need statistical evidence.” Only a liberal could be so ignorant to the facts. And kudos to the Sun for publishing this garbage.

    • bigredalumnus

      “Only a liberal could be so ignorant of facts”? Do you always gratuitously poke potential allies in the eye? I bet that’s working for you well.

    • Memoi

      Its just bad writing period. Her analogies are terrible. Girl needs an English/Comp class stat!

  • Map4Territory

    I respect the structure of the argument that the writer used. As mentioned by the writer, my opposition to the piece stems from my disagreement that Greek life propagates sexual assault, substance abuse, and discrimination. However, the analogies used by the writer are terrible. In the Timothy Piazza example, you could easily use the same argument to criminalize alcohol consumption. In fact, you can pretty much substitute anything in there to make anything illegal. The last analogy was better but I think the writer misunderstands their own experiences. Because you were potentially dangerous behind the wheel you took steps to improve your driving. You didn’t attempt to ban automobiles all together.

    And the writer still hasn’t actually explained how all of these events are connected to each other and to innocent fraternity members across the country. He dismisses them by arguing that because the structure of the argument is used poorly by racists in one situation, it cannot be applied to any other situation ever. That’s wishful handwaving of an actual important part of this conversation. Many of these groups share nothing in common other than Greek letters on their house.

  • crasher1339

    Holy cow what a terrible piece of writing. I couldn’t be more stupid and condescending than this if I tried. I saw just as much sexual abuse, substance abuse and misogynism in college town apartment parties as I ever did in my fraternity. What’s next, outlaw bars, sporting events and any other place where people sometimes behave poorly? Typical elitist, politically correct nonsense. I think the writer should go to his nearest safe space and leave the grownups alone.

    • Jay Wind

      Come on now, if a column has to proclaim itself to be “articulate”, we know that its author recognizes the writing deficiencies. The Cornell fraternity system has been around since the campus opened for students. Just as Cornell is a unique educational institution thanks to the vision of its cofounders, Cornell fraternities are unlike those of other schools, because AD White launched them with a different vision. Penn State has been morally corrupt in a number of ways, and nobody is surprised when its fraternities also lack a moral compass. To argue Timothy Piazza is to assume that the students, faculty, staff and alumni who take an active role in Cornell fraternities do not and cannot deliver a more ethical and safe environment than Penn State.

  • Memoi

    Your “logic” is naive to reality. The cons you list exist in society period. They are not limited to greek life. Stating that getting rid of fraternities would prevent these acts is very unintelligent. Thats like saying if we get rid of prisons no one will commit crimes. You dont have the stats to back up anything you say which is dangerous media period. Take your own advice, stop stereotyping those in greek life as entitled rapists, and realize thousand throughout the world benefit from greek life. You should willingly give up your issues with greeks for people to have the freedom to join whatever group they want/for the good of mankind.