Regardless of what the Interfraternity Council wants you to believe, fraternity is not for all. Most of us live in varying degrees of denial of this fact, but repeating “Greek life is bad” over and over dulls the message to those who need to hear it, and prevents us from discussing the deeper issues.
The first fraternities were made up of wealthy white men who had enough free time to sit around and come up with elitist group names. It is and always has been exclusionary. Everyone loves to shit on Greek life, but we are all components of the system. It’s the conflict of loving the benefits and simultaneously suffering from the many shortcomings. Frat parties wouldn’t exist if in no one showed up. You can’t distance yourself because you’re unaffiliated.
As recent events remind us, everyone has the capacity to be hurt by the Greek system, but those most affected are in marginalized groups. The Greek system upholds privilege. It is a microcosm of the many issues inherent to American society. It protects wealthy white men from the consequences of committing hate crimes. It allows their wealthy white girlfriends to bail them out before they can make it to jail. It protects their names and their faces to bypass character assassination and preserve their bright futures. Greeks, the system doesn’t need you to protect it. It was not built in a day. I promise your alcohol and affordable housing will live another year.
Thus, a white fraternity can be kicked off campus for invalidating and enacting violence against women, safely reorganize 5 minutes from Ho Plaza without being called a gang and commit a hate crime, but Black Students United can’t comment on the crime without being reported and silenced.
I chose to be in Greek life, but membership is a privilege and a strain. The intersections of my identity often lead certain types of people to think I speak for entire groups. I am expected to be an expert on “wokeness” and patient enough to answer invasive questions with kindness. In spite of my discomfort, I have spearheaded discussions on race, religion, LGBTQIA+ issues and more, because there are no institutional systems in place to promote diversity and inclusion. I put in the work to make the lives of marginalized Greek members a little easier. Unfortunately, closeness to Greek life does not equate to safety or comfort, and my white counterparts do not put in the same efforts to promote change. It is not the responsibility of oppressed groups to end their oppression — it’s the job of those perpetuating and benefiting from discriminatory systems to change their behavior.
It may be easier for you to stomach, like and share the usual “Greek life is bad” mantra, but that superficial thinking won’t help those who need it most. Instead, share news articles and uplift the voices of marginalized groups without talking over them. Use your privilege to elevate those who are silenced and underrepresented.
If the administration actually cared, they would realize that kicking Greek organizations off campus is never enough. Maybe they could put some of their endowment and that ambiguous student activities fee toward mandatory diversity and inclusion programs. Maybe they could hold criminals accountable. If not, the same people will exist in the same social circles with the same viewpoints and the same apathy towards change. Greek life can’t be dismissed, it must be dismantled.
Majelia Ampadu is a junior in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. Guest Room appears periodically throughout the semester.