Point/Counterpoint: Does Greek life belong at SFU?

No, it doesn’t!

By Katrina Trask

Pranks, panty raids, hazing, and parties are the first images that come to mind when one mentions Greek life at a university. These images have been around since fraternities and sororities were introduced in 1824. And while Greek life at Vancouver institutions, such as UBC, dates back to 1921, the always-radical SFU has yet to establish any form of Greek life on campus.

Should SFU follow the crowd and incorporate these campus clubs? I don’t think so. People who support Greek life have argued that fraternities and sororities offer opportunities to network, become involved in volunteer work and fundraising, and make friends. Yet what supporters of Greek life often fail to realize is that, statistically, these clubs seem to value social life more than academic life, can be hubs of exclusivity and discrimination, and can be physically dangerous to students.

To be a member of a fraternity requires a large time investment due to a plethora of events, such as parties, formals, rush week, fundraisers, and volunteering. All these activities leave little time to study or do homework. So little time, in fact, that a study carried out by Bloomberg View, earlier this year, found that fraternity members have lower grades and underperform in cognitive tests compared to their non-membered peers.

Greek life puts students’ health at risk, as hazing rituals can be dangerous both physically and mentally.

Furthermore, exclusivity found in Greek life appears to be income-based. The average female in a UBC sorority commits to spending $900 to $1,400 in dues for four years, with new members paying anywhere from $1,000 to $1,400. A study at Princeton University also concluded that 70 per cent of Greek life members at Princeton come from families that make more than $150,000 a year. These payment requirements exclude students from low income families.

The same Princeton study found that racial discrimination was prominent, as 88 per cent of Greek life members at the institution are white. Also, the University of Alabama has seen cases where women have been denied sorority membership because of their race.

Finally, Greek life puts students’ health at risk, as hazing rituals can be dangerous both physically and mentally. According to Hank Nuwer, a professor at Franklin College in Indiana, there have been 104 deaths related to hazing in the US, since 1970.

These deaths have occurred from both alcohol consumption and physical violence, as there are high rates of binge drinking and sexual assault within fraternity houses. The Bloomberg study states that 90 per cent of fraternity residents engage in binge drinking, compared with 45 per cent of non-members. Furthermore, ‘frat boys’ are more likely to commit sexual assault than their non-member peers.

The justification for introducing Greek life to SFU is flawed. The exclusivity, anti-intellectualism, and dangers associated with Greek life have overshadowed any benefits, as hazing deaths, sexual assaults, and numerous forms of discrimination have made the news too often to count. Fortunately, there are other ways to be involved in community service, network, and make valuable friendships without being discriminatory or sacrificing one’s academic career and health. Thankfully, Simon Fraser University has replaced Greek life with an abundance of student clubs, events, and centres on campus, which help to do just that.

Yes, it does!

By Arjan Mundy

Belonging at SFU is an ill-defined concept. SFU Confessions is filled with posts about people who simply commute to and from campus; people who seem to believe that they do not belong on campus after their classes end. Because of so many similar stories, many of us start to actually believe the commuter campus myth that has become an infamous part of SFU’s culture.

Community at our university is not as prevalent as it should, and could, be. Let’s be clear, we have the potential to be much more than a commuter campus. Within smaller, more tightly knit communities people can feel a sense of belonging, and our university can truly develop the sturdy cords of community it needs. This is exactly what Greek life provides.

For example, the SFU-related fraternity Tau Kappa Epsilon, has allowed me opportunities that I would have never imagined when the colony was first founded. When establishing TKE, the idea was simple: to make the university experience as inclusive for as many people as possible.

So TKE began hosting a variety of events to accommodate different groups of people on campus. It has accomplished everything from philanthropic events, to tailgates, to handing out cards that simply say “Smile, you’re awesome.” Our minds are set on trying to make the majority of the student population believe: “I belong at SFU.”

The media would rather sensationalize hazing scandals than cover the many hours of community service fraternities and sororities worldwide engage in.

Despite the many positive attributes Greek life has, there are many points against it; points that seem completely valid if you accept some of the more antiquated notions that surround fraternities and sororities. For example, many will look at some of the hazing scandals and assume they are a staple in the Greek lifestyle.

To counter this point, I could talk about the strict rules and regulations that many fraternities have around hazing, but at the base of this discussion is the fact that hazing makes headlines. Being a communications student has forced me to take a critical look at the media, and a resurfacing trend is how well the audience reacts to negative news, as opposed to its positive counterpart.

So the media would rather sensationalize hazing scandals than cover the many hours of philanthropic work and community service fraternities and sororities worldwide engage in. TKE has raised more than $300,000 towards a cancer research facility, and that’s just one organization out of many.

Yes, Greek life does have its problems. I, myself, struggle with archaic traditions around gender. However, it also produces students that are committed to reaching out to one another and contributing to their communities. These students are progressive enough to not buy into obsolete traditions, and passionate enough to really bring about change; not only within their organizations and for their members, but for the entire student population.

Minimizing or banning Greek communities is not the answer. Things are never black and white. We have to be willing to continue opening this space for discussion, and be ready to engage and create solutions that are nuanced — that make space for the good, while working to mitigate the not-so-good. That being said, Greek life could be an amazing addition to campus life, and belongs at SFU.