Earlier this year, the hazing death of 19-year-old student Timothy Piazza during a pledge event at Penn State’s Beta Theta Pi fraternity shocked the country.
The death garnered attention due to its highly documented, visual nature.
(Security footage provided a detailed account of events on the night of his death.)
In fact, since 1970, there has been at least one hazing-related death on college campuses every year. And hazing is far from the only problem that plagues fraternities.
We reached out to writers at various college newspapers throughout the United States and asked for their opinions on the status of fraternities today.
Here’s what our campus correspondents had to say.
Fraternities wield power — and perpetuate inequalities — beyond campus.
- Gravitas Ventures
University of Pittsburgh student Christian Snyder argues that even if fraternities have their benefits, only a small group can even access them, ensuring that they perpetuate race-, class-, and gender-based discrimination.
The power they wield extends far beyond campus.
Greek organizations have a political Super PAC representing them (Fraternity and Sorority Political Action Committee), that pushed bills that to limit college rape investigations.
85 percent of US Supreme Court justices, 76 percent of US congressmen, 80 percent of Fortune 500 executives, and nearly every president belonged to a fraternity.
Snyder pushes for the complete abolishment of fraternities. Read his post here.
Fraternities are homogenous in nature across multiple dimensions.
- Flickr / ken fager
Among other things, fraternities require their members to pay semesterly dues, averaging $605 nationwide.
In many ways, “Greek life has become a microcosm of widening U.S. economic inequality. “
Ethnicity-based fraternities aside, fraternities are overwhelmingly white and are lacking when it comes to the inclusion of LGTBQ+ individuals.
Reyes concludes: “College is a place where individuals are supposed to learn how to interact with people who are different from them, but fraternities are getting in the way.”
Read his post here.
Fraternities are built on outdated values and encourage thinking that have no place in modern culture and society.
University of Washington student Mac Hubbard points out that fraternities are based on simplistic, outdated ideals: “[i]t’s golden era thinking and team colors – you say red is better, I say blue.”
These ideals suppress individualism, and may have helped contribute to the deaths of students like Piazza. Many seek to join fraternities because of their desire to belong to a larger group and lose their sense of morality in the process.
A future without fraternities will be difficult to achieve, but “we are learning how to slowly undo them while our conversations have increasingly focused on rethinking them completely.”
Read Hubbard’s post here.
Fraternities offer members a tight-knit community, which can help them grow and get through tough times.
Cornell student Paul Russell struggled with the notion of joining a fraternity at first, but it was a decision that he was glad he made.
“I have friends who say that their fraternities helped them get through the deaths of parents and harsh breakups,” he wrote.
He pleads with readers to not construe the deaths of Piazza and others for innate fraternity activity. Rather, they happened “because people created a bastardization” of true fraternity life.
Generally, a strong, close-knit support system “can work wonders for a students’ college experience.”
Read Russell’s post here.
There are individual chapters within Greek life that have made positive contributions to the greater community.
According to University of Washington student Joy Geerkens, there are individual chapters within their communities that “act as unwavering beacons of light in their community” and “set examples for future generations of students to follow.”
She believes that they often go underreported because the public is biased towards hearing about negative events surrounding fraternities since they appear more entertaining.
In 2017, the Alpha Chapter of U Wash’s Phi Delta Theta raised $28,000 dollars for philanthropies helping the visually impaired and $9,500 for both diabetes research and supporting youth in foster care.
Read Geerkens’ post here.
Universities are unlikely to abolish fraternities in the near future.
- Tufts University/Facebook
Despite all the problems that Greek life has, the fact remains that university adminstrations are unwilling to abolish it, Tufts student Hannah Kahn writes.
Tufts’ administration has gone on record saying that there “no viable alternatives [to fraternities] at this moment.“
And that’s despite the fact that Tufts has a small Greek life scene with 15 fraternities/sororities to Penn State’s 83. Other colleges with larger programs are even less likely to budge.
“Tufts’ decision to keep Greek Life seems to indicate that no matter how much pushback an administration gets from their student body, they tend todefer=”defer”to tradition, alumni, and their donations.”
The best remaining option, she concludes, is to reform the system from within.
Read Kahn’s post here.
Fraternities’ failures are indicative of a broader moral crisis plaguing education as a whole.
- Flickr / Melissa Hicks
Syracuse student Kelsey Thompson argues that fraternities facilitate “environments where young men are honed to believe that loyalty to one’s brotherhood trumps their moral integrity.”
She believes that the solution must ultimately come from university administrations, who must take greater accountability and place an increased emphasis on education.
Colleges shouldn’t just teach students about their career paths. They should walk away knowing “how to shape themselves into thoughtful, compassionate members of society.”
But she also places a share of the responsibility on fraternities, calling on them to hold themselves to a higher moral standard.
Read Thompson’s post here.