Greek life isn’t all it appears to be

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Art by Yoo Young Chun

Neya Thanikachalam, Editor-in-chief

I binge-watched “Scream Queens” in three days. Both seasons. It was the mix between cheesy horror and exaggeration of Greek life norms that hooked me.

Chanel Oberlin, played by actress Emma Roberts, is the conniving, vain and surprisingly intelligent head of Kappa Tau, the fictional sorority in the series. I’d say character-wise, she’s very similar to Regina George of “Mean Girls.”

Oberlin wanted to continue leading Kappa Tau like her predecessor had — keeping it a selective house with handpicked members who would have to survive her hazing rituals and live miserably until Oberlin graduated and got married to a rich man so she could live her life in splendor.

There is also a fraternity in the show, called the Dickie Dollar Scholars, whose main pastime was hitting golf balls at the “lesser” students on campus and dating almost every girl on the show.

And, of course, there were twists and turns and murder, but I’m not going to get into that. So let’s go back to Greek life.

I knew that sororities and fraternities weren’t as bad as the show portrayed them. Right?

I remember reading an article from The Atlantic titled “The Dark Power of Fraternities” by Caitlin Flanagan. As I read the article, I felt a strange mixture of disbelief and horror after learning of what inebriated college students were capable of doing.

In the article, it mentions that although fraternities have created a sense of community among American men and “raise[d] millions of dollars for worthy causes, contribute[d] millions of hours in community service, and seek[ed] to steer young men toward lives of service and honorable action,” they also “have a long, dark history of violence against their own members and visitors to their houses, which makes them in many respects at odds with the core mission of college itself.”

As the article mentioned, there are some benefits to fraternities and sororities.

In a TeenVogue article titled “Is it time to ban Greek life? Colleges make a case against sororities,” a member of a sorority at the University of Michigan states that her sorority provides her with “community, mentorship, and a built-in set of best friends.”

But in that same article it mentions how a girl came up to her sorority members claiming she was raped by a member of a fraternity and her sisters either “didn’t believe her or bad-mouthed her, because they didn’t want to stop going to that house.”

In fact, the National Institute of Justice reported that sorority membership is one of the factors that increase the risk of assault.

According to this report, “almost a quarter of sexual assault victims were sorority members, whereas only 14 percent of non-victims were sorority members.”

And sorority members who do get raped are afraid to speak out. They worry about the repercussions from within their own sororities. That does not sound like an accepting community to me, but instead just like the sororities that I didn’t believe existed outside of television.

More recently, I read a TIME article titled “A Deadly Campus Tradition” about deaths on college campuses due to fraternity and sorority hazing. The article cites many different cases, the most current being that of 19-year-old Tim Piazza, a Penn State University student who died after “he had been forced to drink a toxic amount of alcohol in an alleged hazing ritual known as ‘the gauntlet.’”

On Nov. 13, new charges against Piazza’s fraternity brothers were announced, which include involuntary manslaughter, aggravated assault and hazing. These accusations were brought forward after examination of a video that was recovered after it was manually deleted. The video shows that Piazza was given 18 drinks in an hour and 22 minutes, which is too much alcohol for a grown man, let alone a 19-year old, to handle.

The TIME article also references a study done in 2008 that found that about 73 percent of “fraternity and sorority members have experienced hazing.”

If this was discovered in 2008, why haven’t there been any changes to sorority and fraternity culture?

In the same TIME article it states that critics believe that the reforms are too small to cause any significant changes in fraternity and sorority operations. The only way to bring about any reform, they say, is to completely change the way that fraternities and sororities function.

But I don’t know how soon that’s going to happen. At the rate that we’re going, unfortunately, it will probably be another death on campus that will lead to any meaningful reform.

Either way, what I do know is that I’ll probably not be pledging to a sorority anytime soon, after I graduate.