People are always searching for meaning — meaningful conversations, meaningful volunteer work and meaningful friends. We’re told that to be successful in college, we should strive to get get good grades and be a good person. But kids are most importantly encouraged to do the right thing.
In high school, teachers help to prepare students for college success by actively giving them career guidance to gauge future interests. By taking part in extracurriculars, students learn leadership skills that will supposedly guide them through their college careers. But the one thing our high school teachers and counselors fail to teach us is how to navigate the college party scene.
As fluorescent purple lights shine onto the faces of hundreds of sweaty girls and boys every weekend in overcrowded fraternity basements, dance and rap music echoes through the scene. Behind the self-constructed bar, pledges serve the drinks. For those unfamiliar with Greek life and college party culture, a pledge is a boy who wants to join the fraternity and has to partake in a variety of obscene tasks before becoming a brother.
No girl is prepared for the misogynistic culture in which girls are judged not by their character, but by their physical appearance. And no boy is prepared to intoxicate himself excessively in order to prove his own hyper masculinity to his fraternity brothers and to other girls. In a culture where depravity is glorified, there is an absence of moral sanity in the social scene of higher education.
College should be a place of intellectualism — a space where you find yourself and your ideas develop. But in order for that to occur, we must be in a position to feel things and meet people different from us in order to challenge our own worldview.
Sadly, the Greek system creates artificial diversity amongst a privileged sector of students. In order to join an organization, one must first be rendered a good fit. And “good fit” is subtext for sharing the same socioeconomic standing, race or ethnicity and cultural background as the existing members.
Often present within the college party scene is misogynistic gender behavior. To younger girls reading: I warn you now.
Cute boys with drinks will indeed give you attention, and you will find it flattering. They may follow you around that crowded basement, kiss you and dance with you as the music plays — but when they see you on the street walking down Commonwealth Avenue, they will probably ignore you. Don’t take it personally, because according to Alan DeSantis, a sociologist who conducted a study entitled “Inside Greek U,” boys who partake in this culture adhere to social norms that promote sexual promiscuity.
A fraternity member in the study said that in many fraternities, the “ideal guy is one who gets fucked by the hottest girls.”
Girls are objectified and become another number on a boy’s long list of hookups. The problem is that the power lies in the man’s hands, leaving women in a subordinate position which reinforces these patriarchal norms. Even if this is not the case in every fraternity, there is some amount of glorification surrounding sexual promiscuity, but what makes this problematic is that a girl is called a whore for the same behavior.
According to DeSantis, the Greek system influences member’s gender conceptions, and the members influence its gender practices. When these members leave college, they disproportionately influence America. As society is trying to move forward and achieve equality for everyone, Greek life does the exact opposite, discriminating against people who are not a part of the predominant race of its members.
This perspective is one of the many American collegiate experiences, and there are certainly systems of Greek life where this debauchery does not occur. But what makes this problematic is that it seems to be the dominant culture especially at large universities.
With many college students feeling lonely and isolated, I understand the desire to join Greek organizations in order to feel apart of a community. However, universities should be doing a better job of fostering other communities as a substitute to Greek life.
Perhaps Greek life is its own animal — or maybe it’s a symptom of larger American social inequalities. There are many sororities and fraternities who raise money and shed light onto very important causes. Within these organizations, there are amazing people who will go on to be the next generation of change-makers. For that reason, I think Greek organizations could do more with their power. It important for current members to understand and bear witness to the systemic injustices embedded within the overarching system. Although it is perhaps even more important for members to use their social capital to tackle these problems from the inside out.