An interesting discussion was brought up today with respects to Greek life on college campuses after an unsettling story in the Des Moines Register today. A Drake University student was charged with 3rd degree sexual assault of a fellow fraternity brother.
Fellow Twitter acquaintances Norah Carroll and Abby Harvey were unhappy on how readers have generally labeled the Drake Greek system as a bunch of hooligans. Sadly, for Drake, this isn’t the first or the last time stories like these pop up. Not all fraternities and sororities resort to the juvenile antics of “Animal House” and “Revenge of the Nerds.” Nor do they stoop to the level of criminal behavior. There are rules in place to prevent criminal acts and if a frat chapter gets out of line, they will get shut down and disbanded.
Norah felt that the Greek system at Drake is a good system and embodies long-term relationships and camaraderie.
I was never in a fraternity. In fact, my alma mater, Wartburg College, doesn’t have a Greek system like Central, Simpson, ISU, and Drake. There was never enough interest to have one. It existed shortly during the 50’s, but it died out by the time the 60’s began.
I get a lot of funny looks if I’m asked about it. People scoff at the notion that any college or university doesn’t have a frat row. From a personal point-of-view, I don’t see anything wrong with not being a member of the frat or vice versa. The problem is that general perception of Greek life has continued to be negative. In some cases, to the non-Greek, it feels like you’re getting shut out from joining the club.
In 2002, I had a meeting with two prominent Des Moines African-American leaders. I didn’t have any connections in Des Moines since graduating from Wartburg in 1998. The company I was working for at that time was being phased out after a merger. The person who was working with me on my resume facilitated the meeting as a way to help me network.
The meeting went well until one of them asked me about my fraternity allegiance. I told them that Wartburg does not have a Greek system. The look on their faces told me how the meeting was going to end. When the older gentlemen essentially said, “don’t call us, we’ll call you” I was persona non grata in their book. I wasn’t an Alpha Kappa Nu or an Omega Psi Phi.
It was a rude awakening to realize that since I wasn’t an “Alpha” or a “Q-dog” as some of my high school friends were at other colleges where they plead at, I had no shot in getting into their frats ever. Which is too bad, because if it was the other way around, I would accept them and helped the two guys regardless if they frat brothers or not.
That’s what I learned at Wartburg: you help your fellow woman or man out, regardless of affiliation, group, or activities.
The Greek system is beneficial to a college and the community in charitable works, relationship-building, and leadership. To let one bad incident on Frat Row paint a blanket over all of them is grossly inaccurate.
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Membership in fraternities and sororities does offer unique opportunities to network and connect with other fraternity and sorority members, but I haven’t seen it used in the way you described — to shut others out. I can understand how the Greek system gets its stigma of exclusivity when others are denied opportunities solely because they are not members of the Greek system. There’s a delicate balance at play here, but just like other personal traits, Greek affiliation shouldn’t be used as a basis for discrimination.