Greek community must stand up against racism



During the string of high-profile cases of police brutality that swept the national media in recent months, commentators often said that more police should speak out against the officers who committed such horrific acts against the people they are meant to protect and serve.

Though I’m certainly not a nationally-recognized commentator, I was one of the people who took this stance. So in the interest of consistency, members of the Greek community need to speak out in wake of the recent string of high-profile controversies involving fraternities.

As a member of a fraternity myself, I will say that the racist actions of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter at the University of Oklahoma were disgusting and give credit to the stereotype that fraternity members are all privileged, arrogant white boys. They also give the impression that all fraternities are inherently racist, which is an unfair conclusion based on the actions of individuals, rather than the entire fraternal system.

Other major issues that persist in fraternities — such as sexual assault and hazing — are the same issues that persist in any institution where a large number of males are coordinated under a sort of mob mentality. Hazing and sexual assault are still very prevalent in the military, for example.

Some in the media, such as Arianna Huffington, have called for fraternities to be abolished completely. Even actor and comedian Will Ferrell, who famously played a frat boy in the comedy film “Old School,” seems to be on board with this idea.

Admittedly, it’s not easy finding a solution to the issues associated with fraternities. Some practical ideas include more internal monitoring by the national organizations, to prevent practices like hazing and secrecy. But throwing out the baby with the bath water is almost never a bright solution to a problem.

Yes, the problems associated with fraternities are very serious and should be taken seriously, but fraternities and Greek organizations in general are inarguably responsible for a lot of good in the world.

Just earlier this month, members of UK’s Greek community performed in the annual Greek Sing dance competition, which raised an estimated $180,000 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Even after graduation, Greek-affiliated alum are statistically more likely to become involved in civic organizations and donate more to charities than non-Greek members.

And it’s hard to argue with the success that fraternities produce. All but three U.S. presidents since 1825 were fraternity members, as are 85 percent of Fortune 500 executives. Also, Greek members tend to have higher incomes after graduation, even when factoring in their parents’ backgrounds.

Ultimately, diminishing an entire institution based on the actions of a few bad apples is not the right answer. What the members of the SAE chapter in Oklahoma did was deplorable and they should be held accountable, but they do not represent the broader picture of fraternity culture.