Opinion: An Unconventional Proposal to End School Sanctioned Greek Life
By Liam Kerr, Columnist
I would like to begin by stating unequivocally just how fortunate and happy I am to have attended school at Gettysburg College. I am about to enter my last year, and truly believe that the school has prepared me for the personal and professional challenges to come. I would be remiss, however, if I did not reflect on the exclusive, misogynistic, and irresponsible culture perpetrated by Greek Life on campus. Many of my closest friends are members of fraternities and sororities, and I would like to ensure that the following discussion is not misconstrued to disparage anyone involved with the social system.
As a first year student, I was never terribly inclined to participate in what I viewed as a reckless drinking culture in which getting “blackout” is joked about as a commonplace occurrence. Good thing too, because the restrictive fraternities do not allow first-year men to enter their establishments unless accompanied by an appropriate quota of women. I could not believe that such a regressive system involving the blatant objectification of women was not only permitted on Gettysburg’s campus, but popular. As a first year who was uninterested in partaking in the irresponsible party lifestyle, I felt extremely unwelcome there.
The patriarchal structure is enforced by the existence of houses for male fraternities but not for female sororities. Such a system enables the prevailing rape culture by centering the campus’ social life within male-dominated houses riddled with incessant drinking. In other words, the conditions are perfect for sexual assault and harassment. Widely publicized events at Penn State University have shed light on the lax monitoring in fraternity houses concerning a plethora of issues, including potential sexual predators. Recently, Greek Life organizations have taken important steps in raising awareness about these issues. The most surefire (and controversial) way to eliminate sexual assault on campus, however, would be to end the Greek Life system.
Gettysburg is clearly a rural town with relatively few local attractions for college-aged students. As a result of such isolation and boredom, the campus social scene has developed into a unitary system relying on overcrowded, dimly lit fraternity house basements. For the hundreds of students like myself who are uninterested in engaging in the established social order, there is no other recourse for socializing. If these students are lucky enough to find one another, they usually enjoy a night of hanging out and watching a movie. Every weekend. This is no way to meet new friends, and those students not participating in Greek Life often feel excluded and isolated from their peers, assuming they aren’t eventually pressured into participating in a culture with which they are uncomfortable.
Gettysburg College administrators try their best to ensure a welcoming and dynamic experience for all members of its community. Although they hold the occasional CAB event, Greek Life receives extraordinary privileges and special favors from the College due to fundraising prospects. The College is, whether knowingly or not, subsidizing and sanctioning the activities of one group of students over another. Additionally, the College has, through providing fraternity housing and recognition, been party to the unfortunate elevation of underage drinking and hazing.
As I said in the beginning of this article, the issue with Greek Life is not with most individuals involved with it, but with the culture it creates. The culture of misogyny, excessive drinking, exclusion, and pressure is not healthy for young, impressionable minds. I am of the opinion that ending official school support and funding for Greek Life altogether would create a safer and more equitable campus community. I recognize the controversy and unpopularity of the previous statement. These issues, however, are worthy of a discussion that has been pushed aside for years for fear of public reproach. It is my hope that we can begin to have this discussion openly and respectfully as mature members of the Gettysburg College community.