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Greek life: Separating the good, the bad and the ugly

by The Stylus
Tue, Feb 6th 2018 05:00 pm
 Greek life has a lot of attachments to its image in the public eye. Some of them are good and some of them are of a far less savory nature. It is not so easy to tell what should be done about Greek life, whether it is a good thing or a bad thing.
Greek life has a lot of attachments to its image in the public eye. Some of them are good and some of them are of a far less savory nature. It is not so easy to tell what should be done about Greek life, whether it is a good thing or a bad thing.

When you hear the words “fraternity,” “sorority” or “Greek life,” no doubt a lot of images, experiences and ideas instantly flood into your mind. Some of them include harmless dudes upside down over a keg and some of them not so harmless, like closed doors and hushed secrets about what someone may or may not have done while they were wasted. Greek life is a coin with two very different sides. One side promotes a better community, the other promotes a culture that can get members run right out of that community. In one way or another, Greek life has made a reputation for itself nationally and in Brockport.

We at The Stylus strive for confidence in our reporting, but certainly not arrogance. This week, we collectively found ourselves at a crossroads of ideas when it came to Greek life. It is clear that there are two competing images of a such. The first is the potential, the “this is what it could be” angle of looking at Greek life. The view of people coming together and bettering themselves, as well as the community. In fact, there are sororities and fraternities whose focus is on service. There is also the negative view of Greek life, what you might call a sort of “Animal House” view. The stereotypical “frat boys” with kegs, drinking too much, exhibiting high-risk behavior, with even hazing and sexual assault in the mix. 

There doesn’t seem to be a cut-and-dry answer to this question of how to view Greek life. We may strive to bring the facts, to cut through the noise to get at the heart of what is going on, but we don’t claim to have the answers to everything right away. Some things are just not that easy.

With the recent controversy in Brockport over the “Delts,” and the ensuing discoveries of their atrocious behavior, it seems difficult to defend Greek life in Brockport, or in general. After all, how can you defend a lifestyle which leads to the kind of behavior that makes you unrecognized, evicted and put on trial? Is Greek life just a breeding ground for bad behavior? Is it a crime time bomb?

Many people do defend it of course, saying that it does not represent the whole of Greek life, the best of what Greek life has to offer. Certainly, Greek life has so much more to offer, brotherhood, sisterhood, service, community, things of that scholastic nature. It seems in this great debate of Greek life, it’s not simply a question of is it good or bad, but rather a question of, does the potential of Greek life out way its pitfalls? The answer is not so obvious at a first glance either. 

Here at The Stylus, we certainly believe that those guilty of crimes associated with their organization  should be held accountable. We also believe that Greek life has a problem, one that is systemic and in need of addressing. There would be no sense in trying to hide that or to deny it. The reputation the many fraternities and sororities have worked to create has not appeared out of nowhere, it’s not all hearsay and rumors. The raid on the Delts, however, is perhaps the start of the address that Greek life needs. 

We also believe that Greek life can be something used for a greater good. Organized and recognized fraternities and sororities have the potential to benefit their communities. Some of the recognized fraternities and sororities on campus even have pages on the Brockport website which list their philanthropic interests as an organization. There is certainly the potential for groups like this to be organized and productive in the community. So with that we return quite neatly to our question: which is worth more, the damage unrecognized Greek life does, or the good that organized ones do? 

It could be that this problem will sort itself out, it is even possible that it has started to already. The portions of Greek life that are a positive force are naturally built to survive, whereas unrecognized fraternities and such are poised for failure. We’ve seen authorities crack down on the Delts. Their survival  seems like it could be close to over. Recognized fraternities and sororities, on the other hand, continue to operate within the law and have a productive purpose for being around.

Evolution always works to weed out those not suited to the environment, especially when that environment changes. In this shifting culture of holding people accountable, perhaps the Delt way of fraternity is simply going extinct, no longer suited for the environment of an evolving Brockport. Trying to hold on to the “Animal House” vision of a frat, guys drinking, trying to make unwanted advances on women and failing to show up to class on a regular basis seems to be growing fast into a way of the past. The Delts refused to change with the times, and they became unrecognized for it. They continued to resist the tides of time and now they have to face criminal charges.

At the end of the day, there is certainly a problem with drinking, with hazing and with men assaulting women. Those problems are systemic in an out of fraternities, both recognized and unrecognized. Should fraternities and sororities be done away with altogether? Probably not. Should fraternities that are created more or less as an excuse to get drunk and abuse women be allowed to continue? Absolutely not. The trick seems to be getting easier, identifying the good frats from the bad ones. 

The good fraternities may not outweigh the bad ones, but they certainly seem to distill themselves from one another quite effectively. And if they do so, why not keep the “good” ones around while making it painfully obvious for the bad ones that they are not welcome, nor are their unsavory behaviors?