What started as a typical Monday night in Lawrence quickly evolved into something much bigger when thousands gathered outside the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house to protest the chapter amid a reported drugging and sexual assault.
The protest on our campus occurred just weeks after students at the University of Nebraska staged a similar protest at the Phi Gamma Delta house following gruesome details of a sexual assault investigation emerging.
As a member of the Greek community, I cannot fathom why universities across the country allow Greek life to continue operating; it is time to enact significant change within the Greek system or abolish it altogether.
The current allegations surrounding Phi Psi at KU and FIJI at Nebraska are just two of the numerous sexual assault allegations against Greek letter organizations across the nation.
The statistical connection between Greek life and sexual assault is damning, too.
Men in fraternities are 300% more likely to commit rape, and women in sororities are 74% more likely to be raped than other college women. Why are universities still supporting Greek organizations when this is the data that exists?
Now, I understand why some people do not want to punish the entirety of Greek life for the behavior of a few. However, temporary punishments such as probation or suspension minimizes the survivor’s trauma— not to mention it promotes a mentality to these organizations that they can do whatever they want as long as they do not get caught.
And to those who point out the extraordinary philanthropic contributions Greek organizations make to the community, there is no denying that they do good work. But there are plenty of service opportunities on campus, like the Big Event, where students can make a difference in the community without perpetuating rape culture.
Substantive, systemic change or even abolition of Greek life should not just be a reaction to a single sexual assault. It should also address other perennial concerns such as hazing. The KU chapter of Pi Kappa Phi was recently removed from campus last year for hazing allegations. Sigma Alpha Epsilon faced a four year suspension from the university. These fraternities are just two of the many across the nation removed for hazing.
The year 2020 was the first year in 60 years that did not register a hazing related death on any U.S. college campus. As great as that is, should we not be concerned Greek organizations held a deadly 59-year streak?
To make matters worse, Greek life is saturated with racism and minority exclusion. Not much has changed since the 1700s when the first Greek letter organizations — mostly composed of white, wealthy, Christian men — got their start.
Obviously, that is not the case anymore; however, 95% of the members in historically white fraternities and sororities are white. Again, I ask universities across the nation why they are supporting historically exclusionary organizations?
Initially, I was happy to join my fraternity — one whose history is vastly different than those fraternities highlighted recently in the news. I am far from home and wanted to be part of a community, including all the friendship, support and service that comes along with it. And I still am grateful for it because I know I have a group of guys who will stick with me for the rest of my life. But, as fraternities nationwide continue garnering headlines, it becomes more difficult to support the Greek establishment, especially whilst being on the inside.
It is clear the Overton window is shifting in regards to Greek life. To those who believe decisive, punishment-that-fits-the-crime action against the perpetrators is too radical, what more will need to occur to make Greek life no longer acceptable?