Fraternity culture is problematic

Parties thrown by fraternities have negative consequences for both sexes


(Collegian file photo)

By Sophie Allen, Collegian Columnist

Fraternity life ruins partying. Of course, there is more to college than going out on the weekends, but most students want to be able to go out if they so choose. The problem is that  there aren’t too many places for those of us under 21 to go. Freshmen usually can’t get into house parties or bars; dorm parties are an impossibility if we don’t want to get written up for being loud. That leaves us with fraternities. Unfortunately, most fraternity houses come with their own set of rules, which are not universal: some Greek organizations only let boys in if they have enough girls with them. Some don’t let boys in at all. Some make boys pay but let girls in for free. At least two fraternities at the University of Massachusetts make everyone, male and female, wait outside until the brothers “working the door” decide to let people in.

The issue is that not all girls want to dance in a moist basement knowing a fraternity brother could sidle over and grind on them at any moment. Not all girls want to leave their male friends at the door. Not all girls want to walk into a house with the mantra “don’t drink the Jungle Juice” echoing in their minds. Nine times out of 10, Jungle Juice is just a cocktail of beer, liquor, Hawaiian Punch and Kool-Aid powder. But there is always a chance that the 10th time is the one girls are warned about: getting roofied. Freshmen in college don’t know whether they’re going to get drugged at a fraternity event. Even if they don’t get drugged, there’s a chance they could be taken advantage of if they get too drunk and wind up alone with someone. According to the Department of Justice, one in four undergraduate females experience sexual assault by the time they finish college. Additionally, the UMass 2016 Annual Security Report states the school has on record 20 cases of reported rape (both occurring on and off campus), meaning that many more were swept under the rug. Of every 1000 rapes, only 310 are reported.

At this point, I’d like to note that I have specifically not mentioned sororities because they do not really create issues like their male counterparts. Sororities do not treat female party guests – or their sexuality – like an admission ticket.

Nor do I intend to compare the experiences of males and females at fraternity events, at least not in the sense of stating whether one group’s experience is “better” or “worse.” A woman should not have to be constantly on edge about whether someone is going to touch you without your consent, yet men shouldn’t be turned away at the door of every single party solely because of their gender.

In many ways, fraternity culture is harmful and problematic. It allows for a toxic mix of many young, typically white men with access to alcohol and a social status that exempts them from the consequences their actions might otherwise warrant. Yes, UMass has a strict policy against hazing, but that doesn’t mean the fraternities still don’t get away with a lot. I’m sure many fraternity brothers, at UMass or at other schools, mean well, but fraternity houses are unregulated, unlike a bar, or closely monitored, like a residence hall. To me, fraternities exemplify what many people recognize as toxic masculinity: sleep with women and eliminate the competition, no matter what. Accept high-fives from your friends when you get up close and personal with a girl, no matter how drunk she is. It’s easy when you control the alcohol.

It’s hard to acknowledge that a staple of your life is problematic, especially if you benefit from it. I benefit from Greek culture; my friends and I can usually get into parties without trouble. That doesn’t mean we haven’t been sexually assaulted. It doesn’t mean we feel safe in fraternity houses. It doesn’t mean we aren’t upset when our male friends tell us to go on ahead, and that we’ll see them back at the dorm. It doesn’t mean nothing needs to change.

Sophie Allen is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]