Letter from the Editor: Hazing or no hazing, is there a place for fraternities on today’s campuses?
This isn’t about whether or not they did it.
The hazing allegations that have rattled the Epsilon Xi chapter of Sigma Chi fraternity aren’t the first of their kind in the world of frats, and they almost certainly won’t be the last. But regardless of the verdict, there’s still a larger conversation to be had.
We need to examine the usefulness of a culture that, for one reason or another, always seems to be facing racist and sexist allegations. The most obvious question is this: Should fraternity culture continue to exist on college campuses at all?
To be fair, it’s tough to think of another organization that’s faced such widespread, almost homogenous adversity as fraternities, who have struggled to change the public’s perception of their culture.
On a national scale, Sabrina Rubin Erdely’s “A Rape on Campus” strengthened the perception that fraternity houses are dangerous places for women. While a later investigation proved the alleged assault may not have happened as the source described, it catalyzed a conversation on campus rape that had been brimming beneath the surface. Specifically, it reminded us of the fact that despite “A Rape on Campus”‘s questionable validity, a very real 86 percent of off-campus college rapes happen at fraternity houses, and fraternity men are three times more likely to rape than non-fraternity members.
Most recently, the leaked video of University of Oklahoma’s Sigma Alpha Epsilon members singing a racist chant containing the n-word has the Internet up in arms. The suspension of UH’s Sigma Chi has veered the national conversation off rape and onto a larger subject: what fraternities truly bring to the table — aside from the networking opportunities, of course, that clearly can’t be offered from academic organizations or other student societies.
Despite fraternities occupying little more than three percent of the student population at UH, it’s time for us to partake in a examination of Greek culture.
Why are these allegations so believable? To me, it’s because these organizations have historically operated under discriminatory, sexist legislations, and it’s tough for something that’s existed for nearly 200 years to fundamentally change its ways. That’s a challenge in itself, but it’s not to say that there aren’t fraternities out there that are trying to rewrite their rulebook and evolve into something more inclusive. We just don’t hear about those frats — we hear about the staggering statistics that point in the direction of fraternities not being safe environments for women or certain pledges.
Maybe Sigma Chi is one of them — a frat that’s trying to make an impactful difference on campus through philanthropy. If we can prove that, then great, but these allegations make that positive spin a much more difficult angle to add into the national dialogue, and it’s not justification enough that fraternities aren’t harmful.
There are still a whole lot of rapes, hazes and assaults tied to one of college’s most historically controversial cultures.
-Cara Smith, editor in chief
Editor’s note: Additional information was added to provide clarification on the link between fraternities and rape.