The past few months have been filled with scandal for fraternities and sororities across the country. From racial slurs to hazing to sexual assault, greek men and women have had to answer to growing public outrage and suspicion about their inner workings. All this negative publicity has many wondering whether or not greek life should be done away with entirely, but should we let a few bad apples spoil the whole barrel?
According to Kristin Musulin’s Dec. 17, 2014 USA Today College article titled, “Voices: The positive, underreported aspects of Greek life,” the reason there has been so much media coverage on greek scandals is because these events are newsworthy. Media outlets usually only cover negative greek stories. Dozens of positive news stories are buried by the stories that shine a controversial light on the greek system.
“Whether a fraternity member is accused of sexual assault or a sorority member made a racial comment, these events are covered by the media because they’re rare,” Musulin said. “They’re not normal. Despite the validity of the stories, they shouldn’t represent the greater values of the greek system.”
So the media is covering the good aspects of greek life, but it’s being buried by the publics’ interest in the bad and the ugly. According to the 2013-2014 National Panhellenic Council annual report, sorority women nationwide raised over $5.7 million for charity and reported nearly one million completed hours of service. Fraternity men were busy doing the same – according to The North American Interfraternity Conference, they raised $20.3 million and completed nearly four million hours of community service … but that isn’t national news.
“Each year our fraternities and sororities contribute more than $200,000 to philanthropic organizations, dedicate more than 30,000 hours of community service and donate approximately three tons of food to national, regional and local charities,” Pat Bosco, vice president for student life, said in the “Guide to Greek Life” on K-State’s website.
What has made national news is the video of members of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter at the University of Oklahoma chanting racial slurs. What hasn’t is the story about students and the chapter’s alumni raising over $63,000 for the house’s African-American chef that lost his job after the chapter was closed, according to a March 11, 2015 Today News article titled, “Oklahoma alumnus sets up fundraiser for Sigma Alpha Epsilon cook after fraternity’s closure.” I don’t mean to say that the news is biased, but bad news makes better news nowadays.
Despite all the bad press the greek community has had the past year, fraternity and sorority membership is still on the rise. The NIC reported a 45 percent increase in members over the past decade, and the NPC reported a 10 percent spike in members in the past two years alone. Young men and women are still joining these organizations because they want to continue the good that greek life does, not the bad.
Should we get rid of our fraternities and sororities
on campus and across the country? I don’t think so, but I do think that individual
chapters need to take a long, hard look at what their ideals are and how they
are carrying them out. The bad apples need to be taken care of before they
become the next national headline, and the NIC and NPC need to become more proactive
and less reactive.