Re: Greek life doesn’t care about student lives

To Hanna Suarez – Opinions Editor, Daily 49er:

Let me begin with first thanking you for acknowledging the tragic death of Timothy Piazza, a sophomore who passed away sadly at the neglect of a Penn State fraternity. This is not the first death associated with hazing or alcohol abuse within a fraternity or sorority that has caught national attention – and like many newspapers, you capitalized on the sensationalism of Piazza’s death and used your position to attack Greek life organizations with little research on how these organizations are run. Instead of interviewing campus Greek members or members of OUR campus athletic organizations to understand your local Greek community, you choose to use impartial statistics to justify calling a ban on Greek organizations without doing any research in the actual field. You hide behind your rape, alcohol, and hazing statistics to hide the fact that you did no research into your local Greek community. You even cite dues and party receipts from Penn State without finding out any statistics from the college you’re writing the article for to act as comparison.

Maybe this is just my opinion, but you jumped to a lot of conclusions from your statistics without understanding the points of view of the community you’re criticizing. I hope in the future, you’ll take the opportunity you have as a student journalist to reach out or contact CSULB’s Greek organizations. You’d be surprised at how many of its members would love to talk to you – or maybe you assumed we were all hiding on our lofty thrones, too entitled to speak to anyone that hasn’t pledged or doesn’t get a check each week from their parents for extra spending money?

I joined a sorority at the end of my sophomore year in college, but at that time, I held the same opinion as you. I thought Greek life was about drinking, drugs, and partying with no consequences. I had built these stereotypes from articles I read, movies I’d watched, and from all kinds of media that had beaten into my brain the idea that frat boys would try to date rape me and sorority girls were catty and rich. Then I was proved wrong.

I could tell you about the community service my sorority and countless other Greek organizations support, besides all the hours, money, and time we put into fundraising and giving back to charity and our local community, but you don’t seem to care. I could tell you about how I was too shy and anxiety-ridden to make meaningful relationships with people I’d met at CSULB until I joined Alpha Omicron Pi, but instead I’m sure you’d like to reduce me to the fact I just “paid for friendship”.

I could tell you I served in leadership roles in my organization, learned how to budget and run meetings, and put our dues into areas that gave back to our sisters and to the house our sorority used for meetings, but you don’t actually care about how my organization was ran; you’d rather assume our money went to partying, drinking, or going out with frat boys. I could even tell you about the fact that I paid my own dues while I was in the sorority and I worked a part-time job while going to CSULB full-time in order to afford it, but instead you’d rather assume I was born rich and wanted to shell out thousands and thousands into an organization just to increase my social status.

I would even tell if you, if you’d asked, that we have mandatory educations – which are essentially free lectures and seminars paid for in our dues – for the women in my chapter on some of the topics you mention in your article, which include: binge-drinking and the signs of alcohol overdose, sexual assault and the available resources on campus, and even domestic violence and self-defense workshops. I could tell you about all the fraternity men I have met over the years that didn’t see me as an object, but instead as a peer, treating me with respect and kindness. I even began dating a fraternity man, which has led to one of the healthiest relationships I have ever had and that I am still in today after two years – but you’d rather reduce fraternity gentlemen into “boys”, infantilizing them and perpetuating the idea that they are testosterone-raging teens hell-bent on hazing and assaulting any young woman they lay eyes on.

I could tell you about how Greek life enhanced my life and how it continues to do so even though I am now an alumna of AOII and have since graduated from CSULB, but it appears you care little for the opinion of someone that is actually a part of Greek life, or you would have interviewed one.

Your assumptions are dangerous because you’re perpetuating stereotypes against organizations that you know nothing about and that you obviously haven’t put the care or effort into getting to know or research. You would have learned that we don’t claim to be perfect – Greek organizations have always had to deal with hazing incidences, alcohol abuse, and sexual assault charges against their members. Our national and international headquarters give us rules and guidelines, and if those guidelines are broken, our chapters are disbanded.

We take these issues just as seriously as you do, if not more seriously. Your gross exaggerations of us being elitist and unaccountable for our actions are in direct opposition to all the Penn State members who were just charged with manslaughter and the shutting down of their fraternity due to Piazza’s death. When something like this happens in the Greek community, it reflects poorly on all of us – which makes us more steadfast in our desire to do better for our community, to continue to work hard academically, and to be more loving, kind, and better human beings.

My problem, Hanna, is that you could have used your article as an opportunity to talk about the dangers of binge-drinking and give information or ideas about its prevention on college campuses or even within clubs and organizations. You could have given your readers some facts or resources of on-campus organizations that are there for women and men that have suffered from sexual assault and violence. Instead you used this tragedy as an opportunity to rehash old and tired stereotypes without any new fresh ideas on how to solve these problems.

This should go without saying, but if you talk to almost any sorority woman at CSULB, or even any Alpha Omicron Pi, they’d tell you this – we don’t haze, I was never hazed, and my sisters accepted me as a member of the group without needing to prove a damn thing. In your mind though, doesn’t it just make a better story, to say that banning something will mean something bad will just stop, instead of pushing those dark behaviors deeper underground? Because prohibition and the War on Drugs have worked out so well in the past, let’s just put an end to all fraternities and sororities, and then people will stop drinking, stop hazing people, and stop sexually assaulting people! What a concept!

Contrary to Hanna’s pointless idea of an outright ban, I’ll suggest the following, more realistic ideas, especially to CSULB Greeks reading this article. Greek organizations and our members need to be more open with our condemnation of the behavior of our fellow members, like those of Penn State’s Beta Theta Pi. We need to focus our attention on the education of our current and future members on the topics of hazing, sexual abuse, and the dangers of binge drinking. Every chapter needs to refocus on what they can do to prevent a tragedy like Penn State from happening within their own organization, whether it be increasing the presence of sober brothers and sisters at events, or starting sober driver ride shares within our chapters as resources. We need to further our outreach and service in our local communities instead of solely focusing on fundraisers for charities. We need to support one another and build each other up, focusing on the betterment of our community as a whole.

These tragedies should light a fire within us to reflect better on our organizations and to meet the world’s hatred for us with love and compassion. We are better than what Hanna Suarez and the media thinks of us, and the changing of our image can only be done by the positive actions we make and show to the world. Continue to wear your letters proud, as I know I will.