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.

3 thoughts on “Re: Greek life doesn’t care about student lives

  1. I was in the Alpha Omicron Sorority. The new members weren’t physically hazed but we were “financially” hazed. We were expected to pay up to 2000$ for one semester to join the sorority while the continuing members paid around 500$. I was banned from all the events because I did not pay and I was eventually kicked out and forgotten. Don’t be mistaken, you are definitely paying for friendship. I spoke to many of the girls and boys in the Greek community, of course they are no different or worse from any of the other “non-Greek” students. Sororities at csulb are much larger than the fraternities there and cost much more to join. If anything, the separation of women and men in the Greek community is the biggest source of the problems. It perpetuates antiquated ideas that girls can only be close friends with other girls and vise versa. It makes it so the girls must choose from a long list of over-sized and advantageously prices sororities with far stricter rules, while the boys get to choose be part of a more intimate family of friends. The people in sororities and fraternities are not bad but the structure of Greek fraternities and sororities is inherently sexist and will of course spawn sexist, discriminatory, and dangerous behavior.

    • Laura – every sorority and fraternity has financial responsibilities, and that aspect of joining is always reiterated to every New Member before she joins and after. The money you pay to the chapter is fielded into budgets that are used to facilitate chapter events, pay for the upkeep and maintenance of the chapter house, pay for fundraising, and for one-time New Member fees given to our Headquarters as administrative fees in order to input your information and to fund your badge and membership. Compared to other CSULB organizations (as well as Greek organizations across the United States), AOII’s fees are bare bones at best. I served as a New Member educator and sat on our Leadership Council for most of my time in the sorority, which included meetings on how best to use our budget and voted on its approval as a member along with my sisters.

      I will never dispute that I am “paying for friendship” – I certainly am paying into an organization that I trust and believe in for the networking opportunities within and outside of college. The money I paid to my fraternity gave me access to events where I bonded with girls I would have never met or been friends with without AOII. I am not ashamed to say I paid to join and upkeep an organization where I met some of the most cherished people in my life that I am still friends with outside of college.

      Fraternities cost less in general due to their reduced numbers of members. They charge relatively the same per month, but host less activities and generally have reduced fees from their organizations. However, they pay more out of pocket per semester to afford co-ed parties and other extracurricular events that sororities do not budget for. Talk to any fraternity treasurer and you’ll know the amount of money they have to handle to put on one weekend party and you’ll see that, comparatively, members of fraternities are paying similar amounts of money per year to sorority members, just for different things!

      In my experience, I’ve never felt restricted to only like the members of my own organization. That is why we have joint events with fraternities and other sororities, so we can foster friendships and relationships with people that are not just AOIIs. One of my best friends is a Sigma Chi, my boyfriend is a Phi Kappa Psi, and I have friends that are Sigma Kappas and Gamma Phi Betas. Due to my membership in AOII, I’ve also met countless women and men that are part of Greek organizations across the U.S. and California and built friendships with people with vastly different backgrounds than my own, solely due to our connections with our organizations. Any Greek members that are perpetuating a type of elitist separatism between Greek orgs are few and far between, and you can find these types of people in all walks of life. I am ashamed that some “bad apples” in the Greek system could sway New Members into believing that all Greeks want to ONLY be friends with their own members. That is far from the purpose of AOII and many other Greek organizations I know.

      Yes, there are sexist and racist undertones that have perpetuated Greek life since these societies were since formed. Sororities began out of the need for women-only societies in response to male-only organizations – it was a way for women to gather to feel safe and to forge bonds with other women of like-minded ideals. I believe modern Greek organizations need to continue the discussion on how we can be more open and how best to restructure recruitment and our collegiate organizations to allow for less discrimination against new members. Most importantly, I think as society continues to change, Greek orgs need to change with it – which I think includes changing our international and collegiate Greek laws to be more inclusive towards trans men and women, as well as creating safe environments for sisters with disabilities and members of the LGBTQ community. Greek orgs have a long way to go to overcome all the elements you have described, but there are members at CSULB as well as across the country that are working towards those goals.

      I’m sorry you ended up not being able to enjoy Greek life due to financial restrictions. I hope that my experience and knowledge has helped you understand that not all Greeks are like the ones you’ve met and had experiences with.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *