Isolating the aspects of fraternity culture

Isolating the aspects of fraternity culture

With the recent five-year suspension of the Sigma Phi Epsilon (Sig Ep) fraternity at Grand Valley State University, another Greek organization has been shut down by the institution. It’s the second such occurrence in 2017, as the Delta Upsilon fraternity was also shut down in the Winter 2017 semester. 

Sig Ep originally went on probation in response to underage drinking and hazing incidents, but soon after going off probation, other incidents were reported. The decision to ban the fraternity was resultant of an investigation of an incident in September where a student consumed too much alcohol, hit their head and was subsequently hospitalized. 

While drinking, both of age and underage, is common practice on the majority of college campuses in America, hazing should not have a place anywhere, especially not on GVSU’s campus. What might start off as a fun activity to initiate someone could end up being fatal. One example of this occurred on Sept. 14 at Louisiana State University, when an 18-year-old member of the Phi Delta Theta fraternity pledge class died after being forced to drink after incorrectly answering questions about the fraternity’s history. The victim’s blood alcohol level was .495. 

While there is no evidence that any activity like that occurred within Sig Ep or any other Greek organization at GVSU, the culture of hazing remains unnecessary and dangerous. Innocent acts could eventually lead to more dangerous ones, and losing a life or being seriously injured would be awful for the Grand Valley community. The idea that fraternities are required to perform hazing rituals needs to end, as it is tarnishing the positive aspects of Greek life. 

However, the decision to remove one group shouldn’t cast a negative image on Greek life as a whole. It’s easy to point out the bad in situations such as these, but Greek life at GVSU is generally beneficial for students and the community alike. Not only are these organizations a great opportunity to network and create relationships, but fraternities and sororities at the university participate in several charitable events and other community engagement events, too. Sig Ep itself raised over $20,000 for childhood cancers through St. Baldrick’s Foundation last year.  

Focusing solely on the transgressions of a group, and not at all on the positive philanthropic acts performed, is extremely shortsighted. The decision to remove one group should not facilitate the stereotype that Greek organizations are only focused on partying and acting foolish. 

And truthfully, Sig Ep’s removal probably won’t change the culture around drinking at GVSU. In a town like Allendale, with not much to do, college kids are going to end up drinking and partying whenever they can. If a student drinks too much at a party that isn’t affiliated with Greek Life, is it more damaging than drinking too much at an event that is?  

While hazing is an issue that needs resolving, drinking and more particularly binge drinking isn’t an issue of fraternity culture. Plenty of college students at GVSU and across the country drink themselves into oblivion, regardless of whether or not they’re in a fraternity or sorority. So, in times like these, it is important to isolate the aspects involved as to not create a false dialogue.