The staff editorial is the majority opinion of The Murray State News Editorial Board.
Greek life at Murray State University is a far cry from what’s portrayed in movies like “American Pie.” The philanthropic culture which has thrived here often coincides with copious amounts of alcohol, but few situations become as dangerous as they do at other universities.
This is not the norm, though. Other institutions are struggling with the deaths of students immersed in Greek life. Their responses to these crises have been controversial, and may be impeding the change these organizations need most.
Most recently, Florida State University President John Thrasher suspended all fraternities and sororities in response to the death of a student at a fraternity party. It has been a wildly controversial decision, prompting responses across the nation. Prominent drug abuse across these organizations was also taken into account before the decision was made.
And this is quite far from an isolated occurrence.
The University of Michigan fraternity council recently suspended all Greek life events due to allegations of severe hazing and abuse. West Virginia University banned activities for these organizations for a brief period in 2014. A similar move was made by Clemson University in 2014 as well following the death of Tucker Hipps, a fraternity pledge.
The knee-jerk response was to immediately ban these organizations, though they were enacted as a short-term measure while further policies were written up. But is this the answer to the problem?
Lisa Wade, an associate professor at Occidental College, expressed in a submission to Time magazine that “abolition is the only answer” to what she sees as a toxic system with no hope of reform. And if this was an overwhelming issue at all colleges, she might be right.
However, it’s not. All universities likely have issues with their Greek organizations, but most definitely not to the extent of large “party schools.”
What is the solution then?
We concluded that any meaningful changes must come from within these organizations themselves. Because what good are policies and procedures if those involved care little about the potential repercussions?
In recent years, there has been a cultural shift in which toxic masculinity and abuse by those in power have been heavily scrutinized. This is a sort of self-evaluation strategy with the intent of bettering one’s community and country.
It’s a bit like pulling weeds out by the root. If you dig deep enough, you will find the root system. And if you remove that root system, the weed dies.
Policies are all well and good, but universities are often criticized for using these simply as public relations tactics. There may be short-term benefits to these regulations. It will appear as if the university is being proactive. Many will tout minor decreases in dangerous incidents as reason to over regulate and stifle growth.
But we come to college as young adults, and leave as adults. During that time, our values and character are fleshed out. We become who we will likely be for the rest of our lives in those four (or more) years.
So, if we decide as a nation to make it known that these dangerous and predatory behaviors are unacceptable, change will happen on its own. It’s important these universities make these issues known, because the more we talk about them, the quicker change occurs. Blanket changes rarely accomplish either.
Demonizing the majority for the behaviors of the minority is hardly ever the answer.