In recent weeks, fraternity-related scandals and controversies have been a main subject of conversation in American academia. The opinion sections of publications ranging from student newspapers to The New York Times have been churning out articles both defending and denouncing the existence of one of America’s favorite college institutions, the fraternity. Here at NYU, the conversation has, as far as I’ve noticed, been relatively minimal. The most that has been said is the obvious: university administrations need to do everything in their power to hold fraternities responsible.” However, issues of sexual assault, hazing and the perpetuation of rape culture are, and should still be, relevant to the larger NYU community. Frats are not going away anytime soon and neither will the issues that surround them. As a university community and as a country, we all need to be willing to engage in a constructive discussion on how to regulate fraternities without denigrating their existence.
Most opinions on the subject that have gained any attention either defend their beloved fraternities and sororities as essential college institutions or condemn them as symbols of America’s worst traditions and most abhorrent vices. However, fraternities and sororities are not going anywhere, and I want to suggest that instead of focusing on either defending or denouncing fraternities, we turn our attention to a more productive subject. That is: how to regulate fraternities and sororities in a way that maximizes their potential to be a positive force on campus, while actively acknowledging the associated dangers.
One of the best examples of this theory being effectively put into practice can be found at the University of Richmond in Virginia. I recently visited the college to see several friends from high school, and I was both impressed and intrigued by the way the administration regulated Greek life on and off campus. In terms of on-campus events, UR fraternities and sororities had to abide by a series of regulations designed to keep undergraduate students safe. For one, no fraternity houses exist on campus. Instead, a section of the campus has several lodges where fraternities are able to organize and host parties in coordination with UR public safety. Every UR student who attends has to sign in and out of the event, and the parking lot in front of the lodges are reserved for public safety officers to observe the events. Alcohol is allowed for students who are 21 and over, but consumption is subject to many regulations in terms of alcohol type, quantity and number of drinks per person per hour. Several members of the hosting fraternity are designated to be sober and are in charge of monitoring everything from noise to guests to alcohol consumption.
I know for my NYU-based audience, this idea probably seems useless. How could the lodge party concept ever be implemented at our Washington Square Park campus? The truth is that it could not. NYU fraternities and sororities clearly exist within a unique context, but that is not the point of me shedding light on this example. The point is that proactive regulation of frats that does not attempt to destroy their values is not only possible, it works. I am not a frat boy, and I do not think I will attempt to become one anytime soon, but that does not mean I cannot acknowledge the positive potential for fraternities in undergraduate communities. The potential for fraternities to be a positive force on campus exists. We just need to acknowledge it.
Opinions expressed on the editorial pages are not necessarily those of WSN, and our publication of opinions is not an endorsement of them. Email Jan Alex at [email protected]