Challenging the Rape Culture in Greek Life

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Rushing season, the time where men and women try their best to get a bid from their desired Greek organization. A lot of their money goes into ensuring they are wearing their best, in order to leave a good impression. A very traditional event for college campuses that has been occurring for over 100 years. The moment many individuals wait for when arriving to college seeing as this is a common participation in institutions. Greek organizations spend weeks before a semester to plan their rushing process and ensure that the interested members choose them as their home away from home.

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It is a big part of our college experiences, and one we definitely remember. There are approximately 9 million student and alumni fraternities and sororities in North America and they make about 3 percent of our population. (Greek Life Statistics) Greek Life on college campuses has immensely grown and became a huge part of college itself. Though this is something common and well known, Greek Life, by far perpetuates the biggest “rape culture” on college campuses.

Sexual assault on college campuses is a huge health issue and it is believed the associating factors are the lack of gender equality and class privilege within college campuses. It is an issue happening in some of our very own backyards, as well as an issue being neglected and ignored on many campuses. We must talk about it and challenge such issue, especially as an individual in Greek Life this is something, I want to educate my members about. We explore how these factors contribute to sexual assault on college campuses and what can be done. What is Greek Life? To someone who is not affiliated, Greek Life is simply letters and colors, but there is a lot of history to it, in 1776 is where it all began. John Heath, a student at The College of William & Mary was rejected by the two Latin societies on campus. Heath was studying Greek and decided to take matter into his own hands, so with the help of other colleagues he created the first collegiate Greek Organization, Phi Beta Kappa the Greek Letters were used to as an acronym to have the initials as the organization’s motto. (Philosophia Biou Kuberentes or Philosophy is the helmsman of life). And thus, the first Greek-Lettered organizations began to influx on college campuses, but it took more than 50 years later for the first sorority to come known as, Alpha Delta Pi.

Though this was a big step to finally include women, it took another 50 years for the first organizations for people of color to begin. Racial tensions and prejudice on campuses lead dedicated Black students to start their own Greek Organizations for students who have been denied the right to join other organizations and felt like they did not belong. That being so, Divine Nine was created, the first nine black sororities and fraternities on now well-known Historically Black Colleges and Universities. And so, on they created a revolution paving the way for other marginalized groups to start their own organizations. Greek life has expanded significantly all over the nation., it is not new to those in America, we see Greek letters and automictically think of a sorority or fraternity. However, with this big expansion, big issues have increased. Issues that our society has yet to address and correctly take care of in terms of consequences.

Issue around White Fraternities

Using a lense of a socialist feminist, we believe that class privilege and gender-inequality are the biggest factors contributors to sexual assault on college campuses. Research shows how sexual victimizations happens at increased rates in fraternity parties. (Gross-bard, An article by Jessica Valenti stated how “Frat brothers rape 300% more. One in 5 women is sexually assaulted on campus.” Her article mentioned how at Tulane University, girls were warned about the “bad “fraternity houses, the ones that drug girls. Now these are topics discussed with a certain nonchalance tone, as if it was normal to have a rapist in their community. Many studies have found that men who join fraternities are three times more likely to rape. (Valenti) These findings suggest that the foundational culture of fraternities perpetuate sexual assault and women are at risk at any fraternity related events. We claim that the culture of these organizations is seen as a “hooking up” competition along the men themselves. The biggest focus brings, white fraternities that outnumber all other organizations especially black fraternities. It is because of their power and privilege on campus that they are the biggest perpetuators. It can be also be argued that gender and class-based discrimination are magnified in Greek Life. Individuals in a higher class tend to have more power in society, this is because of their easy access to resources, compared to marginalized groups. This hierarchy can be observed in the Greek Life of college campuses. The membership fees or sororities and fraternities obviously seek out to those in higher classes who can afford the them. Members pledging are expected to pay the hundred and up to thousands of dues to join an organization. They are also expected to keep paying those dues in order to keep the university registered Greek houses alive.

Though I am not saying that wealth contributes to sexual assault, it is widely known that that with wealth and higher social class comes power and privilege. Which to some people, they allow them to have authority on a college campus. When an induvial feels they have power and people allow it to happen there is no limit to the thins they could do. Especially in a binary community, with white men seen as figures of authority. Fraternity houses are male dominated spaces, it is important to point out the gender inequity in Greek Life Fraternities create a space conducive of rape because of their privilege on campus, their parties are not necessarily their issue. But it can be when one group has disproportionate power. Partying is glorified with these organizations, seeing as it brings great influx of students into the university. Party regulations are also very distinct between both fraternities and sororities. Where men have little to no regulations on their house rules and parties. Sororities are prohibited from the consumption of drugs, alcohol and hosting co-ed parties. That is because of a rule within the National Panhellenic Conference bans that this in their houses. They do because of the lower insurance premiums as a result. (Jackson) Therefore, leaving it to fraternity house to host these “dangerous’ parties. Men monitor the doors keeping the gender ratio proportionate for the party, again for men to seek out more choices. Because we leave it to these men to throw parties, more incidents occur at these houses.

Fraternities tend to have higher dues, because of how much is paid to their insurance company. Since 2005 at least 57 people have been killed or paralyzed in fraternity related events. This increases their revenue by 13 percent and 29 percent in membership, this way to make more money. It is the perfect business model, raising fees to pay off law suits and they are still be able to host such parties. (Patrice) We give these men the power to not only host the parties but choose who goes in and what happens. No wonder they feel entitled and powerful on college campuses because for years we have been letting them get way with things others cannot. Women and College Parties College students, and in particular women, acknowledge that rape could be a result of the party scene, which causes a loss of identity. And in cases where rape does occur or sexual assault, the party and organization is never to blame for. The people would rather put it on the individuals who attended these events and most times the woman is blamed. This not only leads to victim blaming by party attenders and fraternity men but also potentially to self-blame by women who experience sexual assault, all of which discourages a woman to report. Seccuro wrote about her sexual assault experience in the 1980s at the University of Virginia. She described how fraternity alumni, maintained what happened to her a secret, 22 years after she was sexually assaulted by multiple men after likely being drugged at a fraternity party. Just recently at Baylor University a judge accepted a plea deal allowing a student to not serve jail time though he raped a woman at a Fraternity Party.

This ex-president of Phi Delta Theta is only seeking counseling and paying a $400 fine. (Associated Press, 2018) It is because of cases like this that we allow the rape culture to keep occurring, there are never any serious consequences. In our own state, the University of Colorado at Boulder has been charged with many similar cases. In 2005, traces of a “date rape” drug were found in the blood samples of five women, one of those doses was potentially fatal. The party was held by Sigma Pi and Phi Kappa Tau fraternities, since these five women happened to attend separate parties. (Police: Date Rape Drug, 2005) In our own home, Colorado State University found a woman dead at the Sigma Pi house after getting intoxicated and encouraged to sleep then left in a closet to die. Some members refused to speak on this incident and the organization was simply suspended but is still active today in our campus. (Woman Found Dead, 2008) Now most of these cases never underwent any serious repercussion, again making it “normal” to have these incidents on a college campus. Accessible Data/Current Policies Universities need to take action and address this ongoing issue, it is only going to get worse. First, universities need to make these cases more accessible to students and should not be hidden from them or not discussed. It is something that has been quiet for too long and we have to put an end to it.

We should comply with current regulations designed to accurately report occurrences of sexual assault on their campus. The reason 95% of women never report such cases is because of the lack of action the authorities take, and how much they are one sided with the white male. Too often, survivors do not report there is never a guarantee that someone will listen to them or even believe them. This creates a big barrier for women to speak up, because we live in a society where we blame those assaulted and not the perpetuators. (Green) Currently, President Donald Trump is proposing a new College Sexual-Assault policy to try and “solve” this issue. If the party is on campus, the university is required to investigate the allegation, only if the victim reports to the correct administrative official. Now if the party is off campus, the university is not legally required to investigate. This includes, off-campus housing, off- campus fraternity houses, local bars, restaurant, etc.

When this Sexual Assault Policy was under the Obama Administration guidance, schools and universities were expected to investigate the allegation regardless of where it occurred. If a victim decides to move forward with a disciplinary process, under the Obama administration if the accuser could prove a “preponderance of evidence” and that was enough to prove guilt. But now the Trump Administration decided that was too low of a standard, they argued that the evidence needed to be ‘clear and convincing.” The Trump Administration also allows institutions to choose what standard they desire. Now if found guilty, the accused might appeal the decision if the school allows it, facing may punishments such ass being expelled from the school. (Harris) This new policy is allowing Universities to provide more concise evidence, if they wanted to. This brings up the topics of what role the survivor plays if he university is choosing whether or not they want to take on this case, and if they do, they can choose what evidence is “good enough.” Significance to Women and Gender Studies Twentieth and twenty-first century feminism has brought a great deal of attention to the topic of rape. More specifically the factors contributing to rape, how it starts with our class privilege and the power an individual can have. This topic is significant to the field of Women and Gender Studies because seeing as how this is taught on college campuses, Greek life tends to be in most of these campuses. In this course our class explored at the factors contributing to our patriarchal society and the gender oppression we face today.

The Greek Life rape culture consists of all these factors and it is happening in our very own community. It helps this field in looking at all the contributing factor asides from a “party environment” that contribute to rape on college campuses. Women and Gender Studies Program courses are created to encourage students to find their voice and express their idea in space where they feel safe and supported. It challenges students to speak on difficult and controversial topics, such as this. Through the knowledge I have learned from this topic I want to take this learning and teach other class mates the truth about Greek Life, especially to those affiliated. This class has put me in positions outside of my comfort zones to then learn more about topics I am not familiar to. I hope this topic can be taken into consideration by this field because it is something happening very close to women in their classes. It is something close to home for me because I was not taught any of this information when I became affiliated and it is something that tis often brushed under the rug for a lot of people. If it is something, I am affiliated in that plays a big role in the rape culture I would expect someone to teach me more about it and warn me about the potential dangers that happen in my very own community.

Not only should this information be given to me, but to students enrolling and especially women, as they are the victims in most of these cases. No college is perfect, but we should educate students in order for this “culture” to stop we should stop only teaching women to stay away from certain spaces but more importantly teaching men to stop being a part of sexual assault on campuses. Plan to Action Cultural shifts are necessary to combat the institutionalized gender inequity and privilege on campus that we have discussed. Women need to be seen as authority figures and to be included in university policy decision processes. Women need to be listened to and trusted, we must believe them. We need to stop feeding into this “it happened a long time ago, so it does not matter” mindset. Or blaming a woman for attending parties without a form of self-protection, where really the issue is the environment these Fraternity houses create, and the way white men are a part of the rape culture. Just like with community building we have to take a well thought out plan to address this issue.

The first step is for college campuses to take the “Quick Fix” approach. This includes posters and online hashtags in relation to zero tolerance policies and disrupting the rape culture. This is where most places stop, it is like a band aid to a big issue. However, after that comes an integrative plan. This can be teaching not only the Greek organization on campus about the multiple resources for Sexual Assault Survivors and monthly meetings to have a talk about where this culture comes from and what is wrong with the parties held by Fraternity men. The last part of the plan is to make it long-term, now his can include a required educational course for this affiliated in Greek life but not exclusive to them on what is the ongoing issue, what to do when such thing occurs, and hold men responsible for their own actions to stop victim-blaming. The established rape culture on campuses cannot switch over night, it starts with educating students early on, trusting and supporting women and most importantly being clear and open about these cases we must stop hiding them from students. It is time men own up to their actions and stop influencing sexual assault in their Fraternity related events.

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Challenging the Rape Culture in Greek Life. (2019, Apr 24). Retrieved from