Not all Greeks, but Often Greeks

Let me first start by saying this is not a war on greek life. I have chosen to not be associated with social greek life but I have a ton of friends who are. I respect their choices, customs, and most of the work they do. As a person on the outside of this situation, I am not completely informed on every decision made or why they are made. This is simply my take on what is going on in today’s universities and how it relates to society.

Greek life is described by people within it as “the best decision [they have] ever made.” It is also described as “where they met their best friends.” However, many other greeks would describe their sororities or fraternities less ecstatically as they understand that nothing is perfect. All in all, most greek organizations raise hundreds, often thousands of dollars for their philanthropies, and supply their members with social experiences. There are many positives to greek life, and please remember this as you read the rest of the post. Lately in the media, there has been special attention paid to universities policy and court cases. At certain schools, JMU being one of them, there have been reports of undocumented and poorly handled sexual assaults, unprecedented racism, and violence. Most of these cases have the perpetrator being involved in greek life. Is this a coincidence? Or is it what we on the outside see it as: lack of compassion and empathy for people taught through values associated with members in greek life. Either way, this needs to be addressed. Lets first talk sexual assault. According to The Guardian and well-known writer Jessica Valenti “…numerous studies have found that men who join fraternities are three times more likely to rape.” In addition to this, over 85 colleges or universities in the US (including JMU) are under Title IX investigations. Over 86% of these cases have to do with a member of a fraternity or a sorority as the perpetrator, the victim, or more often both. UVA-our neighbor college-is under attack for the mistreatment of Title IX in a sexual case that was broadcasted through the media, and received widespread attention. This affects us all. Especially because JMU is under investigation because of a sexual assault case that dealt with members of greek life.

Taking a step back from sexual assault, lets talk about racism. A story just broke out a few weeks ago about a University of Oklahoma student, and member of the fraternity singing a racist song that alluded to lynching on the bus going to a fraternity event. The young man apparently learned the horrible song on a sponsored cruise by the fraternity, Sigma Alpha Epsilon. This prompts the question, how many other universities have members singing these horrible songs? Is it just Oklahoma University’s chapter, or were they just the only ones to get caught?

Lets take it back to Harrisonburg and discuss violence. Last weekend, a friend of mine, Anne*, was driving past a fraternity party and saw a young man getting beaten up by other men out in the open. When Anne stopped the car and tried to intervene, she as well as her two other friends were harassed and threatened. One partier took a swing at her friend and she was struck in the ear, leaving her with a concussion. A police report was filed but nothing can be done because no one knows which person actually committed the assault.

Could all of these events be a coincidence? Facts mights just show otherwise. Members of greek life have been the root of almost every major incident on college campuses in the last few years. If we don’t want this to continue, we need to do something. It was also recently brought to my attention by someone affiliated with greek life that often times the people who join greek organizations are often heavy drinkers and partiers, and the heavy drinking and partying is what leads to this behavior. The jury is still out on that one, but it is something to consider. At this point, I expect some readers to be outraged. I expect that some people will reply with something along the lines of “a few bad people do not make all greek life bad.” In which, I invite you to look back at the title of this piece: Not all Greeks but Often Greeks. In addition to this, I invite people to make comments and share this. I want to know other opinions because from my GDI perspective, this is what I see. So please, comment and educate me as well as anyone reading this.

*Names were changed in this story to protect their identities

25 thoughts on “Not all Greeks, but Often Greeks

  1. I totally agree with you Shannon. This is a serious issue, and like you said Not All Greeks…but the fact that the Greek community is so heavily associated with sexual assault, racist ideals, and violence, is extremely concerning. The Greek culture has become a place where those types of behaviors are fostered, and even learned. And no amount of philanthropy will change the fact that parts of Greek life pose a serious threat, and if members remain apathetic or continue to get defensive, rather than working towards sustainable change, then I’m not sure we can ethically continue to endorse that community.


    1. Thank you @oconnocm ! I really like the fact that you brought up the endorsement of these organizations. Often we tend to forget that Greek life is sponsored by the University so whether these chapters gets reprimanded for their behavior is the job of the University.


  2. I think that you’re definitely right on track with this. For me, I don’t think it’s necessarily Greek culture that’s the issue, because a lot of other GDI folks drink and party heavily, but I do think that there is a sort of mob mentality that happens. It’s like, well all my brothers/sisters are acting like this so I have to engage in/can get away with this behavior too! And, in the same respects, when a conflict arises you know that your Greek family will have your back…even if you’re in the wrong. It’s like groupthink turned up to the max and it’s sad because you’re right, not all Greeks are acting this way. But they probably aren’t going to stand up against their brothers/sisters either because they want to fit in. I’m really glad you blogged about this, and I appreciate your open perspective and that you didn’t generalize. So many snaps!!


    1. I really appreciate your perspective. I think it is interesting that you brought up group think because I have never looked at it that way. Greek life tends to be the most targeted but I wonder if other organizations have similar instances and we just hear about greek life.


    1. Hi, thank you so much for commenting. Ironically enough, my exact quote on UVA was “UVA-our neighbor college-is under attack for the mistreatment of Title IX in a sexual case that was broadcasted through the media, and received widespread attention.” No where in that quote did I say ANYTHING about it being true or false, simply that the school itself is under an investigation. I hyperlinked this in the story, but here is the link just incase you missed that.

      Also, I find it very interesting that your chosen commenter name is something that could allude to sexual assault, or in the least harassment. Maybe you should check out some of the other posts on ShoutOut about holding back the urge to make degrading comments towards others. It might help you in the future.


  3. I think the ignorant comments above speak to the exact problems this author was writing about. Instead of being met with an actual discussion or putting work in to seriously alter the greek culture to be safer, the individuals above chose to comment with superficial insults that are absolutely unnecessary. Getting defensive or relying on offensive comments makes clear that certain community members aren’t willing to work towards meaningful change, and that they could care less about issues as important as racism or sexual assault, and essentially proves the point the author was making. It’s incredibly disgusting and I 100% stand by the author of this piece.


  4. And I would also like to say that the UVA rape case was severely mishandled by Rolling Stone, and they practiced incredibly irresponsible journalism. The idea that that case was made up really isn’t based on any fact. That everyone immediately disbelieved her story speaks to very real victim blaming issues we have. And lastly, regardless of whether that specific incident happened, rape does happen under the exact circumstances the survivor described, so that one case is arbitrary because regardless, rape is still a huge problem. Saying that that case was false means nothing and is irrelevant to the fact that rape still happens and is still mishandled.


    1. I agree with you. Also, the UVA case has not been proven to be made up. I believe the word fabricated was used in most new stories, but even so, sexual assault is a MAJOR problem.


  5. “Members of greek life have been the root of almost every major incident on college campuses in the last few years.” I would love for you to show us some actual facts for this. In addition the study you cite from gawker is a shocking flawed study in which an extremely small sample size was used at one college with misleading questions. A recent study done by real researchers in an appropriate manner actually found that Greeks are less likely to rape or be sexually aggressive. Continuing on that thread: seeing one fight at one house is not evidence that Greeks are more violent in any way, especially when you have no back story. Citing the recent UVA case which has been proven by the police to be a total fabrication is also inappropriate. You might as well have written “I heard some girl got raped at a frat, those guys are the worst” and it would hold the same amount of sway. This is sensationalist journalism without any backing facts. I appreciate you taking the time to share your opinion, but this is not a well written defense of that opinion.


    1. Thank you for your comment. I also want to thank you for being the first and only opposing comment so far to have actual feedback and a well thought out response. As you can see from the comments above, most people who share your opinion have not responded the same way.

      Anyway, in order for me to show you evidence of greek life members being involved in college campus incidents, I would have to bring up over 100 University’s newspapers in addition to most weekly articles from almost every major news source. As this is not plausible in this forum, I am happy to meet with you.

      I think it’s particularly interesting that you cite another study in addition to the hundreds that I had found all telling me the same information. I would love it if you could pass that along to me because I am interested in reading it. Continuing on that thread, you are right. Seeing one fight at one house is not evidence. However, we did actually receive the JMU alert about this today-almost a week after the incident took place. My point in that paragraph was to get the point out that when people are in large groups they don’t necessarily see the same justice because they are protected by the others in their organization (as we see so often in Greek organizations.) I apologize if you withdrew anything else from that.

      Citing UVA as being under investigation is a fact. I do not see facts as being inappropriate but to each their own.

      Finally, I think your comment about this being “sensationalist journalism” is unfair. This article is opinion based. I have a HUGE disclaimer in the beginning saying that because I am not in the community, I do not have all the facts. I also ask you to explore the last paragraph as well as the title: Not all Greeks, but Often Greeks. I am alluding to the fact that not everyone in Greek life does things like the crimes mentioned in my post. No where in this article did I say I was an expert on this topic, but from my GDI perspective this is how Greek life is looking.

      Again thank you so much for sharing your opinion and commenting.


  6. @rosehasathorn, I just wanted to say thank you. Thank you for having the courage to post such a controversial article. I understand that this may be making life a little harder for you, but you writing this is going to help make much needed changes to the campus. Not only did you use facts and personal accounts, but you were really level headed and did not use stereotypes. THIS is the kind of dialogue we need. As a proud greek member, it is very easy to see that there are flaws in the greek system. Personally, I never knew that this is how a GDI perspective looks so thank you for letting me see this.

    As for the rude comments above, you all are just making things worse. Can’t you see that @rosehasathorn is trying to get people talking so we can be better. I don’t know about you all but I am proud to attend JMU with someone like the person who wrote this. At least they are trying to make change in a peaceful and non-violent way. Maybe instead of harassing her, we should be thanking her.


    1. Hailey, Thank you for saying this. This was my exact intention, and I am happy to see someone took this article in the way I intended it.

      As for the other commenters, I invite constructive criticism-I think that I have a lot to learn about the Greek community as well. But thank you for your kind words and encouragement and I hope that other people can see this article they way you have.


  7. This article makes me sad. Not because it isn’t accurate, but because it is. I found my home in my sorority and I know others have too. I also know that people who aren’t in greek life don’t really understand it. But you can’t fight facts and you can’t argue with someone’s opinion. I just hope that the greek life here at JMU can fix this and show people like the author that we aren’t bad.


    1. Hi, thank you so much for taking the time to share your opinion. I appreciate your ability to see both sides and I hope that I can do the same. My 2 best friends are both in sororities so I have seen the positive sides of greek life, but for every positive there is a negative- at least in my eyes- and I don’t think that can be ignored.


  8. Anyone notice how most of the negative comments are coming from fraternities and the positive ones are coming from women in sororities or outside members? All greek life does not act the same. @rosehasathorn I apologize for the negative and unhelpful comments you are receiving.


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