The Culture of Fraternities is at Risk

Fraternities faced national media attention with a recent spotlight on negative activity this past March. When the video was discovered on March 7 of this year, the racist chant sung by members of the University of Oklahoma’s Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter was met with public outrage that led to the house being suspended from the campus. Within the same week the Pi Kappa Alpha chapter at the University of Connecticut was suspended for charges including illegal use of alcohol, and the University of Houston’s chapter of Sigma Chi was suspended for hazing. Seemingly motivated by incidents such as these that breed the destructive culture plaguing fraternities this year, and of the rape allegations from the last academic year at MSU, the chapters at Montana State are establishing new precautions to counteract this problem.

Montana State University and the parties within it have progressed in establishing new bodies to enforce the rules of our school at the houses of fraternities. New enforcers provided by the fraternities themselves include the inter-fraternity safety team and sexual violence prevention training provided by the MSU VOICE center. Both the University and the Greeks worked together on December 20, 2013, by banning all alcohol except for wine and beer at all future gatherings of Pi Kappa Alpha and Sigma Chi due to the rape allegations against those fraternities during the week of September 17 of that year. However, rather than focusing solely on adding policies and new groups to impose those rules, an emphasis must also be placed on changing fraternities internally.

Most, if not all, fraternities are founded upon ideals that intend to refine young men into respectful, responsible and successful leaders outside of college. Involvement with outside resources to improve their chapter as a whole is necessary, but the individual members themselves must fulfill their responsibility to their brothers for the brotherhood to succeed. All members need to be attentive and responsible in keeping each other in check with both their behavior as well as their fraternity’s moral code. By staying true to the purpose of their respective fraternity, the temptations that lead to such tragic moments as rape, racism and illegal use of alcohol should be easier to push aside because of a more positive culture.

By forming a positive community, such negative actions that seem to be commonplace can be become a rarity — especially if the public is involved too. By responding correctly to incidents, the public act as watchdogs to keep fraternities in line, but we cannot react blindly or rashly until the facts are confirmed because that would cause even more trouble.

In 2014 at the University of Virginia, the Phi Kappa Psi chapter was accused of gang raping a student. In response the public was outraged and by constantly pressuring the president of the university, all Greek houses and organizations were expelled from the campus, without any support from an investigation.While the charges were found to be unfounded and later dropped, all parties’ reputations remained damaged. and at the cost of blind action.

The public should have waited for the investigation to conclude, then it would be clearer if the fraternity was guilty, and would create more time for the university’s president to handle the situation justly and accordingly. The public has the power to change, and if used incorrectly the community will suffer. By the public’s pressure, the president of the school was motivated to suspend all Greek organizations when only one was in question, which essentially made that university’s culture anti-Greek. Therefore, how can we expect fraternities to change, when even those innocent of accusations are closed by public demands?

To create the positive culture needed to end such incidents happening in fraternities, all parties must be involved. Fraternity members need to keep each other in line with their organization’s’ message that intends for them to be great men in the working world. Upon news of events such as sexual assault or illegal alcohol incidents at fraternities, Montana State must follow through with a solid investigation then respond accordingly with their findings and not because of public pressure. The public must not react blindly and with prejudice, instead we must encourage positive actions by fraternities and act upon facts not suspicion. To fix such problems requires a community willing to listen and be just when problems arise, not one where blame is placed without backing and prejudices divide parties within.