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OP-ED: A handful of students does not represent the whole of Greek Life

Joseph Kamin, Editor-in-Chief

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*Editors note – Joseph Kamin is an initiated member of Lambda Chi Alpha Fraternity.

Tim Piazza was a pledge of Beta Theta Pi at Pennsylvania State University. Piazza had a blood alcohol content of .40 when he fell down the stairs and collapsed a lung, ruptured his spleen and received brain damage. Piazza died two days after his fall. After his death, 18 students were arrested. Eight are being charged with involuntary manslaughter and the other 10 are being charged with hazing and furnishing alcohol to minors.

Maxwell Gruver was a pledge of Phi Delta Theta at Louisiana State University. Gruver was taken to the hospital with “acute alcohol intoxication with aspiration.” His BAC was a .495 when he arrived at the hospital. Shortly after arriving at the hospital, Gruver passed away. The Louisiana State University Police issued warrants of arrest for 10 students.

Andrew Coffee was a pledge of Pi Kappa Phi at Florida State University. Coffee was found unresponsive the morning after a house party. Medical treatment was administered, but it was too late for Coffee. After the death, the Pi Kappa Phi chapter at Florida State was suspended.

All three deaths were a tragic loss. All three deaths were avoidable. The blame lies with nobody but their “brothers” who forced alcohol down their throats until they were unresponsive and then ignored them when they needed medical attention.

However, this is not an accurate representation of Greek life. There are over 750,000 undergraduate students involved in Greek life. According to the North-American Interfraternity Conference, in the 2014-15 academic year, 380,487 undergraduate students were members of fraternities. There are also over nine million students and alumni members of Greek life. The 28 members that were arrested for the death of pledges represent .000075 percent of fraternity members. As they should, these deaths attract media attention. However, many of the positive aspects of Greek life go unnoticed to the media, as they aren’t stories that will attract website clicks.

Since the first social fraternity was established, 19 Presidents the United States have been in fraternities. 20 Vice Presidents of the United Sates have been in fraternities. Since 1910, there have been 40 Supreme Court Justices who were involved in Greek life. 25 percent of the United States House of Representatives were involved in Greek life, as well was 40 percent of the United States Senate. 43 of the 50 largest corporations in America are lead by Greek men and women.

The list of notable Greek alumni can even be localized to Tarleton State University. Dr. F. Dominic Dottavio, the President of Tarleton, was in a fraternity.

Dr. Laura Boren, Vice President for Student Affairs, was in a sorority. Dr. Kyle McGregor, Vice President of Institutional Advance, was in a fraternity. Darrel Brown, Executive Directory of Student Engagement, was in a fraternity. Alyson Chapman, Director of Editorial and Creative Services, was in a sorority. Caleb Chapman, Director for Student Affairs Marketing and Communication, was in a fraternity. Kent Styron, Directory and University Compliance Officer, was in a fraternity. Daron Trussell, Associate Director for Campus Recreation, was in a fraternity. Caris Thetford, Assistant Director of Student Counseling Services, was in a sorority. DeWayne Burns, a Tarleton alumni and State Representative for District 58, was in a fraternity.

The list of influential alumni on campus grows exponentially when you begin looking at faculty and staff who are not directors or department heads. There are countless faculty and staff at Tarleton who were involved in Greek life. Whether you know it or not, whether you like it or not, Greek life surrounds you.

It has been statistically proven that Greek life students, once graduated, go out and take on leadership roles in their community and workplace.

There are several philanthropic aspects to Greek life as well, according to the North-American Interfraternity Conference in 2013-14, fraternities raised $20.3 million and according the National PanHellenic Conference, sorority women raised $30 million in 2016-17. That is a combined $50.3 million dollars that were raised for Philanthropic causes. While these funds are not getting donated to the same organization, the funds are being spread out through several research or humanitarian causes. Across the United States, the Greek life community also racked up a total of 6.2 million community service hours during an academic year.

During October, it is impossible to watch the National Football League without seeing pink everywhere. But, what most people do not know, is that this was started by the Zeta Tau Alpha sorority in 1999. The reason the NFL turns pink for a month is because of sorority women. The NFL does not only wear pink though, every October, the NFL raises several million dollars to donate to research as well.

The media portrays Greek life as organizations that are designed to party, do drugs, haze and sexually assault. The tragic deaths of Piazza, Gruver and Coffee have shown that there are members of Greek life who are in it for exactly what the media portrays. But, the “brothers” that were with them that night were not their brothers. Real brothers push each other to strive for excellence. Real brothers push each other to challenge themselves each day. Real brothers would not kill another brother. That is fundamentally against the principles
on which all Greek organizations were founded.

Members of Greek life are surrounding you. They’re running businesses, teaching, making laws and running the government. Members of Greek life are donating millions to research, food banks, hospitals and other philanthropic organizations. Members of Greek life are spending a countless amount of service hours to give back to their community. Do not let a minuscule amount of Greek life members corrupt your view of the Greek life community. You don’t hear about the good that is done, you only hear about the bad. Because that is what sells.



Fraternity Statistics



4 Responses to “OP-ED: A handful of students does not represent the whole of Greek Life”

  1. Paul on November 16th, 2017 9:51 PM

    Pi Kappa Phi’s nickname is Pi Kap not Pikes. Pi Kappa Alpha’s nickname is Pike. The Pi Kappa Phi(Pi Kap) chapter at FSU was suspended NOT Pi Kappa Alpha(Pike).
    Paul Smith
    Pi Kappa Alpha Alumnus
    Stetson University
    Delta Upsilon Chapter
    Fall 1982 Pledge Class

  2. Rose on November 18th, 2017 11:23 AM

    Can you elaborate on your data? Are the deaths that you describe only this year, because then it’s unfair to make the ratio out of every single person who has ever been involved in Greek life, including alumni. You would need to account for all deaths in the last, say, 50 years.

    Your point is valid that Greek life is made a stereotype, and that’s not fair and it’s certainly frustrating. But while maybe these incidents aren’t that common, they are patterned and systemic, which could point to an underlying toxic culture that exists at least in some Greek organizations. Also like you mentioned, deaths from alcohol poisoning aren’t the only types of crime associated with fraternities especially. One in every five college aged woman have been sexually assaulted, and in no way do I want to conflate every single one of those assaults as some drunk fraternity brother at a house party. I understand that most of those assaults happen by people that the woman knows. But such a massive statistic can’t be overlooked, and it shows a systemic problem on college campuses as a whole, and I think it would be better to try and explore Greek life’s role in that, instead of trying to exonerate the system completely.

    Great article, though, certainly got me thinking!

  3. Anon on November 18th, 2017 6:35 PM

    Although I’d love to read this and think positively and believe your stats I’ve been to a Lambda Chi party (even you were there) and everyone was absolutely trashed and one kid was asleep in a tree. Many pledges like yourselves were forced to drink until you literally couldn’t and we’re thrown in a room to “sleep it off” so pretty much every frat is the same.

  4. A member of the public on November 19th, 2017 3:16 PM

    Nowhere in this op-ed is a compelling argument made for the benefit of Greek membership for the student. Why should a student join? For some nebulous payoff later in life because senators and presidents were Greek? Because the college president was Greek? What part did Greek life play in their success? Or was success obtained in spite of, not because of, being Greek? These successful people were likely to be successful in life regardless of Greek affiliation because they were mostly already 1) going to elite institutions, 2) coming from successful families, and 3) white. So, what are the actual benefits for an average college student to join a fraternity? Because those arguments aren’t made here.

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