Kalhan Rosenblatt’s NBC News article “Colleges are suspending Greek life. Don’t expect the ban to last.” reported on the spate of incidents that have led to the banning of Greek activities on campuses throughout the country:
This year alone, the deaths of four pledges in alcohol-related incidents and various hazing infractions have led to the closing down of some or all Greek life activities on several college campuses and the filing of criminal charges against more than two dozen students.
While college administrators, for the most part, have acted quickly after the most recent deaths, it is still highly unlikely that any would move to permanently ban fraternities outright, experts say.
In the last two months, Florida State University, Louisiana State University and Texas State University all suspended Greek life activities after each had a fraternity pledge die. (LSU later allowed Greek life activities to resume.)
Penn State University implemented new regulations for its Greek life and suspended some fraternities after the death of a sophomore pledge, Timothy Piazza, after an alcohol-filled hazing ritual in February. Prosecutors filed charges in the case last week against 17 people linked to the fraternity. A school spokeswoman said the university president will meet with his counterparts at other colleges in the Big 10 conference next year to discuss potential solutions.
In his post Rosenblatt refers to the writing of John Hechinger who has described “‘the unholy trinity of fraternity life’: racism, deadly drinking, and misogyny” in his recent book “True Gentlemen: The Broken Pledge of America’s Fraternities.”
Hechinger gave the account of a SAE fraternity’s Royal Caribbean Cruise where, to the tune of “If You’re Happy and You Know It”, chapter members sang: “There will never be a nigger at SAE, You can hang him from a tree, but he’ll never sign with me. There will never be a nigger at SAE.”
In Slate, Jake New’s “The Ugly, Racist, Deadly History of Sigma Alpha Epsilon” gave the perspective of Matthew Hughey:
“We have to remember that the Greek letter system in the United States was founded on pretty harsh and legally supported exclusionary practices,” Matthew Hughey, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Connecticut who studies the issue, said. “There’s a normal, mundane type of racism that functions every day, but it’s harder to see.”
New also wrote:
Despite the fact that its members agree to memorize and follow a creed known as the True Gentleman, SAE has frequently been accused of racist and discriminatory behavior over the years. Now the largest fraternity in the country, SAE seems to have played a disproportionate role in some of the most offensive incidents in recent decades, yet it remains a house in good standing at more than 200 campuses.
Tasneem Nashrulla, in a Buzz Feed News article “A History Of Racism At Sigma Alpha Epsilon”, wrote:
Sigma Alpha Epsilon was born, in secret, on March 9, 1856, “in the late hours of a stormy night” by the “flicker of dripping candles” in a mansion in Tuscaloosa, home to the University of Alabama. The original intent of the eight founding members, an SAE brother wrote decades later, was “to confine the fraternity to the southern states.”
In 2012 Ben Flanagan’s AL.com article covered a temporary suspension of Greek life at the University of Alabama:
As a result of several hazing allegations and investigations, the University of Alabama has suspended several fraternity privileges and all pledgeship activities as of 1 p.m. on Thursday.
UA Media Relations says the university has issued interim suspensions to one former member of Pi Kappa Alpha and two active members who engaged in hazing activities at an off-campus location. Students may not attend classes or participate in UA activities until they have appeared before Judicial Affairs and a decision is made on whether they can be reinstated and return to campus.
Merely suspending the “privileges and pledgeship activities” of a few fraternities at the University of Alabama is not equivalent to the campus wide bans on Greek activities that are occurring nationwide.
It might be thought that the University of Alabama Machine‘s stealing a municipal school election in 2013 might have justified a ban. Bribing Greeks with booze and limo rides, as reported by Al.com’s Melissa Brown, to elect a former student to a position on a local school board was a blatantly undemocratic act.
Who knows? Given the right circumstances even the University of Alabama might ban Greek life on campus…at least for a little while.