Background and context
Fraternities have been a source of partying, binge drinking, rampant sex, accidental deaths, and rape. They have also been a source of brotherhood, career development, community service, and academic development. Yet, with a constant litany of bad incidents related to frats reaching the headlines of local and national newspapers, universities are frequently pressed to consider whether to ban a single frat or scrap the entire system all together on their campuses. A particularly notable example surrounds a Yale frat in May of 2011. The frat, Delta Kappa Epsilon, was suspended for five years by the university for having its pledges chant the following slogan: “No means yes, yes means anal!” and carrying signs reading, “We love Yale sluts.” The school found that the frat was in violation of Title IX of the Civil Rights Act that protects women against gender discrimination. Many have responded to the incident by calling for a wider ban of all frats at Yale as well as at other campuses. This is but one example of a debate that continues to make headlines every semester. The pros and cons are considered below.
“In the 20th century some fraternities became quite organized in their hostility toward women, with protests against coeducation, and coordinated ostracism of the first classes of female students; one 1960s California fraternity sponsored “Hate Women Week” on campus. […] Do all fraternity men behave this way? Of course not. But have fraternity men, as a group, been the most organized and vocal in creating a hostile climate for female students on campuses? The historical record says yes.”
“The hegemonic masculinity widely reflected in current American society and embedded in contemporary undergraduate men, including many who are members of college fraternities, was thoroughly examined in ‘Guyland,’ a 2008 book by Michael Kimmel. Banning college fraternities will not eliminate the underlying hegemonic masculinity in American society, nor will banning fraternities end college student sexual assaults.”
Some frats have bad apples. But, in general, they are filled with good young men that are respectful to women, engaged in their academics, and concerned about finding a good future profession. The stereotyping of frats is way overblown.
“By the 1980s, a number of studies have shown that there was a widespread movement among fraternities toward alcohol-fueled sexual aggression and assault, whereby victimized women are understood as vehicles for men’s pleasure and bonding. While statistics on the incidence of sexual assault are notoriously unreliable, over the past 30 years psychologists, anthropologists, sociologists and educators have continued to document alarming trends in pressure to have sex among fraternity men, coerce it from unwilling women through the use of alcohol, and report about it afterward to the assembled brotherhood. While statistics on the incidence of sexual assault are notoriously unreliable, over the past 30 years psychologists, anthropologists, sociologists and educators have continued to document alarming trends in pressure to have sex among fraternity men, coerce it from unwilling women through the use of alcohol, and report about it afterward to the assembled brotherhood.”
“A 2007 National Institute of Justice study found that about one in five women are victims of sexual assault in college; almost all of those incidents go unreported. It also noted that fraternity men—who tend to drink more heavily and frequently than nonmembers—are more likely to perpetrate sexual assault than nonfraternity men, according to previous studies. Over a quarter of sexual-assault victims who were incapacitated reported that the assailant was a fraternity member.”
“The problem here is rape culture, which is particularly pronounced within fraternities. But rape culture exists in many places on college campuses. Again, this is not to excuse it or to argue that many wrongs make a right. Rather, I propose that the more productive solution of keeping fraternities intact, while working to change the particularly egregious rape culture that they so often foster, which is simply a more concentrated version of the rape culture that exists on so many campuses – even those with no Greek life at all.”
“my concern is that shutting down the frats would leave us with a false sense of security. Does frat culture need to be changed? Yes, frat culture desperately needs to be changed. Will scape-goating fraternities, and imagining that by closing them down, we can eradicate rape culture, help in the long run? I don’t think it will.”
“‘Yes, date rape happens at frat houses. It also happens at marching band parties, and at crew training camp, and in ROTC barracks and at chess club away meets. This is not to minimize what happens in frat houses or to tell women who have suffered sexual violence there that their experiences don’t matter. It is simply to say that sexual assault happens all over college campuses. And that’s what we need to change.”
“While concerns about legal liability have led colleges and universities to vigilantly police alcohol consumption and public intoxication in university-owned housing, fraternities have mostly been spared such scrutiny. As a result, these organizations often monopolize the supply of alcohol to under-aged students. Fraternity dominance of the social scene of many campuses heightens risks for young women. As party hosts, fraternity men often control the space — establishing party themes that encourage women to wear provocative clothing, making and distributing the drinks, controlling the door, and sometimes even preventing women from leaving.”
“My research shows that fraternity membership does indeed contribute to increased binge and frequent drinking and intoxication, including consequences such as hangovers, forgetting or regretting actions, missing classes and arguing with friends. […] However, for most types and effects of alcohol use, only a small fraction of the gap between fraternity members and non-members is actually caused by fraternity membership. Specifically, for most drinking behavior, only 10 to 20 percent of the difference between members and non-members is plausibly attributable to being in a fraternity. Most of these differences, therefore, would persist even in the absence of fraternities, to which many pledges are attracted precisely because members engage in alcohol-related behavior in which pledges already participate.”