Established 1826 — Oldest College Newspaper West of the Alleghenies

‘Our normal is not normal:’ Greek expectations, reality don’t match up

The following piece, written by the editorial editors, reflects the majority opinion of the editorial board.

Last Sunday kicked off fraternity recruitment. That night, 15 students were transported to the hospital. The next night, eight more hospitalizations followed. Of these students, two had blood alcohol levels of .3.

Panhellenic president Elizabeth Nelsen said these alarming numbers are rumored, and are in the process of being confirmed. What's known for sure, though, is Oxford's police departments saw a spike in arrests and hospitalizations and linked this rise to Greek recruitment.

Nelsen cited these numbers in an email sent to all sorority chapter presidents on Monday, saying, "Our community is currently battling an extremely severe situation that has unfortunately also become our norm. Nothing about this situation is normal."

Nelsen's direct expression of disapproval toward the behavior of certain chapters is commendable. However, the focus seems to be more on protecting the reputation of Greek organizations rather than the safety of members.

Greek life is a powerful force at Miami, and many first-years spend fall semester waiting to join. They imagine wearing letters, attending parties and making friends. By the time recruitment rolls around and they are welcomed into their chapters, the excitement is tangible. People want to celebrate, which almost always involves alcohol.

Many Greek organizations have strict anti-hazing rules - however, the pressure to drink is often not as obvious as the stereotypical fraternity president force-feeding alcohol to pledges or commanding them to chug more beer.

The pressure can be subtle and comes in many forms. It can be as simple as someone handing you a drink, then another and another. You know you are more intoxicated than you should be, but you accept because you want to seem cool and make a good first-impression.

Even good-intentioned statements like, "You don't have to drink if you don't want to," or, "You can go home if you're uncomfortable," can come off as a challenge. The unspoken but understood subtext hidden between the lines of these offers is that if you don't drink, people might judge. If you go home early, you will miss out on the fun.

And even if no one else is pushing you, you push yourself. People have an innate desire to fit in, and the pressure to drink can happen to anyone in any group. But for students participating in rush, this feeling is amplified. When no one is actively trying to stop this phenomenon, things can get out of hand.

This stereotype is perpetuated by the media, which portrays college as a four-year-long episode of binge drinking. People think this is how they are supposed to behave, and the cycle continues.

We are not condemning Greek life alone. There are members of Greek organizations on our editorial board who have nothing but positive things to say about their experiences. Those of us who are not Greek have friends who love their chapters.

Yet, there is a trend here that cannot be ignored. For all the good Greek life does, there is also an overwhelming amount of evidence that it can pose problems. While a lot of other groups, like club sports and bands, also haze, and while college students not affiliated with Greek life also engage in high-risk drinking, no other type of organization attracts attention for incidents like Greek life does.

What's most interesting is that despite the recent hospitalizations, recruitment at Miami continues this week. Why? Why do people value getting into a club more than they value their own well-being?

The Interfraternity Council (IFC) press release claims, "The health and safety of the Greek community and the student body as a whole" are its No. 1 priority. But their actions don't always support this sentiment.

"Something needs to change in order to maintain a viable Greek system that we as members of our organizations can be proud of," Nelsen's email reads. "At this point, we need to all stop to think why we are Greek."

The ideas of "Greek values" or showing people "what it means to be Greek" are often used but extremely ambiguous phrases. It is, however, clear that being a member of any student organization should not put students in dangerous situations or pose a risk to their safety.

It's time to challenge the absurd norms the system upholds. IFC organizations are built on pillars of leadership, community and brotherhood. It's time to start acting like it.