Should We Ban Frats?

As a former sorority girl, I’m more than familiar with the fraternity system in this country.
I can’t count the number of lukewarm, Jungle Juice concoctions I’ve sucked down, either filled to the brim with Diesel (190 proof), cough syrup (and not because I’m trying to be Lil Wayne), or in one particularly memorable case (or not-so-memorable, you could say), Xanax. At these parties, I was surrounded by guys I knew from around campus. They were the ones mixing up these particularly potent drinks. Guys dating my sisters, sitting next to me in class, living in the same dorm as me.
At a small southern school, you’re going to know almost everyone, and Greek life is going to be a major component of college life — it’s unavoidable. Where I went to school, fraternity parties happened regularly (even though the campus police tried to shut them down), and the level of drinking was pretty much out of control. It created an unavoidable hook-up culture.
In college, you can easily get a drink (or many drinks) before you turn 21. Combine that with the grain alcohol in the punch (along with suspicious substances), Greek life, and bars that stay open all night, and it’s not exactly the safest situation for an 18-year-old girl.
I’d like to say that I don’t know stories like the one that happened at the University of Virginia. But I can’t.
There was the friend who lost her virginity to the fraternity guy she was friends with, even as she said no, repeatedly — who thought it couldn’t be rape, because they were friends. Because he was so nice to her in the morning. She had to see him on campus for four more long years, at happy hour, in class, everywhere. There was no safe space.
There was the sorority sister who went on a formal weekend with a set-up, only to put him off during an attempted rape. The rest of his fraternity threatened her, telling her that they would fight back if she said anything.
Everyone has a story like this. Everyone knows a girl like this, or is a girl who experienced this. It’s not only fraternity guys, although the spotlight has been on them in recent years. It’s college sports stars, it’s the guy down the hall from you, it’s the one you meet out at night who goes to a different school.
The worst part? We blame ourselves. We blame others. She drank too much, her shirt was too short, she should never have been alone, she should have called her friends, she should have said something. We say whatever we can to make ourselves feel better, safer, like it could never happen to us, when the truth is much more terrifying.
In the wake of the fraternity ban at UVA, I can’t help but wonder if it will help.
At my school, one fraternity was banned when they hazed their pledges so badly they went to the hospital (another banned after forcing a pledge to live in a dog cage). It was a known fact that you shouldn’t drink when you went to their house, because it wasn’t safe — but every girl didn’t know that. They still had plenty of off-campus parties with the exact same men, and just because they weren’t officially called the same name didn’t make it any safer, something I learned for myself at one of their parties. While nothing happened, it could have — and that’s the scariest part. How one moment, one party, can change everything.
Banning fraternities won’t necessarily make campuses safer. They’ll still have their parties, and those guys will still exist. A house, Greek letters, and matching t-shirts don’t make them more likely to be rapists, and taking that away won’t make our campuses safer. This is an issue that goes so much deeper than Greek life, than fraternities — it’s an issue that affects all of us, every day. It’s why we cover up when we take public transportation, keep our keys in our palms, ready for anything, and know that if we have “too many” drinks we could be at risk — and we could be blamed. Banning frats won’t change anything, but expelling those boys might. Real consequences for real choices is more of a start than running fraternities underground will ever be.
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