According to the fraternity Alpha Delta Phi’s website, its “Brothers unite to participate in an atmosphere of energetic and concerted interaction where the moral, social, and intellectual aspects of each man’s character may grow and flourish.”
Its brothers were also the inspiration for Animal House.
Fraternities offer their members opportunities for community service, friendship, and leadership. They also create environments that seem to breed hazing, binge drinking, and sexual assault. Universities have struggled to harness fraternities’ power for good and diminish their capability for evil, but so far little has worked. So what can universities do to stem the flow of fatalities, injuries, and sexual assaults at fraternities? Instead of threatening fraternities with everything from limited rush week activities to double secret probation, some think the solution is to end the reign of fraternities on American campuses altogether. Last month, Bloomberg’s editors called for college administrations to abolish fraternities. Caitlin Flanagan called for the “shuttering” of fraternities in a 2011 Wall Street Journal piece. Other writers have penned similar pieces.
These articles take for granted that Greek life can be dethroned, but the reality is more complicated. It would take more than angsty editorials to push fraternities off of the American college campus. Fraternities and universities share a centuries-long history, a student body eager to find the collegiate promise land of keg-fueled parties, and a relationship that is, in many ways, mutually beneficial. If deaths, binge drinking, and sexual assault haven’t been enough to bring them down, what would have to happen to dismantle fraternities? Here are some possible scenarios: