Down With Racism, Down With…Frats?

Hannah Gordon

So, by now there’s been a lot of talk about institutional racism at Colgate, specifically as it manifests itself in Greek Life. A peer of mine recently published an article on the subject that received shockingly hateful comments. If you happened to be in Frank, the Coop or Case the following evening, then you witnessed a moving protest in which those disgusting comments were read out loud so everyone could know exactly what type of racism continues to flourish at Colgate. As a point of clarification, the demonstration itself had nothing to do with fraternities and sororities. I was proud to take part in this protest, right up until the recap meeting, when Greek Life was brought in.

Now, I want to make something abundantly clear. I am not now, nor have I ever been, nor did I ever even consider involvement in Greek Life. I didn’t pledge, I didn’t rush. I didn’t even go to the meeting for the free shirt. Quite frankly, I can’t think of anything less appealing than being in a giant group of girls. Not my scene. And furthermore, I’ll be the first to admit that Greek Life at Colgate has serious, deeply-rooted issues. However, that does not mean that I think banning sororities and fraternities will solve any sort of problem. In fact, as we’ve seen, it is much more likely to make them worse.

It’s not exactly a secret that an “abolished” fraternity may or may not continue to exist on this campus. The practical upshot of this, of course, is that it becomes impossible to regulate. And that’s not just true at Colgate – although Amherst College formally ended their Greek system in the 1980s when they became co-ed, underground fraternities continue to exist over 20 years later. Voluntary organization of individuals is simply not an activity that lends itself to being policed by prohibition, as it necessitates an invasive law enforcement presence. And yes, this statement is not-so-subtly based in a standard argument against a different sort of prohibition. But the same reasoning holds true. If someone were to punch me in the face, I can call the police. But no one is about to come forward and say “Hello, Campus Safety officer. I’m a member of underground Beta Theta Delta Alpha Sigma. Please kick me out of school. Would you like the names of some brothers?” In this system, law enforcement is not only responsible for responding to the violation, but they are also responsible for finding it. In short, formally banning Greek life is very unlikely to actually end it. It will, however, make it impossible to regulate, for you can’t reform something that doesn’t technically exist. And any attempt to enforce this rule would mean an increased Campus Safety presence in our lives. Frankly, that is not the sort of environment that I want to live in.

That being said, Colgate as it stands is not really the sort of environment that I want to live in, either. When people write things like “if everyone at Colgate were white then I wouldn’t have to worry about getting harpooned by one of the morbidly obese black girls in the minority corner at the Jug when I am blackout drunk” in response to an article about racial tension, it becomes extremely obvious that things need to change. Fortunately, there are many people on this campus who are eager to work toward that change. Some of those people want to do so through the abolition of the Greek system, but not all of us. I was extremely disappointed when I heard someone talking about “that protest against frats.” Not everyone who wants to fight racism wants to fight Greek Life, and becoming bogged down in this debate is clouding the bigger issue.

Contact Hannah Gordon at [email protected]