Co-educational greek life organizations may be necessary switch
In light of the ban on fraternity and sorority parties, the greek community at Rutgers needs to reconsider some of its fundamental values. Some would observe the death of Caitlyn Kovacs in September and blame alcohol alone, but demonization of a substance is easy, and ignores the larger context and social issue at hand.
Since its inception, the greek system has been predicated on the strict separation of sexes. As mixed-sex education has become not only a norm in America, but also a moral imperative, fraternities and sororities have retained this archaic division, remaining a bastion of social conservatism. Rape myths, strict sex roles and vicious stereotypes thrive in an environment where men and women do not regularly practice (in a domestic context) cooperation, peaceful conflict resolution and interaction in a civilized way. When the only mixed company in the fraternity house occurs during a highly ritualized, alcohol-fueled, sexually-charged frenzy, the result is all-too-commonly tragic.
I do not speak from on high as someone who does not partake in greek life, or someone who, like many individuals do, seek for it to be abolished. I can say that there is a better way because I have seen it firsthand. My own social fraternity, Gamma Sigma, though founded in 1946, has operated smoothly as a coeducational institution since the introduction of female membership in 1971. We do not claim to be the perfect model, as we are still constantly adjusting and reevaluating to keep up with society’s changing views on gender. This semester, even, we are rewriting our founding documents to respect one prospective member’s wish to identify as neither male nor female, and to be referred to by gender-nonspecific pronouns.
Gender is non-binary, and sex is not destiny. Nobody should feel like they are “predator” or “prey” at parties on the Rutgers campus, and they are much less likely to if women are ordinary sisters in the house, running the show and calling the shots just like brothers do, rather than operating in a context where women are commodified and fetishized. The ceiling will not fall if fraternities become co-educational, just as it has not fallen down for us. Positive, progressive reform of the greek system is possible at this critical moment –– if there is the will for it.
James Carroll is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in computer science. He is a brother of Gamma Sigma.