Greek life mentality stems from need to form associations
What is the appeal of greek life? Forty-three of the 50 largest corporations are headed by former members of fraternities or sororities, and 85 percent of Fortune 500 lead executives were part of the greek system in college. Statistically speaking, joining a greek organization is the key to success.
The time and energy put into a fraternity or sorority thus seems like a great investment for the future. With that being said, the appeal of greek life does not come from this investment opportunity mindset. Rather, the appeal is ingrained into our brains from generations of evolution. Charles Darwin came up with this theory of group dynamics, our primitive ancestors grouped together as a vital strategy to stay alive. Individuals who went off alone, died alone, therefore the theory makes sense. These instinctual desires, which associate groups with power, protection and attraction, still prevail in our subconscious minds to this day. Needless to say, we humans have a psychological need to belong and greek life allows this desire to be fulfilled.
For a lot of us college students, this is the first time living away from family. Homesickness results from this emotional insecurity of being separated from the biological herd. It is only natural to seek out solace by conforming to a group. And what better group to join than a “brotherhood” or “sisterhood?” For most members, greek life is more than just raging until the break of dawn. It is about the social connections, the establishment of self-identity and the facilitation of goal achievement.
The big headline in University news is that fun has officially been banned for the rest of the semester — the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs has issued a suspension to all greek social events. With the risk of beating this story into the ground, I could not stand idly by while the media drowns in grammatically incorrect, Buzzfeed-esk articles depicting one-sided arguments. However, I will give the benefit of the doubt to these writers, for their sensational articles do generate awareness to this situation. But I digress.
The underlying issue, that captivates the root of controversy in society, is stigmatization. As social creatures with a compulsion for structure, we are constantly wrapping groups of people into mental packages and labeling the box. This classification system leads to generalizations and assumptions about individuals that are just not true. Every major societal problem, from concerns of wealth and status to race and gender discrimination, is a channel that flows from this source methodology. For example, there is an irrational fear surrounding the mentally ill, caused by the distorted images from horror movies and overabundance of media coverage. This makes the struggles of people suffering from mental disorders even harder. Instead of seeking treatment, many sick people remain undiagnosed in fear of being out casted. Now, over 10,000 members in the Mad Pride movement are embracing the term of madness and encouraging others to come out, rather than feeling shameful of having a mental disorder. To be clear, I am not advising to eliminate prejudice completely. Even if that were possible, it would create more harm than good. The ability to judge people at face value is an essential skill to have.
The main takeaway of movements like this one is that groups do not accurately represent the individual member. Policemen are not all corrupt, mentally ill people are not all dangerous and greek life is not all about coma-inducing alcohol consumption. With that being said, I understand the reasoning behind the decision to punish all greek organizations. Grave mistakes were made on greek soil, resulting in the University to assume full responsibility. The spotlight fell upon the institution itself, and so they made the conservative choice to cut off the problem from the head, that is to temporarily suspend all greek social events. The stigma of greek organizations and assessment of risk to the University concluded this extreme decision as the best strategy.
As a third party member, I view this solution as unfair and ineffective. For all 86 fraternities and sororities to be punished because of the actions of the minority, does more harm than good. The only reaction that will come of this is a rebellious initiative to stick it to the man. In an ideal world, the solution would be to punish individuals and hold groups to higher standards. However, I would be a hypocrite if I were to say that this is realistic. We all act in the same way as the University. We stigmatize and behave according to our cluster-based preconceptions, and twist the boundaries of what is right, only when it is convenient.
Chris Sha is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore. His column, “Unveiling Society,” runs on alternate Mondays.