Hannah Maier: Stop devaluing my education and my safety

Sunday, January 31, 2016 - 1:26pm

The negative actions of Interfraternity Council Greek fraternities across the nation have created a snowball effect: Over the past year, one controversial issue after another has appeared, and these issues continue to build on each other and affect campus climate in colleges nationwide.

Current controversies that have occurred within affiliated organizations that started out small and unreported, such as sexual assault and alcohol abuse, seemed to have gained spotlight at the University this past year. After a group of Greek organizations vandalized the property of a ski resort last winter, administration took action. University President Mark Schlissel held a meeting condemning inappropriate behavior of campus Greek life in fall 2015. Fortunately, this year, he has gone a step further to construct new guidelines that are to be reviewed before the end of the semester. Some of the proposed ideas are to have risk management committees more involved in event planning, for fraternities to adopt a live-in house director and to better develop and strengthen pre-recruitment education.

The counterargument to the egregious behavior of affiliated members is quantifying how much charitable good they’ve done in the form of some monetary value.

Don’t get me wrong, campus fraternities should be more widely recognized for their charitable efforts. But does donating or fundraising X amount of money for a charitable cause mean the serious flaws in IFC-affiliated fraternities nationwide, such as hypermasculine violence, should be overlooked? From encouraging the subtle systematic objectification of women that encourages rape-supportive attitudes to the epidemic of the group conquest of women as investigated in literature, the patriarchal attitude is an accentuated part of the frat culture. Hypermasculine behavior within Greek fraternities is a cause of threat to women who are both affiliated and unaffiliated with Panhellenic Greek life.

I support the current recommended improvements to Greek life that will soon be a permanent part of University policy. I believe working to reimage fraternities will prove to increase female student safety. While taking the steps to reestablish Greek life, the University should work harder to expose the rape myths that have been accentuated by the frat culture. In addition to this, Relationship Remix, one of the programs for incoming freshmen that explains student rights and responsibilities pertaining to assault and harassment, should further educate students on the steps they should follow in the event that they become a victim of sexual assault. In my time here, I have never been provided with an explanation of what to do if I were put in that position — a subject SAPAC should consider expanding upon during Relationship Remix or Change it Up.            

The strong influence fraternities have on campus party culture is devaluing the Michigan degree, as Schlissel pointed out in his address last fall. As the University of Michigan rose to the top of the “top party school” list on various websites during the “I’m Schmacked” 2015 era, I noticed some students wore this title with pride.

This title didn’t bother me until I flew across the country last summer to participate in an internship with other students from across the nation. A few weeks after meeting each other at the beginning of the program, we all admitted to sifting through one another’s Facebook profiles to get some insight into the lives of the strangers that we would be spending our summer with. A few of my coworkers confessed that different articles describing game day and tailgates at fraternities gave them the impression that Michigan was an in-state party school.

One of my friends from the program also said she stumbled across the University ski trip incident in national news, and that it gave her the sense that Michigan students had a dangerous no-inhibition attitude. They said that at first they had doubt that my classes at the University were as challenging as I said they were. Having my accomplishments undermined because of the "play hard" image of our school frustrated me — I felt all of my long nights of studying amounted to less than what they were really worth. IFC fraternities have unfortunately put the University under the negative scope of the public eye, and the actions of fraternities have reflected poorly on the entire University.

I fear that future employers will think less of my degree and my capability because of the party image IFC fraternities perpetuate. All students at the University deserve to be viewed as the respectable young professionals that they are.

I commend the University for taking action in creating new policies for Greek life to make our campus an all around safer and more pleasant environment. I hope the Greek chapters at the University will embrace the changes to come. I’m confident that under better guidance, fraternities can show us what it means to be leaders and best.

Hannah Maier can be reached at hannamai@umich.edu