There are many reasons that contribute to my general distaste for the Greek system at this University and fraternities and sororities in general. There’s the phoniness of dealing with rushees, the cruelty in handling pledges and, quite simply, the ease with which I can improve any rough day with a quick jab at this fraternity or that sorority girl.

Paul Wong
Jon Schwartz

Largely, the reason people like myself can so often sling mud is because of everything that we saw during the first half of our freshman year, when flocking to ZBT with our 60 closest friends was the only way we knew of to imbibe. In my case, it also has something to do with the fact that since that time, I’ve surrounded myself with people who feel the same way.

But in reality, the biggest reason is just that the Greeks make it so damned easy.

I think it is beyond dispute that, at least on this campus, the Greek system fosters an environment that encourages the proliferation of many societal dangers. Now, before any of you frat boys sign on to your e-mail account to attack me for that last statement, think about it this way: What message did you give to potential brothers when you were holding your rush activities? Did it sound anything like this: “The Interfraternal Community at the University of Michigan is dedicated to working together to promote a shared vision of integrity, academic excellence, brotherhood, service to community and commitment to the highest ideals of Greek Life.”

That’s the statement the Interfraternity Council posts on its website, and it’s a noble and impressive goal. But to credit the IFC for having high-reaching hopes does not excuse the Greeks themselves for failing miserably at reaching these heights.

Like it or not, the Greek system on this campus is synonymous with drugs, alcohol, deaths and date rape. And that isn’t by accident. The image that the system gives off to those on the outside, including me, is that while it obviously doesn’t explicitly encourage drinking yourself dead or becoming so drunk that you take advantage of another partygoer, it does little to stop these things from happening.

I know that what I just said sent IFC President Joel Winston into a fit of madness. But again, my problem is not with Winston or the IFC. I think it’s noble that the committee reacts to these issues by changing the rules for their parties and holding seminars to teach the wrongs of date rape. My problem, though, is not that they hold the seminars – it’s the fact that they need to hold the seminars. I can support the fact that they put sober monitors at all their parties – I just wonder what kind of society of college-aged people needs sober monitors.

Let me point out that I understand the dangers of condemning the Greek system, or any community, based on allegations. But if the defense against my claims is simply that the accusations are not always true, then I must question why this system is so prone to facing such allegations and attacks.

I’ve been to many parties since coming to Michigan. My house even hosted one recently. Not once have I been asked to remain sober at a party to ensure that no one killed himself. Not once, in the week before my house or apartment invited people over, have I gone to a seminar to remind me that when I start having a good time, it would be an insensitive and wrong thing to do if I chose to take advantage of someone partying with me. And yet I have never been to a party and watched someone drink or drug himself to death. I have never been to a party that led to a date rape. Furthermore, I’ve never even dealt with false accusations of such things directed at my housemates or me.

Does my successful record at throwing and attending parties (knock on wood) mean that I’m some sort of righteous person and I know how to pick a lame party? No, it means that I’m a civilized human being. So are my friends. It’s not that we shun alcohol, but rather, that we can also be counted on to remain legitimate members of society, even after a few drinks.

If the Greek system wants to shed these reputations, it needs to stop handling these issues reactively. Forget about seminars; start getting rid of the animals that don’t belong in the fraternities, let alone at our dear University.

The fraternities on this campus cannot hold themselves to different ideals than their organizing body. Something has to give – either all our Greeks need to adapt their beliefs to the morals of the IFC, or the council needs to give in to the disturbing desires of some of its constituents.

But if you’re going to dedicate your system to “working together to promote a shared vision of integrity, academic excellence, brotherhood, service to community and commitment to the highest ideals of Greek Life,” then stop recruiting members who need to be taught how to act like decent people.

Jon Schwartz can be reached at jlsz@umich.edu.

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