Duke University Bans 10 Sororities, Greek Life Under Close Examination

By Julia Dunn on January 31, 2016

After an alcohol-related incident landed a Duke University student in the hospital this past Wednesday, the school responded by suspending all 10 of their Panhellenic sorority chapters.

Duke University’s Vice President of Student Affairs, Larry Moneta, released a statement on Twitter about the suspension, stating that “each [sorority] chapter will be asked to review its activities to ensure compliance with policies on social events, rush, and alcohol use. The health, well-being and safety of our students is the highest priority, and we look forward to working with the sorority leaders toward that end.”

The ban did not affect Duke’s eight other sororities, which fall under other national sorority organizations.

Panhellenic sororities pose for a photo.
Image Via Wikipedia Commons

Wednesday night, the university’s administration and sorority leaders held a meeting to address the incident which resulted in a slight reconsideration of the repercussions; Duke University decided to partially lift the ban it had previously imposed.

Moneta released another Twitter notice announcing the update, stating that “a candid and productive discussion [between members of Duke’s administration, the Panhellenic chapter leaders and executive council] focused on steps that can be taken to undermine a social culture, not unique to Duke, that is excessively focused on alcohol use and abuse.”

Sororities and fraternities have typically been a prominent facet of college life for centuries, the first fraternity dating back to the 1800s. These days, students join sororities and fraternities in order to socialize, feel part of a larger community of “brothers” and “sisters,” and in some cases volunteer in the community or work on job skills for after graduation.

These elements of Greek life are beneficial to students; however, the added component of excessive partying, drinking and hazing continues to pose danger to students, as it did this past week at Duke University.

The student hospitalized is considered to be in “critical condition” as a result of the alcohol-related incident, and it is not known with which Panhellenic sorority chapter the student was affiliated.

Binge-drinking is one of the primary causes for sorority and fraternity-related tragedies, responsible for 82 percent of “hazing-induced deaths” since the later half of the 1900s. Given that 9 million students in the U.S. are involved in a sorority or fraternity, this issue is substantial and timely. As more and more students become enrolled university students, the matter of hazing cannot be ignored.

Hazing is defined as “humiliating and sometimes dangerous initiation rituals, especially as imposed on college students seeking membership to a fraternity or sorority.”

While hazing is a popular (and traditional) requirement to gain entry into a sorority or fraternity, it is crucial to explore whether or not student safety is compromised by carrying out hazing rituals. If hazing is meant to welcome students to such an organization, why is the process often harmful to the new member?

Beyond hazing and alcohol overuse, “the dark side” of Greek life has made news through horrible reports of sexual assault — namely rape. It is common for women to be sexualized, objectified, and flat-out violated in sororities. This is part of a “culture that can have ridiculously skewed values,” as noted by the Washington Post.

Sororities must not only address issues of sexual abuse, but issues relating to racism, bullying, and drugs — all of which are issues that some sororities do not bring to the public’s attention out of fear along with the idea that they can alleviate these issues within their own organizations. In truth, this silence signifies a lot of unrecognized pain among college students who may not feel capable of reaching out for help.

These problems run deeply throughout the institutionalization of Greek life in universities, and no university is truly exempt from the repercussions of misconduct related to Greek life.

For instance, “In 2013, Florida International University suspended the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity after brothers posted on Facebook ‘creep shots’ of naked sorority sisters and called them names.”

Reports similar to this one are all too frequent, casting a significantly less-than-desirable light onto fraternities and sororities nationwide whether or not similar reports arise within them. It is important that sororities and fraternities are held accountable for their adherence to campus regulations for student and community safety.

In consideration of the hospitalized student from Duke University, college students are faced with an important choice as to how they utilize Greek life at their campus. Greek life does not have to entail reckless, irresponsible alcohol usage and can offer students transferable skills that will allow them to succeed in other areas of their life.

Students across the U.S. should take the Duke University incident as a reason to reevaluate the sorority and fraternity scene at their campuses and take action to keep all students safe. It is time to start a dialogue about Greek life — is it doing more harm than good?

By Julia Dunn

Uloop Writer
A writer, editor and educator based in Northern California.

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