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Fraternities and Sororities return to Franklin & Marshall

Inside Higher Education link here

Except from Jack Stripling’s article for Inside Higher Education

For the colleges that have eliminated fraternities and sororities, commonly cited concerns include the gender exclusivity of Greek organizations, as well as associated problems like hazing and alcohol abuse that contribute to declining academic performance.

Colby College disbanded its Greek system in 1984, and has no intention of restoring it, according to Jim Terhune, vice president of student affairs and dean of students there.

“I think there is some subset of alumni who was disaffected by the decision, and remains disaffected,” he said. “But there is absolutely no conversation whatsoever on campus or on the board about bringing them back. It’s a complete non-starter. It’s over.”

As a matter of stated policy, Colby forbids students from participating in or organizing Greek letter organizations on or off campus. Any student found violating the code faces a minimum one-year suspension or even expulsion. Terhune said he thinks there have been about three instances in the last couple of decades that led to suspensions.

“Simply put, single gender exclusive organizations are out of step with our values as an institution,” he said.

Franklin & Marshall students are now pushing for a co-ed fraternity on campus as well, hoping to give students more options.

Often citing the gender exclusivity of Greek letter groups, other colleges that have abolished them include Williams College, Amherst College, Middlebury College, Bowdoin College and Alfred University.

The pressures on colleges to re-institute fraternities and sororities can be substantial, according to Hank Nuwer, a professor of journalism at Franklin College and author of numerous books on hazing. Colleges have an interest in keeping alumni and donors happy, and removing groups that have such a following has potential financial consequences, he said.

“It takes a lot of endurance — once you’ve made that decision — to follow through on it,” he said.

But colleges that abolish Greek groups can face additional problems, including the emergence of underground fraternities and sororities, Nuwer said.

“Having sub rosa or unregulated fraternities, that I can tell you has been dangerous,” said Nuwer, author of Broken Pledges: The Deadly Rite of Hazing.

Civic Service Emphasized

For all of the complaints about Greek organizations, the groups often pride themselves on civic engagement. Franklin & Marshall’s chapter of Delta Sigma Phi, for instance, has turned its “Holly Jolly Christmas” philanthropy into a well known and respected community event. With one fraternity member dressed as Santa Claus, the brothers gather to distribute toys to homeless children, many of whom come from families with a history of abuse.

Other chapters have similar events, responding to a challenge from administrators to increase the service participation that had fallen by the wayside during the de-recognition years.

For all of its improvements, the system isn’t without its problems. Delta Sigma Phi, the same group whose Christmas philanthropy draws praise, was removed from its house because it didn’t meet the more rigorous building code standards set by the college. Another fraternity, Phi Kappa Tau, was also removed from its house in response to multiple city fire and health code violations. But Richard Gray, mayor of Lancaster, says complaints about the groups are similar to what one could expect any time 18- to 22-year-olds live near single family homes.

“There has been an occasional problem, but certainly not endemic,” he said.

“If you’re going to have [Greek organizations],” Gray added, “you’re better off recognizing them rather than ignoring them or neglecting them.”
— Jack Stripling

By Hank Nuwer

Hank Nuwer is the Indiana-based author of Broken Pledges: The Deadly Rite of Hazing, High School Hazing, Wrongs of Passage and The Hazing Reader. He has written articles or columns on hazing for the Sunday Times of India, Toronto Globe & Mail, Harper's Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, The Chronicle of Higher Education and the New York Times Sunday Magazine. His new book is Hazing: Destroying Young Lives from Indiana University Press.

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