BY ELIZABETH SCHMITT
After viewing “The Hunting Ground” on Thursday night, I felt shaken up. I knew the statistics of sexual assault and rape on college campuses. I knew the numbers, but I didn’t know the stories. Hearing men and women speak up and call out their rapists and also their colleges, was a call to action. Anyone present at the screening, I’m sure, felt this sense of urgency to solve this problem that has been so long swept under the rug by colleges, administrations and society.
Though the film was spot on with it’s indictment of administrations covering up rapes, I still felt a bit uneasy leaving Fort Howard for one reason: it’s scathing review of fraternities. As a Greek woman who has had almost exclusively positive experiences with fraternity men and parties, I needed to consider how to reconcile my love of Greek Life and my knowledge that it contributes to a problem that plagues college campuses.
How DO we solve this problem? The film doesn’t give an explicit solution—neither have college administrations, countless non-profits or research articles. “The Hunting Ground” made it clear, however, that fraternities are a big part of the problem. The money, housing opportunities and alumni relations that fraternities bring to a college apparently outweigh preventing rapes, accurately reporting rapes and taking action against rapists, argues “The Hunting Ground.”
As a woman who is a member of a sorority, I know the power of the bonds you have with fellow members, the importance of the traditions and the benefits of the family dynamic Greek life can offer. The benefits of Greek life, however, do not, by any means, permit the egregious behavior of a select few members of a fraternity. As a sorority woman who has had nothing but good experiences, I can reflect on why this might be.
First, SNC has no official Greek houses. While I can see where it would be convenient and even fun to live with your brothers or sisters, it contributes to the behavior that the film cited as contributing to sexual assaults: excessive drinking and the sort of ‘mob mentality’ that results. Having no official Greek houses means parties remain small, essentially ‘invite-only.’
Second: the presence of Uglies and Queens. Say what you will about the ridiculous outfits, chants, screams and general chaos surrounding the process. Having members of an opposite-gender group represent and support other Greek groups creates a cohesive, open and, in my opinion, safer Greek life experience. Knowing that members of Greek life at SNC generally ‘look out’ for one another, rather than purposefully set members up in bad situations (as the film portrayed) is comforting.
Third: the small size of chapters. The more people around and the more space, the less likely it is that all members are accounted for and accountable for their actions. This is also helpful from a sorority perspective: when we have social events with fraternities, I know where my sisters are and almost always know with whom they came and left. The small size of Greek life chapters keeps parties and events smaller and holds people accountable and accounted for.
SNC’s Greek life is certainly not perfect, yet it is clear that at least some of the methods SNC has employed have helped to make Greek life a safe and welcoming place for incoming students, not a risky one. Though SNC has done a good job managing their relationship with Greek life during my time at SNC, more could be done. Requiring all members to attend specific trainings—beyond educational events—before they are initiated could further educate and protect members. Eliminating off-campus housing, though not a popular measure, would further curb many problems, mainly parties that could get out of hand. Finally, keeping the member limit capped would help ensure chapters remained small.
SNC Greek life has been a unique and beneficial part of my college experience. In order to ensure that Greek life can be this way for all college or university students, it is time to reconsider how institutions structure their relationships with fraternities in order to protect students, not housing options, financial gain nor alumni relations.
For more information on “The Hunting Ground,” visit http://www.thehuntinggroundfilm.com