There are a number of experiences that are simply magnetized to the “American college experience” – drinking, football, using a driver’s license with the 1993 version of you. These are all, to an extent, stuck to the four years that one spends at their post-high school institution.
However, the most iconic element of the aforementioned experience is Greek life and all that comes with it. The parties, the “popular crowd” mentality, the exclusivity, and the undying love for Brad from Beta and Becky from Zeta give insight into the unique shape of education in the United States while raising a number of seemingly non-existent red flags.
The toxicity of fraternity culture is not something that hasn’t been looked at before, nor is it something that some people aren’t aware of. What I see as the fatal flaw of the American higher education system are a few things: hazing, the lack of an actual hardline on hazing, and the normalization of hazing.
There is a culture around hazing that it is seemingly acceptable, encouraged and benign.
There is the notion that “everyone does it” so it must be alright, to say nothing of the hyper-masculinity from which it is bred. Additionally, there is the inexplicable social stigma which is so great at colleges just like UM, that even if an individual sees an incidence of hazing and knows that it’s wrong, ratting out the organization is an act of social suicide.
Unfortunately, it’s the same stigma which prevents students from speaking out against other students when they see injustice of any type that is deemed to be accepted, including sexism, and even down to the general douchebaggery that seems to be attached to Greek life or to living in Miami in general. The stigma is so, so strong. Nobody wants to be the rat.
I have been a part of Greek life before and yes, I was hazed. Not only was I a subject of hazing, but even I felt the stigma of being the guy who rats out the frat, which is why I refused to speak out about my hazing experiences. I didn’t want to commit social suicide and be called names for the rest of my time at UM. And frankly, who would want to have that on their shoulders for the rest of their college career? I sure didn’t.
I had a bright and vibrant college social life and continue to have one—even without Greek life. But the reality is that the permissiveness of the culture surrounding hazing is just too strong at UM and other prestigious colleges around the country.
If one looks a little closer, one can see very real examples of hazing every day, right here at UM: forcing students to humiliate themselves by dressing up in embarrassing costumes, conducting “workouts”, branding, being forced to stay up all night, forcing students to take a “vow of silence”, to name a few.
The school needs to do a better job of being a fact finder, as many of the acts which were just stated happen right before its eyes yet fail to be investigated.
If Greek life is a staple in American colleges, hazing is its lifeline. It’s time for us as a student body to accept our inaction and stigmatizing as crimes against each other, and it’s time for UM to live up to its name as a premier school and to set an example for other colleges with Greek life, as it has done in so many other categories.
I want to see a time when writing opinions like these need not be done in secret – but in public, so that we can come together and recognize the flaws and issues that we face as a student body and as a school, rather than sweep them under the rug and stigmatize those who speak out.
I welcome the administration to see this as a wake-up call before we experience another unspeakable disaster – as we did 18 years ago when Chad Meredith, a pledge in Kappa Sigma, drowned while attempting to swim across Lake Osceola while completely obliterated from drinking.
Nowadays, no one remembers that – that was long before you or I were even close to being college-aged. But the young men we’ve lost – Chad Meredith, Tim Piazza, Maxwell Gruver, Andrew Coffey – to name a few, should shine a light on the fact that we get to decide the fate of future generations of students.
Are we an academic superpower deserving a seat at the table with our brothers and sisters from Harvard and Stanford? Or are we the school that tolerates hazing and fails to take responsibility for our brothers on Greek Row? In my eyes, you can’t have it both ways.
Make my alma mater one that I’m proud of.
The writer has asked to remain anonymous as so not to face any particular backlash that might come with publishing a story like this. The writer is currently a senior here at the University of Miami.