At the college level, allegations of campus rape and assault are being taken more seriously than ever. Universities nationwide are winning both praise and a not-insignificant degree of criticism for taking a harder line against Greek life.
On Tuesday, Denise Trauth, the president of Texas State University, confirmed that Matthew Ellis, a 20-year-old student from the Houston area, had died. Although the circumstances are being closely held pending an investigation, Texas State has suspended all Greek fraternity and sorority chapters and they’re conducting a complete review of the Greek affairs system. Trauth declined an interview, but Katherine Mangan, a senior writer at the Chronicle of Higher Education, says this incident fits a pattern.
“This is really just the latest in a string of deaths of fraternity pledges this year believed to be related to drinking that have, in fact, resulted in fraternity activities being suspended,” Mangan says. “There were others in Pennsylvania, Florida, Michigan and Louisiana that were very similar, and all of these ended up resulting in Greek activities either being suspended or cut way back, and sometimes that means just not allowing alcohol in fraternity parties.”
Universities face difficult decisions about their participation in Greek life.
“Frankly there’s just an awful lot of alumni support for the fraternities,” Mangan says. “Alumni tend to be very generous donors to universities, and universities frankly don’t want to upset alumni by doing anything that would sort of curtail an activity that they have very fond memories of.”
Mangan says that despite all the problems, fraternities and sororities remain very popular.
“It’s a way for people to find a niche, particularly in a big university,” she says. “You could make friends. Down the road, people look to their fraternity and sorority ties in networking when they go to get a job, and they do a lot of philanthropy, a lot of charity work. So they do a lot of good, but the binge drinking is just a serious, serious problem that is making many universities rethink whether it’s worth all of the good that comes from Greek life.”
Written by Jen Rice.