Brown: A Warning Against Greek Life


Piper Armstrong

(Graphic by Piper Armstrong | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Jackson Brown, Opinion Writer


University of Utah Director of Fraternity & Sorority Life Jess Turuc sent out a somewhat reassuring letter to concerned parents of potential members. She spoke of “community service,” “home-away-from-home” and “enhanced education.” At face value, who wouldn’t jump on this train? These ideals, along with others just as virtuous, seemingly come built into the Greek life experience. This greatly contrasts the portrayal of Greek life by Hollywood, which makes it out to be an institution for harmless partying and mediocre academics.

In reality, Greek life doesn’t fit either of these descriptions. Behind the masks of fraternities and sororities lurks deep flaws, such as alcoholism, sexual abuse and violence, mixed with haphazard philanthropy and promises of friendship. The University of Utah fails to properly address these issues and inform its students on the dangers of joining Greek life.

Although Hollywood misrepresents many things, they often get one thing correct — Greek life loves to party. Although the U is not considered a big party school, a plurality of people agree that they can easily find a frat party on any given weekend. Gatherings even took place during the COVID-19 pandemic, which speaks volumes about the priorities of these organizations. Certain major issues weave throughout the Greek life system and parties represent most of them.

Most notably, alcohol abuse runs rampant in Greek life. Around 50% of fraternity members display symptoms of alcohol addiction during young adulthood. There’s also a trend between Greek life membership and rates of binge drinking later in life.

Aside from that, sexual assault and rape within Greek life are terrifying. Utah’s rising rates of sexual assault trend similarly to national data. Women in Greek life are almost twice as likely to indicate they have been sexually assaulted, and men in Greek life commit sexual crimes at a significantly higher rate than other men in college.

Greek life has also been associated with other acts of violence. For example, the U’s chapter of Sigma Chi went on a drunken tirade through Utah’s Hogle Zoo. A member even pulled a knife on a staff member, completely embarrassing the U community. People have also claimed that Greek life consistently exhibits racist, classist and exclusionary practices, which reveal even deeper flaws in Greek life.

I’ve often heard people argue in favor of keeping Greek life because of philanthropic pursuits, which has some merit.

Sigma Chi, whose Beta Epsilon chapter dwells at the U, recently announced a $20 million pledge to the Huntsman Cancer Institute. Alpha Chi Omega, which has a chapter on the hill, consistently raises money for domestic violence survivors and awareness.

As fantastic as these endeavors are, they don’t cover for the horrifying acts committed by these organizations. This especially holds true when alcohol abuse is encouraged within philanthropy. For instance, Sigma Chi promoted “rage cage,” a game that often involves heavy drinking, as a competition for a fundraising event.

U of U fraternities and sororities also promise networking and close friendships. However, these “close friendships” can come with costs. While living on campus my freshman year, I saw far too many freshman members drunkenly stumble back to the dorms after a night on Greek row. I saw friendships and relationships get ruined and I saw people make choices they probably never would have made before.

Junior and senior members almost always encouraged this kind of behavior. According to NYU, many of these organizations actively normalize this type of addictive behavior. So, while the benefits of joining a fraternity or sorority exist, the negatives cast a dark shadow that cannot be ignored.

All these problems with Greek life lie within the culture of disrespect and violence that’s embedded in the community. That culture most likely won’t change anytime soon. While I sincerely hope Greek life improves, the U and its students must stop supporting a broken system. These organizations get thousands from each member, along with paid supporting staff from the university, some of whom making more than $100,000 in salary. Why should a system seemingly incapable of change get our financial support?

Greek life can provide many opportunities. However, those benefits often hide the underlying issues that plague fraternities and sororities not just in Utah, but nationwide. Greek life can be a dangerous system that leads vulnerable young adults into destructive life paths at an extraordinary rate. Prospective and current students: don’t fall for the masks that Greek life puts up. Instead, uphold university and common-sense principles and dissociate with Greek life at the U.


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