When you imagine life within the Greek system you tend to see the wild parties with fraternity guys and sorority girls filled with endless fun and memories. Everyone has seen those videos of the typical “Frat Boys” and the beautiful girls of Alpha Phi partying in some sort of rush video saying “Go Greek!” and making it seem that they have no care in the world and let alone any internal issues. Behind all of this fluff and fun in the Greek system there is one serious problem that has risen in the last decade and that is death within fraternities and sororities. Since the early 2000s the news has been filled with heart breaking stories related to Greek life and its mortality rate.
When every parent sends their child off to college for the first time they are always filled with great expectations and a dash of fear. Between every parent and their child is that conversation where the child asks their parents if they can join Greek Life and a majority of the time the parent shows immediate concern, and for a good reason. Since the beginning of Greek Life fraternities and sororities have been notorious for allegations of hazing and mental and physical abuse of its new members or pledges. In more modern times between the years 2000-2016 there have been a death count of 37 related to hazing or just Greek life in general. That is averaging more than two deaths a year, which is concerning when you believe that you are joining this organizations looking for a so called “good time.” There are many more allegations being placed fraternities and sororities at this time in terms of death within the Greek system but sadly many are still under trial and that death total could rise once the trials are complete. A shocking statistic that is related to the death total is that out of the 37 only four of them are related to sororities. The majority of the instances are related to the fraternity side of Greek life, but the girls aren’t playing nice either.
There are a few things that lead to this serious mortality rate within the Greek system and they are alcoholism, drug abuse and hazing. The combination of the three make a deadly cocktail that is just asking for the worst things to come to fruition. According to a Harvard University study, binge drinking contributes to some of the highest rates of accidents, sexual assaults, emergency room visits and deaths on college campuses. It has been found that four out of five fraternity and sorority members are binge drinkers while compared to non Greek life affiliated members is two out of five college students binge drink.
There are a few reasons why Greek life affiliated members tend to drink more and experiment in drug use. The first is the common living space and how hard it is to avoid peer pressure while it surrounds you constantly. When you are living with twenty to fifty of your best friends who might not have the same code of ethics or morals that you do it is almost impossible to escape the daunting thoughts of playing that extra game of beer pong on a school night or maybe just taking some “medication” to take the ease off of school pressures. Another reason why Greek affiliates tend to exorcise their demons a bit more is the general lack of supervision. In many cases there are no resident advisers or rule enforcers in a typical Greek house to keep drinking and drug use levels down. It is pretty hard to tell one of your fraternity brothers or one of your sorority sisters to slow down when your chapter president is taking a beer pong from the second story while smoking a jay. With that being said not all Greek organizations are typically like this but the majority of them are. It is key that a leadership council or member needs to be the voice of reason so things like this do not occur and order can be established. Lastly, the most important reason why members within the Greek system tend to binge drink and dive into drug abuse is the constant social pressure. The reason why many college students pledge Greek organizations in the first place is in the hope of establishing a strong social bond in a place that they have probably never been before. These new members or pledges can be especially vulnerable to the social pressures that come with that new membership. If a new member believes that binge drinking or drug use will make them seem more likable or “cooler”, they are more likely to experiment and develop a drug addiction and/or an alcohol dependency. The combination of alcoholism and drug abuse directly relate to the death toll of greek life affiliated members rising.
The most popular subject when it comes to negative views of fraternities and sororities is hazing. As talked about earlier drug abuse and alcoholism is abundant within the Greek system, hazing is the glue that ties both of them together for one ultimate downfall. Hazing is defined as humiliating and sometimes dangerous initiation rituals, especially as imposed on college students seeking membership to a fraternity or a sorority. In many of these initiation rituals sometimes alcohol and terrible terrible choices are made to push the boundaries of one’s mental and physical capability which in some cases leads to death. There are two prime examples of where hazing and alcohol have mixed for a deadly cocktail for death. The tragic story of Gordie Bailey starts at the University of Colorado Boulder the night of his initiation to the Chi Psi fraternity. Gordie bailey and the other pledges had begun the evening blindfolded and abandoned in the woods. Police said the pledges were told to drink large amounts of Ten High whiskey and Carlo Rossi wine. Later, when they were driven back to the fraternity house after midnight, Bailey had passed out. A fraternity tradition called for members to write on the body of any pledge who passed out without taking his shoes off. The next morning Bailey was found face down on the floor, and could not be revived. His blood-alcohol level was 0.328 percent, four times the legal limit for driving in Colorado. His body was covered in sexual and racial slurs. This is a prime example of a fraternity hazing ritual that is been taken way too far out of proportion and has lead to death. Fraternities are responsible for a large majority of deaths within Greek life, but sororities are to blame as well. At California State University Los Angeles two girls Kristen High and Kenitha Saafir drowned in the ocean after some ritualistic hazing events for the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority. The girls were required to do hours of exercise and then were told to walk backwards into the ocean. The police had logged the waves that night reaching the lengths of 10 feet. A large set came and dragged Saafir out to sea, Kristen High knowing that Saafir couldn’t swim swam after her. Both girls drowned and were found by police, but could not be revived. The University had admitted that AKA (Alpha Kappa Alpha) was not recognized by the University for a few years because of past hazing allegations. This just goes to show how the Greek system is skewed with this idea of hazing or making new members earn something that should be given which results in death.
Since the new millennium has begun the rise of fraternity and sorority related deaths has risen at an exponential amount. The deaths and risks of joining a Greek organization is shadowed by the great times and the hope of becoming well liked with their peers. For these types of organizations to be successful there needs a strong leadership core and advisers from the national headquarters to constantly check in so that situations like this stop occurring across the country. If nothing is done to help fix the current national Greek system more students will lose their priceless futures and be added to the rising death toll.