Their very existence is in conflict with the progressive ideals of American universitiesby Charlotte Tuxworth-Holden / November 24, 2016 / Leave a comment
In mid-October, sororities and fraternities at UC Berkeley voluntarily banned all parties. This decision came after reports of two sexual assaults at off-campus fraternity functions in a single week. Later that month, social events recommenced—but now all partygoers will be given a short talk on consent and a test which they have to pass before they can attend.
As this shows, increasing attention is being paid to the issue of sexual assault at college campuses in the United States. But more is needed than a change to party rules—these problems are rooted deep in the culture of institutions that are fostered and supported by universities. This is true even of UC Berkeley, one of the most prestigious universities in the country and a place synonymous with progressive ideals such as free speech and diversity.
I studied at Berkeley last year, having been granted a place on the University of California’s Year Abroad programme. During this year I came to discover the many differences in US university life compared to that of the UK. Clubs and student groups are central to college experience from the get-go, and members often live, work and socialise together.
Sororities and fraternities, collectively referred to as Greek life, do not exist in the UK, but are a huge part of college culture in the US. For those who are unfamiliar with them, they are—put simply—gender-specific social organisations: fraternities are for men and sororities for women. They are Greek only in that they have Greek names, such as Delta Delta Delta, Sigma Nu and Alpha Chi Omega. Colleges across the US host sorority and fraternity chapters that are usually associated with nation…