I wrote an article earlier this week about how the Greek community is working to prevent sexual assault through bystander intervention tactics. After writing it, I felt genuinely impressed by the self-awareness and self-criticism displayed by the members of the Inter-Greek Council (IGC) with whom I spoke.
But I am concerned by the idea that Greek life at Tufts is somehow different from Greek Llfe at “big, state schools” or “southern schools,” as the members of the IGC suggested. We tend to think of Greek organizations at larger, less “intellectual” schools as perpetrators of racism, classism and misogyny. But then how does one explain what happened last week at Yale, when a sophomore reported that women of color were denied entry to a party at the school’s chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon?
Or when the Alpha Delta fraternity and Tri Delta sorority at Dartmouth College hosted a “Bloods and Crips” party in 2013? Or when a fraternity at the University of Pennsylvania posted a photo last Christmas with a racially charged and misogynistic blow-up doll meant to resemble Beyoncé? Is Tufts really above these acts, perpetrated by colleges and universities that are supposedly as or more elite than ours?
Apparently, we’re not. Tufts’ own Delta Upsilon (DU) is currently suspended right now for playing a song at an event that was considered “a violation of the university’s policy about non-discrimination,” according to Mickey Toogood, the judicial affairs administrator. Toogood told me this information when I interviewed him for my Daily article.
Saying that Greek organizations at elite private schools are not as susceptible to racism, misogyny, homophobia and a host of other issues is sort of like saying these issues don’t exist in the United States outside of the South. While I recognize that not every fraternity (or sorority) is guilty of these problems, I think it’s time Tufts had a serious discussion about the merits of these organizations.
When I interviewed Toogood, he told me that Tufts is considering bringing one or two new fraternities to campus, both of which would not have houses on campus.
“It would be a positive shift in the way we think about Greek Life, or at least [an] opportunity to reevaluate the association between having a house and what students get out of a brotherhood or sisterhood,” he said.
This is a positive first step. Especially since Greek Life is growing at Tufts (to the point that a first-year told me this weekend that when she first got to Tufts, she felt like she wouldn’t have a social life if she didn’t rush), it’s crucial that the university look critically at the system. And it’s great that the IGC is educating the Greek community in bystander intervention, but it’s important to recognize what the IGC isn’t doing, such as creating Greek-wide community consequences for rape if and when rape happens, or meaningfully addressing the underlying issue that many students cannot afford to join a Greek organization.
We can claim that Tufts is morally superior to those “other” schools. But let’s be honest: the Greek system is deeply flawed, and DU’s action seems to suggest that Tufts is no exception.