Point-Counterpoint: Abolishing fraternities

‘Point-Counterpoint’ juxtaposes two opposing perspectives on polarizing issues and debates. The following responses, written by the Daily’s opinion section, address both sides of the debate on whether or not Tufts University should abolish fraternities. 

The case for abolishing 

The images conjured up in the Nov. 7 Observer opinion piece, “Abolish Fraternities, were chilling, disturbing and, ultimately, impossible to forget. And yet, what has undoubtedly been even more impactful is the ensuing university-wide response to this public unveiling of underground misogyny and objectification at our very own university. While the article brought to light the reality that such horrific behavior occurs on our campus, this reality is, unfortunately, not all that surprising in the context of Greek institutions nationwide.

Fraternities have historically been grounded upon ideals of elitism, exclusion and white male dominance. They have been known to foster significantly higher rates of sexual assault, require horrific hazing activities for new members and exclude minority groups from involvement. As such, the fact that our university — along with countless others across the country — has continued to subsidize these institutions is a disgrace to all the values we claim to stand for. Just this week, University President Anthony Monaco sent a letter to the community asking all members to reaffirm our commitment to Tufts “unwavering values.” If we are to truly commit ourselves to principles of inclusion, diversity, kindness and respect, abolishing fraternities is a necessary first step.

For our administration to take a true stand against misogyny, sexual violence and exclusionary behavior, it must first prohibit the continued existence of the fraternities that encourage these behaviors. By cutting off fraternities’ financial resources, breaking university ties and prohibiting organizations from continuing underground, Tufts would be taking an important stand against these wholly negative institutions. University sanctioning, in and of itself, affirms these unacceptable behaviors and traditions by permitting them to continue, and we cannot allow our administration to endorse such environments.

Those who support the maintenance of all-male Greek institutions may argue that fraternities serve as beneficial institutions that foster a sense of community, brotherhood and purpose. However, there are countless other groups and spaces on campus that offer the same benefits, while excluding the harmful traditions of the Greek system. The pain stemming from the loss of fraternities is not comparable to the pain and oppression inflicted upon the marginalized individuals who have been impacted by their behavior. And while young men may dream of being a part of these glorified institutions when they come to college, thwarting these hopes is by no means a crushing blow to our university or these individuals who have access to countless other positive communities on our campus and beyond.

Further, the dialogue and movement surrounding fraternities on our campus is highly comparable to events happening in our country on a much larger scale. Just as we must organize against misogyny and hatred on the national level, we must also do so in our smaller communities if we intend to make lasting, impactful change across the board. Institutions like fraternities that are based on exclusivity, hyper-masculinity and stratification are not only threats to our university’s values, but to the wellbeing of various members of our community. As such, they have no place on our campus. Instead of maintaining spaces that foster harmful principles and traditions, we should aim to create positive spaces where people can be valued and included rather than ranked, defiled and left out.


The case against abolishing 

The recent dialogue on our campus surrounding the issues of misogyny, exclusivity and assault embedded in our fraternities is undoubtedly a necessary and important conversation to be had. However, abolishing our all-male Greek institutions is not the solution to these problems. Fraternities have been and will continue to be more than just platforms for negative behaviors and traditions. Fraternities also serve as communities that foster positive male relationships and serve as an outlet for social expression, open dialogue and philanthropic efforts.

The current state of our fraternal system is by no means perfect, and requires significant efforts to be made from both within the institutions themselves and by the administration that supports them; however, abolishing fraternities will not abolish misogyny; it will not abolish on-campus rape culture or erase the harmful attitudes that are already widespread. These types of attitudes and behaviors will continue to persist both inside and outside of other groups and organizations. If we want to tackle these issues at Tufts, we must approach them on a broader scale by promoting widespread educational and preventative measures, as well as improvements of our institutions from within.

Fraternities provide an important infrastructure for fostering dialogue and initiating important efforts and conversations. Accordingly, we should use the existence of these institutions to our advantage, utilizing them as tools to educate young men on respect, forming inclusive communities and preventing sexism, sexual assault and violence. If we demand that fraternities follow certain guidelines and require certain conversations to be had, we can reform the system for the better. Multiple fraternities have already taken steps to initiate these kinds of efforts; in addition to various statements from individual fraternities pledging to take concrete action, the Interfraternity Council (IFC) has also outlined an initial plan of action for all fraternities, including required sexual assault prevention training for all members, the implementation of a Diversity Inclusion Chair and an agreement to avoid processes that promote violence and hazing.

While we cannot know at this point if these efforts will lead to significant change, the fact that fraternities have accepted culpability and demonstrated conscious efforts to reform a broken system is a step in the right direction. The administration has also informed the university community of its investigations into the allegations made in the Observer article. However, it is imperative that the university assert itself as a greater force of required reform in this situation. Because the university does subsidize our fraternities, it should direct resources toward bettering the values and operations of these institutions, just as it would with any other university-supported organization.

Beyond the efforts made by the administration and the fraternities themselves, students can also act in favor of reformation, both within the Greek system and within our community at large. Individuals can — and should — take a stand against organizations that go against their values and the values of this university until they are sufficiently reformed.

Fraternities are not the sole creators of misogyny, exclusivity and assault on this campus. And while, in their current form, they may foster these attitudes and behaviors at a more systematic level than many other groups on our campus, abolishing them is not going to solve the problem. We must address these issues on a larger scale, and use the tight-knit communities and productive dialogue that they foster to our advantage. If we attack these issues on a university-wide scale, require administrative monitoring and involvement and continue to have open conversations with all groups and types of people at this university, we can effectively reform a broken system and tackle the larger issues at hand.