Every College Should Do What Amherst Just Did

by L. Turner

One of the nation's finest liberal arts colleges, Amherst College, banned fraternities and sororities this week in a move so obviously logical in the 21st century that I'm not exactly sure why more schools haven't followed suit yet. Amherst's fraternity culture had gone underground since the college kicked it off campus in the '80s, but the organizations were allowed to continue existing in a disciplinary gray area after that. Rape survivor Angie Epifano forced the school to deal with the issue after she wrote an opinion piece in 2012 calling the school's inattention to the unregulated fraternities tacit support of a rape culture on campus.

At the end of last year, Epifano filed a federal complaint saying the college mishandled her sexual assault case. (The school initially sent her to a psych ward for being depressed. She dropped out. Her rapist eventually graduated with honors.)

In response to Epifano's story, the school formed a committee on sexual assault that recommended frats be totally shut down at Amherst. With Tuesday's decision, the Board of Trustees at the school agreed. And every American school should do the same, because student life would be safer for everyone without frats and sororities.

We're not talking about the valuable organizations aiming to connect and empower members of disenfranchised, oppressed minorities, like historically black fraternities and sororities. No, we're talking about historically stupid fraternities and sororities. Plenty of top-notch schools eschew sororities and frats in favor of school-run residences that often have a social component.

Fraternities and sororities are at their best unnecessary to a thriving social scene and at their worst perpetuate ideals like racism, sexism, homophobia, and institutionalized machismo. Hazing at frats and sororities frequently leads to violence, sexual abuse and sometimes even death.

Case in point: Sororities at the University of Alabama denied women membership based solely on race for as long as there have been sororities at the University of Alabama (and if you ask a Southerner how long that's been, they'll probably respond "forever"). The school's Greek system is almost totally segregated, and a school newspaper's 2013 investigation into the problem prompted an emergency bidding process to admit minorities into many of the school's sororities for the first time. In 2013. Awesome campus life, University of Alabama.

And fraternities are no better. They have an extremely well-documented history of hazing and sexual abuse, as well as a long trail of violence, property damage, and death dogging them.

Seriously. There are better ways to make friends in college.

Photos: Universal, Murray State/Flickr