Central New York

Greek Social Life Gets Lost in the Haze

This photo was taken of the Theta Tau fraternity house before their Greek letters were removed. (c) 2018 CitrusTV

Click here to find out how the multicultural Greek organizations are being affected by the hazing in social fraternities.

Audio transcript: Greek social life gets lost in haze

By Lilia Wood SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News)— In the wake of recent hazing and misbehavior of Greek Life chapters on a variety of college campuses, there has been talk about changes to the system, but there are some members of Greek Life who say groups are unfairly caught in the crossfire and may suffer the consequences of actions they never took.

Sophia Rizzuto and Liana Brown are both students at Syracuse University, where a recent viral video featuring members of the Syracuse chapter of Theta Tau were heard saying what the chancellor describes as racial, ethnic, homophobic and sexist slurs.

“People would fight for the fact that even though what Theta Tau did was disgusting and awful, that is not what all of Greek Life stands for,” Sophia Rizzuto said. “That is just one view of people who have bad views.”

“I think all the people that love it and that do good things with it, that’s important and exciting,” Liana Brown said. “And I’m glad they get to participate in things that they love, but at the end of the day, I think the negatives outweigh the positives and that’s why Greek Life will eventually be obsolete.”

The six-minute video shows students described as pledges of the fraternity performing a profanity-filled scene in which they swear to hate people different from themselves.

Although the national Theta Tau Grand Regent has described the performances as just parodies and skits mocking older brothers, the incident is just the latest in a series that put the Greek system on campuses in a bad light. Lately, some students say, the good and the bad of Greek life are being lumped together.

Like many other colleges, Syracuse University hosts three types of Greek Life organizations: professional, cultural and social.

Sudan Zhuang overlooks all four of the multicultural Greek organizations and is a member of one. She is particularly worried about people off-campus lumping Greek social life with Greek cultural life. She says Greek cultural groups are involved in a series of multicultural, educational events.

“We actually fight against those stereotypes to make sure that is not what is happening on our campus,” Zhuang said. “We really want to prove to members of the community that not all Greek life hazes and not all Greek organizations party.”

She believes if anything, there needs to be more cultural groups on campuses in order to enhance the message of being diverse and inclusive colleges.

“It’s interesting because when we plan cultural events, we expect people who are not in that culture to show up,” Zhuang continued. “People who are not minorities to show up, so they can understand our struggles as for being a minority. But it is funny because whenever we plan events, it is always the multicultural people that show up, not the majority of the white population.”

Linda Bamba, is president of Syracuse University’s Panhellenic Council, which overlooks the social sororities. She fears people paint all of Greek life with the same brush and don’t recognize that some of the Greek organizations really do make the community a better place.

“From an outsider’s perspective, I can understand where that theory comes from, but once you are inside of Greek Life, it is very different, and the people that are inside it work very hard to keep Greek Life alive,” Bamba said. “That works for both the hazing and the accusations about being a social type of organization.”

But the negativity surrounding Greek life is casting a dark shadow over the entire Greek system.

Just this past school year, deaths at Florida State, Penn State, Texas State and Louisiana State have resulted in the suspension or ban of Greek life on campus.

Sudan Zhuang now wears her Asian fraternity Greek letters with hesitation and fear after a few occurrences when people criticized her just for being a part of Greek life.

“And I personally got really offended because I personally joined a cultural organization to disprove the stereotypes and get people questioning me because I am part of the organization,” Zhuang said.

Some colleges are making changes to the system by suspending Greek Life after fraternity tragedies, and cultural organizations have been part of the suspensions. But, so far, those punishments do not seem to last very long.

Now, Greek Life is back on campuses like Florida State and Louisiana State where it was once banned, giving Greek cultural groups the chance once again, to continue with their diversity efforts.