Under Siege

Written by Andy Huston, Executive Director 

Take a look at the headlines. Fraternities are under siege. 

Harvard has blackballed students that participate in single-sex organizations from key leadership, scholarship and fellowship opportunities, despite not formally recognizing fraternities and sororities. Students at Yale are suing fraternities for not allowing women to join. 

Why is this happening? University administrators and students are increasingly concerned about sexual harassment, assault, discrimination, and the perpetuation of toxic masculinity. Those behind these policies or legal actions believe that eliminating single-sex fraternities will create a more safe and inclusive campus. 

Op-eds calling for the end of Greek Life have existed for decades. Today, a group of student activists at Swarthmore drove its fraternity chapters to disband after misogynist, racist and homophobic remarks from chapter archives were circulated around campus and online. While abhorrent conduct cannot be tolerated, today’s student leaders have little room for error and are being painted with a broad brush. 

You have read about campus-wide suspensions of every Fraternity and Sorority imposed as a result of misconduct by one Chapter on campus. Following a tragedy, this all too common response from administrators is heavily informed by public scrutiny and institutional liability rather than student rights and due process. It is easy to single-out Greeks as the most visible student groups on campus. Rarely are the individuals held accountable for their actions that result in the closure of a Chapter. 

We are experiencing more investigations into alleged policy violations. At the same time, university conduct proceedings are more aggressively disciplining lesser policy violations. Chapters have been suspended for conduct that would have been addressed with educational sanctions. 

Overwhelmed university administrators use conduct to justify halting expansion efforts just as recruitment numbers are declining. As a membership organization, this inhibits growth and causes financial strain. We know that new Chapters bring positive energy, values, and change to the campus community and greater fraternal movement. 

Is Fraternity behavior worse than it was a few years ago? I would argue the overall conduct has improved. 

There has been an uptick in the number of conduct reports we receive but it is somewhat reassuring they are not tragic, headline-grabbing incidents. In fact, increased education and communication with members and parents have empowered more reports of concerning behavior. Amplified awareness from the global #MeToo conversation have translated to an influx of reporting harassment and assault on college campuses. 

Sigma Alpha Mu is not resigned to accept this as the new normal, to blame campus culture, or the society as a whole. The fraternal movement is under siege. We are fighting for the future of Sigma Alpha Mu. We have joined the legal fight against Harvard and Yale to protect our single-sex status alongside the interfraternal community. We’re continuing to educate our fratres about policies related to alcohol, hazing, and sexual assault. Sigma Alpha Mu remains committed to finding new and safe ways to ensure a rewarding experience for members to carry for a lifetime. 

Our young men will be equipped with the best resources, education and training available so they can confidently navigate their collegiate experience. 

Our Fraternity experience should enhance their resume and professional trajectory, rather than being its demise. 

Living up to our Creed is a clear path. We need to ensure that our fratres understand and live up to our eight ideals wholeheartedly. 

Sigma Alpha Mu recognizes the existential threat we face if our values don’t win the day. Now is the time to join us in the fight. We need mentors, advisors and volunteers. We need innovators, investors and donors. We need wellness resources and legal expertise. We need referrals of college-bound men of good moral character for our active and dormant Chapters. We need your talents to ensure our lifelong brotherhood is the gold standard that exists for generations to come.