Fraternities churn out thousands of young men every year—seemingly to make positive change in the world around them. Yet some fraternities may drastically fail to meet that standard. On the 50th anniversary of Selma’s Bloody Sunday, University of Oklahoma’s Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter provided an ugly reminder that racism is alive and well in parts of Greek life.
A ten-second video uploaded to YouTube last week depicts a bus full of SAE brothers chanting derogatory and disgraceful racial slurs, including a reference to lynching.
In the video, they build on each other into a crescendo of unabated bigotry. And this is perhaps a deeply regrettable byproduct of the frat code, an unwavering commitment to brotherhood. That’s what it’s all about, right? It doesn’t matter what you feel or think, you can’t fall off the cheer chain, right? Surely some of them felt what they were doing was wrong.
Frat life can lead to groupthink, a blunting of reasoned and rational thought. A group of young malleable males can be dangerous if left unchecked. It can stifle individuality and devour independence. As new pledges fall in, the impressionable will follow their brothers and sometimes fall victim to strong social pressures and engage in problematic behavior, ranging from harmful hazing to egregious hate speech.
Part of my decision to attend Seattle University was that it had no Greek life. I didn’t want to have my path laid before me; I wanted to pave my own. I wanted the independence to make my own decisions, my own styles, my own ideas. No cop outs. In a fraternity, I may have put my personal agency at risk. But I chose Seattle U, where students seem to hold themselves to a higher standard and where hate will not prevail in the name of brotherhood.