Edit desk: Sorority women still living under Victorian era standards

Carly Nyman

Carly Nyman, B&W Staff

For many sorority women, a typical night consists of getting rides to a fraternity’s off-campus house, partying there and then maybe “party-hopping” to other fraternity parties later on. When it comes to an evening out at Lehigh, for most Greek students, the ball is clearly in the fraternities’ court.

In a New York Times article called “Sorority anti-rape idea: Drinking on own turf,” Martha McKinnon, a member of Delta Gamma at the University of Michigan, said this party structure “pushes (women) into the fraternities. The whole social scene is embedded in the fraternity house, and makes us dependent on them. I find this a dangerous scenario.”

As school scandals of partying and campus rape culture splash the media, I have begun to question this social structure. What if fraternities were not solely in charge of parties? What if Greek women could host social events?

While a shift in partying culture would not solve all these party issues, I believe it would have a positive effect on campus culture. Women would host parties in their own homes and control who and who cannot attend. Anyone who’s too drunk or not welcome would not be let into parties, which would create a safer party environment. By being in a space that one is comfortable in, women would have the upper hand and not be subject to the rules a fraternity lays out.

One question is if this scenario is even possible at colleges across the nation and Lehigh specifically. The Panhellenic National Conference has placed regulations on social events at sorority facilities, and while Lehigh has no rule banning sororities from hosting events, they do comply with an organization’s rules.

For instance, if a fraternity or sorority hosted a social event with alcohol when they were prohibited from doing so, Lehigh would be responsible for reporting the incident to that chapter’s nationals. Tim Wilkinson, the senior assistant dean of students and director of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs, said that if a national organization changed their rules, Lehigh would willingly assist in finding a safe way to introduce social events with alcohol into the chapter.

“Students and student organizations across the nation still take a far too casual stance when it comes to hosting events with alcohol,” Wilkinson said. “When I hear stories about kegs and handles of hard alcohol being unmonitored by hosting organizations, no sober monitors, nobody working the bar or the door, etc., I worry that non-hosting groups look at that as safe behavior and I do not want that emulated. Our hope is that the attitude towards running a safe event continues to change as our students continue to learn.”

In a Huffington Post article entitled “Most sororities don’t allow alcohol in the house, and Americans support that,” Julie Johnson, Panhellenic committee chairwoman, said, “The standard is as old as sororities are. It was born in an a more Victorian era, but moved from tradition to policy over the years. ‘Our facilities still remain alcohol free,’ Johnson said in an interview. ‘I don’t know why it started as such. It is what it is. I think it makes sense because many of the women who lives in the houses are underage.’”

The idea that this sexist “standard” is still the rule is antiquated to me. “‘It is what it is,’” is not very supportive or logical reasoning, either. On campus, we have events that are pro-women and promote gender equality, but how can we take that fight seriously when Greek sorority women are held to “standards” shaped decades ago? Sorority women can’t move forward if they are bound by these age-old rules that were created when women were not viewed as equals to men.

It is evident that sorority nationals need to reexamine their social regulations. Sudden changes to social policy may wreak havoc but a slow introduction to registered parties monitored by school staff may be a starting point. While the traditions of sorority life are important, chapters should adapt to the ever-changing culture and provide women with a safer way to socialize. If allowing sorority women to host events actually can help the rigid social structure and gender roles, then the national chapters themselves are at fault for some of the arising problems that women are facing on college campuses nationwide.

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