Death to the greek system

Last weekend’s Homecoming demonstrated the extent of the usefulness of the greek system: greek alumni had a place to get trashed on campus. This function might be helpful once a year, but it certainly does not justify the greek system’s prominent place on campus.

The greek system around the country is dying a slow death. After the drinking age was raised to 21, university administrators had no choice but to begin policing fraternity and sorority houses to avoid liability suits. Admittedly, they’re easy targets, and perhaps it's unfair that frat parties at Duke bear the brunt of Orwellian police policies.

But no matter, drinking is not the real reason that the University has expanded its project to eliminate frats on campus. Quite simply, Duke is transforming. This school has rapidly moved into the pantheon of elite universities, and as a fellow columnist noted, Duke sits at a crossroads, and unfortunately for die-hard greekers, frats and sororities are the next thing to be booted.

One only needs to read The Chronicle to find ample evidence for the greek system's (or at least frats’) demise. Frat party is now a misnomer; middle-school mixer might be more appropriate. Several frats have been kicked off campus in my three years here, and the elimination of Annual Review makes it a lot easier for administrators to carry out their plan. Frats increasingly must navigate inane and often incomprehensible guidelines, like no more than 50 people in the commons room. What’s more, as others have noted, Duke is on the fast track to the Ivy League; just read the biographies of recent administrator hires. Revitalization is no longer a possibility within the current administration’s agenda. Fraternities are slowly being strangled, and it’s only a matter of time before they all suffocate and move off campus or disband. I’m positive that greek leaders have deciphered this plan; it's the rank and file who remain clueless.

I’ve heard all the arguments to keep frats on campus. Let’s take a few in turn. 1) greeks are more active on campus and have higher GPAs: I concede this might be a marginal benefit, but would-be greekers could still remain engaged in the community without their associations. 2) Brotherhood and sisterhood: Communities are and can be formed without the greek system. At other schools, these bonds are created through student groups and sports teams. A cappella groups provide one example at Duke. E-mail your peers from high school for others. 3) “How will we party without greeks?” This argument dumbfounds me. Humans are social beings; we will adapt to new forms of social organization on campus.

In fact, that’s what’s already happening at Duke as we find ourselves in a transitional moment between greek dominance and greek submission. The complaints about the current social scene on campus stem from this awkward period in Duke’s development. Students are caught between the nostalgic pull of frat parties and the burgeoning social scene in other parts of campus and Durham. Supporters of the greek system inadvertently draw out this uncomfortable stage in social evolution. (Seniors, just re-examine the last three years of your social life.)

In order for Duke to forge ahead, the greek system has to be buried. Instead of bemoaning the system’s demise, we should begin pouring our energies into reshaping Duke’s social scene as quickly as possible to minimize our own suffering. Take a look around, and you will find myriad outlets for socialization and partying (even with alcohol!). Many student groups already throw parties and social activities for their members, and now that student groups can throw parties with kegs, their role in the social life will only gain prominence. Off-campus parties and the local nightlife might even teach us how to socialize in the real world, instead of relying on adolescent binge drinking and cramped hallways on Main West.

I am hopeful that students will shed their myopia and realize the potential we have in this transitional moment. It’s time to stop pretending that the greek system can continue to serve this campus. Letting go with a wistful tear will enable us to shake this place up again.


Christopher Scoville is a Trinity senior.



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