The room was silent.
Not a single person was willing to speak first. It created a blanket of tension that instantly encompassed the room. Moments before, in the midst of casual conversation, I asked a simple question:
“So, when you guys hear the term Greek Life, what comes to mind?”
The question that slipped so easily from my mouth now held a room full of people captive. No one wanted to voice their opinions. Everyone stared blankly at the Greek letters adorning my chest.
After what seemed like years, West Russell tentatively spoke up. The USC student said that when he thought of Greek Life, he thought of “the stereotypical view.” He related his idea of Greek organizations to the movie "Animal House."
In other words, the purpose of these organizations is to party hard.
In recent years, a negative stigma has begun to follow the Greek community, much of it resulting from restrictions placed on these organizations. Currently, there is a campus-wide ban on hard alcohol (any alcoholic beverage with an alcohol content exceeding 15 percent) at tailgates. It stems from an incident involving the hospitalization of a minor in the fraternity tailgate lots during football season. A majority of these sanctions involve the restriction of alcohol and the monitoring of these organizations' new member processes. Consequences for violating these rules can result in harsh punishment, such as being removed as a campus organization.
Greek life boasts recognition on every level, individual chapters answer to national organizations, who dictate rules and ethics for each Greek organization.
Despite the community and moral values, many national organizations attempt to instill in their members that college students are typically young and rebellious. But as a result, individual chapters often find themselves in tense situations with both their national headquarters and school administrators when that rebelliousness gets out of hand.
Just last year, Tau Kappa Epsilon, more commonly referred to as TKE or Tike, was kicked off campus until Spring of 2022 following allegations of hazing, alcohol consumption and a failure to comply with university policies, per the University Leadership and Service Center's website. Other Greek organizations currently suspended from campus are Delta Tau Delta, Sigma Chi and Alpha Tau Omega.
While having many regulations placed on their Greek organization may annoy some, many members see the need for these rules.
Phi Delta Theta president Casey Lewis said he agrees that most of the rules placed on Greek organizations are a result of "the unnecessary actions performed by many organizations" on fellow students.
Lewis is talking about hazing.
According to USC's website, "Hazing is any activity of someone participating in an activity that humiliates, degrades, abuses, or endangers a person regardless of that person's willingness to participate."
This seems like a very cut and dry definition, but it can be difficult to apply to real life situations.
In the university's report concerning TKE's suspension, new member hazing included "personal servitude, calisthenics, alcohol, verbal harassment, and inappropriate activities." While alcohol, verbal harassment and inappropriate activities are clear violations of university policy, personal servitude and calisthenics seem to be grey areas, since it is seen as a safe way to avoid new member humiliation and abuse.
A former TKE brother, who wished to remain anonymous, said the organization's suspension was "fair." He continued, saying some of the fraternity's actions deemed unacceptable under school regulations "were not harmful and added to the [new member] process."
"But some of the things that happened crossed a line," he finished.
But where is the line drawn?
The answer is not as cut and dry as it may seem, and the regulations, restrictions and stigmas that come from them could change life on college campuses across the country.