To the Editor:
The recent call to “Abolish Greek Life” at the University harkens back to Rolling Stone’s infamous 2014 article. As I read that piece, I kept thinking that it simply couldn’t be true and, indeed, it wasn’t. Instead, a zealous writer pushing an agenda willfully ignored a fundamental tenet of journalism - she failed to confirm her facts. Noah Strike has now chosen a similar course with his inflammatory opinion piece. He too has forgotten that facts matter.
Citing “repeated sanctions for alcohol and drug abuse, hazing violations and sexual assaults,” Strike included a link to the Fraternity and Sorority Life Chapter Conduct Page which lists every sanction imposed over nine semesters from spring 2015 to spring 2019. Of those 108 sanctions, 78 were alcohol-related infractions of rush or social event rules. Strike bewailed “alcohol abuse” and “drug abuse,” yet no sanctions were levied for such behavior. One hopes that Strike wasn’t willfully misleading readers when he referenced sexual assault in the plural. The truth — one chapter was cited for a general conduct violation with required training in sexual assault prevention. Hazing is sadly mentioned in eight instances, but that almost certainly reflects meaningful progress over the long term. As for the implication that our Greek system is a “hotbed of racism,” Strike used two incidents to smear nearly 4,800 of his fellow students.
Before indicting fraternity and sorority members for a range of ills at the University, Strike might widen his gaze. When the University Judiciary Committee’s sanction data for the available 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 academic years are added to the separately adjudicated fraternity and sorority sanctions for the same periods, combined total sanctions for the entire student body come to 80 and 79 in the respective academic years. Fraternity and sorority members accounted for 31.3 percent and 30.4 percent of the sanctions in those respective years. That makes statistical sense since they comprise approximately 31 percent of the undergraduate population. Those numbers may disappoint Strike, but those are the facts.
The University’s ultimate mission is preparing students for life by fostering an environment that offers a glimpse into the opportunities and challenges of an imperfect world beyond the Grounds. Many factors, both inside and outside the classroom, contribute to the accomplishment of that mission. For some, participating in Greek life can be a defining factor. It is an experience that helped shape me — and likely thousands of other University alumni – in positive and important ways that resonate to this day.
Strike has the right to espouse his opinion, but that does not extend to baseless attacks on people or organizations – a real world sin for which Rolling Stone paid mightily. If the facts at the University had conflicted with my thesis, you wouldn't have received this letter. One wonders if Strike would say the same about submitting his article.
Stuart A. Smith III
College ’87 and Zeta Psi brother