Is Greek Life Dead? No, But A Young Man Named Timothy Piazza Is.

In light of the recent sanctions placed on Greek life at Penn State, I’ve overheard several students make the reactionary statement, “Greek life is dead.” When hearing that word used in that context, it made me realize how the passage of time can make people become desensitized to tragedy. I suppose that because Penn State is such a large school with thousands of students, it makes it easier to move on from a crisis that does not individually affect us, but are we willing to accept that excuse? Are we willing to admit to being self-centered? I think we owe ourselves more credit.

The fact of the matter is, a boy died in a fraternity house where he was served alcohol underage. I know, underage drinking happens in apartments, off-campus houses, and even dorms, but Timothy Piazza’s death did not happen in any of those locations; it happened in a fraternity house. Fraternities and sororities are school-affiliated organizations, and when a crisis of that magnitude occurs, it is Penn State’s obligation to handle it. I’m sure for those of you who rushed have been told, “You’re a pledge class of one,” meaning that a decision an individual makes has implications for everyone. Similarly, every fraternity is part of IFC and every sorority is overlooked by Panhellenic, so a mistake or tragedy that happens to one, has consequences for all.

That being said, are the new rules significantly different from the previous regulations? Yes. Does it completely change the dynamic of Greek life as we once knew it? Absolutely. Is it frustrating? Certainly. But whether or not you are a member in a fraternity or sorority, you are aware of the stereotypes placed on such membership — heavy drinking, using drugs, sexual assault, all in all reckless. So, by making hateful statements towards the administration that set the new rules in place, we’re validating those stereotypes. The idea of coming together for a peaceful protest on Old Main lawn was based on a good idea: solidarity, but the message was off. Advocating for the “old rules” or the dismissing of the new ones makes Greek life appear as though we are not willing to admit, or at least acknowledge that there are issues within the system that need improvement.

So, where do we go from here? We focus on what we can control. Let’s focus on the philanthropies that during recruitment we all claim to devote ourselves to. Let’s do what we can academically to boost our chapters’ GPAs. We can still have parties, so let’s keep them under control. Right now, the Greek community needs to come together and show that we are much more than just a social presence on campus, so that the Penn State administration will consult with us the next time they make changes. Let’s turn this battle of “us” versus “them” into a conversation between all of us.