Views expressed in opinion columns are the author's own.
The college Greek experience isn't what it's like in the movies. It's not all about the parties, despite the ragers you see on TV. What you don't see is the professionalism of chapter meetings and the blood, sweat and tears of planning a philanthropy event with a handful of your closest sisters.
While writing this column, it was difficult to explain my pride in being Greek-affiliated while trying to wrap my head around what happened at Florida State University this weekend.
Andrew Coffey, a 20-year-old student and pledge at Pi Kappa Phi, was found dead after attending a party the night before. Indicators suggest that alcohol may have played a role, but police are investigating the incident.
In response, the university suspended Greek organizations indefinitely.
It will be unclear whether Coffey's death was related to hazing until the autopsy is examined and the investigation is fully completed. Regardless, this is not the first time a university has suspended Greek organizations following a pledge's death.
In February, Penn State University suspended Greek-related activities for the spring semester after 19-year-old Timothy Piazza fell down 15 basement steps after an "alcohol-fueled event." First response wasn't called until almost 12 hours later.
Louisiana State University employed a one-month suspension when freshman Maxwell Raymond Gruver was pronounced dead after a hazing ritual. His blood alcohol content was 0.495.
And after every unfathomable hazing incident, university officials and fraternity chapters have preached the same things over and over.
An article from The Atlantic describes this cycle as such: First, there is a period of reflection within the Greek chapter, followed by "cosmetic reforms" that look significant, and maybe even result in the shutting down of a chapter. The president of the university issues a statement and everything eventually subsides. A pledge death occurs again and the cycle repeats.
Hazing within a pledging process involves new members or pledges proving themselves to the fraternity's existing brothers. Georgetown University explains the perceived benefits of hazing as follows: It brings the group closer together, it makes the process selective by weeding out those who don't take it seriously and it keeps traditions intact. This process cultivates a shared pride in the fraternity — one in which new members believe that they have earned their place by completing humiliating tasks.
In the movie Burning Sands, pledges endured grueling hazing rituals to get initiated into a historically black fraternity. Time and time again, it is drilled into their heads that the pledging process is something all the brothers went through, that perseverance through the hardships defines a Lambda Lambda Phi brother.
The root of fraternity pledging is groupthink, a phenomenon Psychology Today says involves discouraging dissent and encourages prioritizing harmony over critical evaluation. This makes sense as pledge brothers irrationally endure the pain of hazing together, then follow tradition as full-fledged brothers.
Universities have implemented rigorous checks to prevent hazing, but it's clearly not enough. Florida was the first state to give hazing-related harm a felony designation, and yet Florida State is now in the midst of a serious investigation that potentially involved hazing. Tighter regulations and dramatic gestures by universities aren't enough to prevent these deaths.
Fraternities, sororities and their governing national boards must hold themselves accountable for the actions of their members. Frequent communication must occur between chapters and their governing bodies to prevent these things from happening.
The malicious groupthink that occurs in hazing incidents must be eradicated at a smaller level, not superficially solved by banning every chapter on campus. It takes one person to stand up for a practice against a fraternity or sorority's values. In turn, national and chapter leaders must uphold the honorable traditions their organizations are founded on through professionalism and an understanding of their organizations' histories.
I feel proud every time I walk around in my letters. It gives me a sense of identity and community, and that pride didn't come from inhumane hazing rituals that are only unearthed after a pledge dies. My sorority has a deeply ingrained a sense of purpose and a drive to uphold what our founding sisters established our chapter upon.
While Greek organizations are special in their exclusivity, it is critical that exclusivity doesn't translate into deaths within chapters. Like the Florida State University's president said, there must be a "new normal" within the Greek community.
Fraternities and sororities across the country contribute vastly to a member's personal and professional growth. The immense benefits and sense of community cannot be undermined by rituals that take away the historical honor of these Greek organizations.
Maris Medina is a sophomore journalism major. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.