Greek Life: “Rape Haven” and Other Campus Disasters

The stone walls at the Tiger Inn eating club at Princeton University were spray-painted with the words "Rape Haven" earlier this week (Photo courtesy of The Daily Princetonian)

The stone walls at the Tiger Inn eating club at Princeton University were spray-painted with the words “Rape Haven” earlier this week (Photo courtesy of The Daily Princetonian)

Back in late September, Caitlyn Kovacs, a Rutgers sophomore died after drinking at a Delta Kappa Epsilon party. I wrote a piece in the immediate aftermath calling for colleges and universities around the country to shut down fraternities and sororities. I wrote about the rampant alcohol and drug problems associated with Greek life, high rates of sexual assaults, racism, sexism, academic cheating and the overall negativity they bring to campus life (to date, it has been the most read piece I’ve written for this site). Members and alumni of the Greek system were outraged and responded in droves. Several stated that I had jumped to conclusions and that maybe she didn’t die because of alcohol or maybe she hadn’t been served alcohol at Delta Kappa Epsilon. Recently, the Middlesex County Prosecutor announced that the county coroner determined that she died from “acute ethanol toxicity.” Caitlyn was 19 years old. She died drinking at a fraternity. Those are indisputable facts.

In the last six weeks, there have been several more fraternity and sorority related disasters. I list several of them below. This piece concludes with a number of scholarly articles that provide data that backs up my assertions and adds weight to the problems I’ve enumerated.

The Tiger Inn Eating Club at Princeton University (Eating Clubs are the equivalent of Greek Life at a few Ivy League schools) is currently under investigation by local authorities because a photo of a sex act was electronically distributed (there is a wide range of possibilities of what happened, but clearly, someone’s privacy was violated). On Tuesday night, someone spray painted “Rape Haven” on the walls of their entrance. I’m not a supporter of the destruction of public or private property, but someone apparently feels very strongly that the Tiger Inn Eating Club is a Rape Haven.

Today, West Virginia University announced that is was suspending all frats and sororities after an 18 year old was found unconscious and not breathing in a WVU frat (he died a few days later). One week earlier, 19 pledges got involved in a street brawl. I know that I am going to seemingly malign a whole state here, but seriously, you know that an institution has gotten out of hand when it is banned in West Virginia.

In September, Clemson University suspended all frats after the death of a teenage pledge.

Last month, Phi Kappa Psi was suspended at Brown University (a great, world class school) after two students reported they were given date rape drugs and one of them claimed she was sexually assaulted later that evening.

In just a few paragraphs, I’ve detailed several anecdotal examples that include deaths, dangerous drinking, fighting, drugging and sexual assaults. Two weeks ago, the New York Times published an article about the high cost of Greek life. While it doesn’t cover the destruction of drinking, drugging, date rape and death, it does paint a further negative portrait of Greek life. Pledges and members of sororities are often asked to spend a lot of money on fees, parties, clothes and other events each semesters.

Here are a number of scholarly articles and/or studies about Fraternities and their relationship to binge drinking and sexual assaults (thanks to Tess Krakoff for conducting this research).

Fraternity membership and binge drinking by Jeff DeSimone
• Social fraternity and sorority membership relationship with binge drinking incidence and frequency among 18–24 year old full-time 4-year college students who participated in the 1995 National College Health Risk Behavior Survey.
• The main activity with which fraternities are associated is alcohol use.
• Data confirm that fraternity members drink more intensively than do non-members. In the NCHRBS, past month binge drinking, defined as consuming at least five alcoholic beverages within a few hours, was reported by 69% of fraternity members as compared with 42% of non-members.

High-Risk Drinking Among College Fraternity Members: A National Perspective
• Extensive profile of drinking behaviors and predictors of drinking among 3406 members of one national college fraternity, distributed across 98 chapters in 32 states.
• Multiple indexes of alcohol consumption measured frequency, quantity, estimated blood alcohol concentration levels (BACs), and related problems.
• Among all members, 97% were drinkers, 86% binge drinkers, and 64% frequent binge drinkers.
• Drinkers had an average BAC of 0.10, reaching at least 0.08 on an average of 6 days.
• These fraternity members appear to be heavier drinkers than previously studied fraternity samples, perhaps because they were more representative and forthright.

‘Liquor before beer, you’re in the clear’: binge drinking and other risk behaviours among fraternity/sorority members and their non-Greek peers
• Respondents who binged were significantly more likely to be male and belong to a fraternity/sorority.
• Fraternity bingers were significantly more likely to engage in physical fights ( p < 0.05) than non-Greek male bingers.
• Sorority bingers were significantly more likely to be injured ( p < 0.01), drive under the influence of alcohol (DUI) ( p < 0.001), be sexually victimised ( p < 0.01) and engage in unwanted sex ( p < 0.05) than non-Greek female bingers.
• Fraternity members who binged frequently (≥3 times in 2 weeks) were significantly more likely to DUI ( p < 0.01) and engage in unprotected sex ( p < 0.05) than were those who binged intermittently.
• Sorority members who binged frequently were significantly more likely to DUI ( p < 0.05) than were those who binged intermittently.

Fraternity and Sorority Members and Alcohol and Other Drug Use
• A report by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) notes the disturbing consequences of drinking on campus each year: 1,700 college student deaths from alcohol-related causes; more than 500,000 unintentional injuries; more than 600,000 assaults; and more than 70,000 cases of sexual assault and acquaintance rape.
• Fraternities and sororities are among the key groups that foster this culture of drinking on campus.
• Given the high rates of heavy drinking in fraternities and sororities and the role they take in promoting frequent and heavy alcohol consumption on campus, college and university prevention efforts should target these social societies.

Study Ties Binge Drinking To Fraternity House Life

• This 1995 study was written about in the New York Times. You can read it here (things haven’t changed in 19 years).

Living in a fraternity or sorority house is by far the strongest indicator of binge drinking in college, a new study by the Harvard School of Public Health reports.

• 86% of fraternity residents and 80% of sorority women are binge drinkers
This compares with 45 percent of men not affiliated with fraternities and 36 percent of women