NYT on the hidden costs of sorority life

10/28/2014: Fascinating story by Risa Doherty:

During fall or winter rush, sororities court starry-eyed freshmen. They showcase their joyful conviviality with skits and serenades. They stress the benefits of joining, and brag about attracting the prettiest, smartest or most athletic. At many traditional sororities, however, not much energy is spent explaining what is expected, leaving many pledges unaware of the considerable time commitment and costs.

Do the math: Official charges include Panhellenic dues, chapter fees, administrative fees, nonresident house/parlor fees, a onetime pledging and initiation fee and contribution toward a house bond. Members must also buy a pin (consider the diamond-encrusted one) and a letter jersey. Without housing, basic costs for the first semester (the most expensive) average $1,570 at University of Georgia sororities, $1,130 at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and $1,580 at Syracuse University.

But such fees are only a portion of the real cost. Add in fines, philanthropy and the incidentals that are essential to participate in sorority life and the total spirals upward, especially when a closetful of designer party dresses is part of the mix.

10/20/2014: Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life in denial

Step one is to admit you have a problem. Despite that fact that five of his students ended up in the hospital with alcohol poisoning after last year’s “bid day”, Mr. Shukas thinks maybe the problem is that regular students may have mis-reported they were in chapters, inflating the greek life rape numbers in Jennifer Freyd’s survey report. The ODE has the story:

… Justin Shukas, Director of Fraternity and Sorority Life at UO, has made sure that there are a number of programs in place to make students feel safe in terms of sexual assault.

“We do a new member orientation program that happens within two to three weeks of when new members receive their bids,” he said. “We cover sexual assault prevention and alcohol abuse prevention.”…

Shukas said that many FSL members were surprised by the results of the study. “I think a lot of the students’ reaction is that they weren’t aware,” Shukas said. “The data was also self reported, and it’s unsure if those students were actually in chapters, so there are still a lot of questions about that.” …

UO FSL saw first hand how individuals’ poor decisions can lead to an unsafe environment after five sorority women were hospitalized due to alcohol poisoning following Bid Day 2013.

10/15/2014: Fraternity members 3x more likely to commit rape – UO Dean Shang says don’t forget about their community service

Jake New has the basics in a report in InsideHigherEd from September:

This month was not kind to the already-embattled image of the American college fraternity.

Wesleyan University announced that its fraternities would have to go coeducational amid a push from students and faculty members who say that fraternities encourage sexism and mistreatment of women. Clemson University suspended all fraternity activity following a member’s fatal plunge from a bridge. The Texas Tech University chapter of Phi Delta Theta was suspended after displaying a banner that read “No Means Yes, Yes Means Anal.”

And with research and college health experts noting thatincidents of sexual assault and high-risk drinking are particularly prevalent among fraternity and sorority members than other students on campus, a question inevitably arises: Why don’t colleges just do away with Greek life completely?

Good question. Especially when the data says:

While the majority of fraternity members do not commit rape, they are three times as likely to commit rape as non-members, according to a 2007 study.

UO Dean of Students Paul Shang gives his answer in this new Josephine Woolington story in the RG, which reports on UO data on rapes of sorority members:

Survey: UO sorority students at greater risk of rape

… UO Dean of Students Paul Shang said he hadn’t looked at Freyd’s data in much detail, but emphasized that the research should not overshadow the community service that fraternity and sorority members provide to the university and to local charities. He said many students are interested in coming to the UO because of its Greek life culture.

Shang said the UO plans to expand Greek life to where 20 percent of undergraduate students are members of a fraternity or sorority, compared to the current 15 percent.

That’s right, UO’s Dean of Students failed to do his homework, but he’s decided to expand greek life anyway. Do the math – how many extra rapes is Paul Shang willing to accept? I must have missed the meeting where he presented this proposal to the UO Senate, and we adopted it.

Fortunately the UO student’s news site The Daily Jade has higher standards than the UO administration:

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27 Responses to NYT on the hidden costs of sorority life

  1. Anonymous2 says:

    That is an outrageously unjust and uncalled for story heading.

  2. Anonymous2 says:

    You could have used this post as an opportunity to disagree with the UO’s plan to expand its greek culture based on certain social science literature suggesting a link between fraternities and sexual assault. What you did instead–attribute an awful belief to someone who neither said nor intimated anything of the sort, in a public and permanent manner without any context, nuance, or opportunity for dialogue–was nothing short of an act of violence and malice. I don’t even know Paul, and I am actually shaking with anger at how wrong this is.

    • Max Powers says:

      It seems this kind of behavior is routine on U O Matters. Splatter someone’s name with some half truths and innuendo. As long as most on campus dislike the person everyone plays along. Now when it it someone people like UO Matters gets called on it? This kind of behavior has been going on for a long time on this site.

      • 4Max says:

        I don’t get it the quote is: “…Paul Shang said he hadn’t looked at Freyd’s data in much detail, but emphasized that the research should not overshadow the community service that fraternity and sorority members provide to the university and to local charities.”

        That may be bad reporting but I read that as a Dean saying:
        ‘F$ck research, take a look at this picture of a sorority sister in a low cut top and hot pants holding a cute kitten over here we need more of this’.

        I do not feel UOM anything. An anonymous comment below regarding trying to actually find the source research in IHE and being dubious about methods seems to me a better approach than
        ‘I did not look do my homework, and look at the data, but I am going to comment anyway’ and tell you very serious issues about the safety of our 20,000 students should be ignored ‘because of the shirtless greek carwash fundraiser, or beer bongs for FFLC’

    • Actually, Paul Shang said precisely what the headline indicates. The quote from the R-G is “UO Dean of Students Paul Shang said he hadn’t looked at Freyd’s data in much detail, but emphasized that the research should not overshadow the community service that fraternity and sorority members provide to the university and to local charities.”

      As someone who *does* know Paul Shang, this sort of attitude doesn’t surprise me at all. Even though UOMatters might be reluctant to allow me to say this, [Ed: Redacted] This sort of cavalier attitude is par for the course for Shang.

      • Hen says:

        I read it in the ‘Guard, before I read it on UOmatters. II don’t know Paul Shang, so couldn’t tell you if he is cavalier or clueless.
        Anonymous2 is outraged for all the wrong reasons.

  3. thedude says:

    I’m no economist, but is this adverse selection into Greek life, or the causal effect of being in the Greek life. It’d be interesting to look at.

  4. The Truth says:

    “Shang said the UO plans to expand Greek life to where 20 percent of undergraduate students are members of a fraternity or sorority, compared to the current 15 percent.”

    What are they going to do? Force students to join one?

    • charlie says:

      Why not? They force them to pay for things they don’t want. Precedent already set…..

  5. Anonymous says:

    I tried to find the study that showed that. The 2007 study linked to in your post (presumably because it was referenced in the InsideHigherEd story) referenced two other studies. Neither one claimed to show that frat members are more likely to commit rape, although they showed some scary attitudes about rape among fraternity members.

    On the other hand, I found the methodology of one extremely suspect. In particular, one of the methods included asking people (colelge women, but I’m not concerned about that sample group) to rate pictures as “not degrading and not sexual” to “degrading and sexual” on a one-dimensional scale, as if these things are necessarily correlated.

  6. Sam Dotters-Katz says:

    This is disgusting, even from you, Bill. Satire is one thing, accusing Paul Shang of basically wanting rapes to occur on campus? You will just do anything to remain in the conversation. Remind me, Bill, since you have been the most active member of the UO Senate in recent years, how many conversations did that body have about sexual assault before it became trendy to talk about once it provided an avenue to attack athletics? The answer in recent years is none, yet you act all high and mighty accusing people like Paul of wanting rape to occur, which is just insane, and even though you did nothing on the subject for years. You have no ground to stand on on the subject, and you are flailing for relevance. This is way over the line, even for you. You are like a child that will do anything for attention. It’s rather pathetic.

    Remember that one day retirement you had last year? Time to revisit the notion.

    • anon says:

      Welcome back, SDK…

      “You are like a child that will do anything for attention.”

    • Sam Can't Read says:

      Katz, I thought you went to law school. Didn’t they teach “careful reading” there?
      “accusing Paul Shang of basically wanting rapes to occur on campus?”

      What is this “basically wanting” characterization? Did they teach that in law school?

      The blog said this: “Do the math – how many extra rapes is Paul Shang willing to accept?”

      That says nothing about “wanting” rapes to occur. It asks how many the Dean is “willing to accept” — and does so by pointing out that expanding a housing program (fraternities, sororities) where rapes are 2 or 3 times more likely to occur will predictably lead to more rapes than if that program is not expanded.

      “Willing to accept” is standard terminology in measuring risk. If you raise the speed limit, how many more vehicle deaths are you “willing to accept”? If you lower the drinking age, how many more alcohol-related injuries are you “willing to accept”?

      Maybe you should go back and read what UOM actually wrote, instead of building a strawman of what you wish he had written so that you could attack it.

  7. Anonymous says:

    How the U of O can look at the Greek system as anything other than a money suck away from state-defunded programs and a local real estate scam is beyond me. The school is better off buying up the property on 15th between Kincaid and Alder and converting those buildings into faculty offices.

  8. Anonymous says:

    I am genuinely curious: Why? Why is it a university goal to increase Greek membership? Maybe Shang told the reporter and it just didn’t make it into the story, but the R-G article doesn’t say. What are the stated reasons? Actual reasons (if they differ)?

  9. The Truth says:

    “Actual reasons (if they differ)?”

    Attract more students from California (and hence out-of-state tuition money) who are primarily looking to party and be part of the “sports culture” on mom and dad’s dime.

    • charlie says:

      Who the hell would junk your post? Do they actually think anyone joins a frat/sort in order to volunteer to pick up trash along I-5?

  10. [email protected]$king Clueless says:

    Shang actually said that research that he hadn’t read that suggests rape is more likely to occur in fraternities and sororities should not overshadow community service by those organizations.

    Think about what that means and then try to make a serious argument that he isn’t a fucking idiot, at best.

    Why does the UO continue to trot out people with no expertise in these area to challenge our faculty on their research?

  11. Mimi Goldman says:

    If blog readers are interested in more information about the dysfunctions of the Greek system they might check PAYING FOR THE PARTY: HOW COLLEGE MAINTAINS INEQUALITY by Armstrong and Hamilton (Harvard University Press 2013).

  12. Independent says:

    given the overwhelming link no one denies between alcohol and sexual abuse, interesting that no one has noted that Uo fraternities and sororities may not sponsor or cosponsor events where alcohol is served. Whether that is monitored I cannot say, but that is the policy. Wondering why no one has mentioned it.

    • Anonymous says:

      I didn’t know anyone actually believed that. Everyone knows Greeks rent houses off campus (and off the books) to party in. The University likes it because it keeps their crime stats down and Greeks like it because if they get in trouble they can stay off the radar. Did you really think students were lining up to join dry houses, so they could have some study buddies?

      The rule does draw a line in the sand though, so when that Phi Psi incident happened last year there could be some token consequences, along with the official endorsement from Shang to increase Greek numbers on campus.

      Greeks are current and future donors, and the University administration will remind you of your place if you try to get in the way of that. They also tend to be a voting bloc easily controlled by the administration. They pretty much handed Robin the EMU deal, so they’ve got some favors to call on.

  13. UO Matters Doesn't Matter says:

    I haven’t looked at the trash blog in a while, but it seems like you are grabbing for anything you can these days Bill. Dr. Shang cares a hell of a lot more about the student body than you do. It’s deplorable that you would continue to try and paint the administration as a group of criminals who want sexual violence. What are your ideas on sexual violence prevention? I have not seen a single constructive piece of advice from you. How ’bout you drop the f$#king mudslinging and add something positive to the discourse? Enjoy the low readership and your lack or respect at the U. Maybe I’ll come back to read this crap in another few months.