Why Fraternities Are Shut Down For Misconduct While College Sports Teams Go Unpunished

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The school year is an endless wave of stories chronicling the reckless misdeeds of Greeks. Accusations only die down with the coming of summer. The numbers behind these violations, the vast majority of which are caused by hazing and alcohol abuse, are staggering.

According to StopHazing.org, 73 percent of Greeks have been hazed at least once, and according to a study conducted by The Journal of Adolescent Health, 15 percent of college students experience an uptick in binge drinking upon joining a Greek organization.

Critics say a system with those numbers should be axed. If their logic is correct, then another type of organization with even higher percentages of binge drinking and hazing is worthy of being shut down for good: college athletic teams.

Those same studies found that 74 percent of college varsity athletes have been hazed at least once, and that 19 percent of college students experience an uptick in binge drinking upon joining an athletic team.

Nationwide, 30 fraternities were shut down in March alone for violations such as the ones listed above. Meanwhile, the NCAA has enacted its “death penalty” – suspending a program for at least a year – only three times in history. All of those penalties were dished out for violations involving the illegal payment of student athletes. The NCAA has never dealt its highest punishment to an athletic program for hazing or drinking.

When the allegations come rolling in, sports teams are afforded the luxury of punishing a handful of key offenders and continuing as though nothing happened. But when those same allegations knock on the door of a Greek house, it’s sayonara for everyone who associates.

Officials say this is because the problems with Greek organizations are systemic (carried out by the group as a whole) while the problems with athletic organizations are caused by “a few bad apples.” This simply isn’t true. Hazing is systemic by nature, and athletic teams haze even more than Greeks do. The real reason sports teams get way with misconduct while Greeks do not is a reality universities wouldn’t dare admit: money.

Schools with big-time sports teams reap hundreds of millions in annual revenue from their college athletes. In the 2011-12 season, Texas made $163.3 million, Michigan made $128.8 million, and Alabama made $124.1 million. That’s just to name the top three earners. Schools with big-time sports teams usually have large Greek communities as well.

By comparison, Greek organizations hold far less financial value to universities. Most of the money raised by a fraternity goes toward sustaining itself, paying dues to nationals, and supporting charities.

When schools are as reliant as they are on sports teams for revenue, they’ll do what they can to bury any instances of misconduct that may arise. According to The Guardian, one study suggests as many as 800,000 student athletes are hazed every year. The study also says a quarter of coaches or advisors had been aware of hazing, but didn’t report it.

They can’t hide behind the argument that Greek hazing is more severe, either.
This study from ESPN only goes back to 1980 — the date of the first widely-publicized, college sports-related hazing incident – but the details are just as grim and the accidents are just as numerous. Sexual assault. Severe injury. Death. The difference lies only in media attention.

It is important to note that these extreme instances are rare. While the majority of both athletes and Greeks have experienced hazing at least once, what StopHazing.org considers hazing is comical. The most common form of hazing is to “Participate in a drinking game” at 26 percent, followed by “Sing or chant in a public situation” at 17 percent. The study also says 9 out of 10 students who experienced hazing do not consider themselves to have been hazed. In other words, the hazing and binge drinking endemics occurring among student athletes and Greeks isn’t all that bad.

The goal of this article is not to drag sports teams down with us. My aim is to condemn the big wigs at the top whose interests in protecting their students extend only as far as what is financially beneficial. With top university officials covering up the misconduct of student athletes, Greeks are the only bad guys. Right now, America is under the impression that hazing and alcohol abuse will die along with fraternities. And that’s dangerous. Not just for the existence of Greek life, but for the lives of student athletes.

There’s no stopping colleges from annihilating Greek organizations for drinking and hazing, and those same violations aren’t about to end a sports program anytime soon. There won’t be any op-eds calling for the disbandment or reformation of college athletics either – for some reason, their misdeeds haven’t caught as much traction as the misdeeds of frat guys.

Just keep in mind, the next time you read an interview with a college official who pats himself on the back for putting an end to yet another evil, vicious fraternity on campus, know that he’s probably going to look the other way when the football team does the same thing. In fact, he’ll probably do everything in his power to cover it up. Maybe if Greeks gave the money they raised for charity to the school instead, they would be awarded similar treatment.

[via StopHazing.org,The Journal of Adolescent Health, Real Clear Sports, Business Insider, The Guardian, ESPN]


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