Fraternities have unfair power advantages

Letter to the Editor

Editor’s Note: This Letter to the Editor was submitted by political communication major Hannah Gregor.

When the same people come to power over and over again, we as a society begin to believe there is a natural hierarchy of people. However, when we look at the generational patterns in populations, we see that being born in the right body to the right family is more important than the success of an individual.

The fraternity Sigma Phi Epsilon began in 1901 with 12 white college educated men looking to form a society to increase brotherhood and community. Today, that same organization’s website boasts that “around 15,000 SigEp undergraduates are on more than 220 college campuses each year.”

The men involved in this fraternity are not evil or malicious, but we need to recognize how they benefit from their institution.

As this fraternity grew in success, alumni were able to accumulate wealth and power to pass down to new men in the fraternity. The issue arises when we consider where other people were in 1901 and their ability to pursue the same success.

In 1901, suffragists were still fighting for the right to vote. The United States was living in the Jim Crow era, with Black Americans fighting for their right to exist. Low income workers were just beginning their fight for fair wages and working conditions.

While the men of SigEp were leading governments, innovating in science, or become entrepreneurs, many Americans were simply fighting for their rights for equal opportunity. Often when we criticize Greek life, specifically fraternities, it’s about attacking the individuals involved. Instead, I argue that we should critique their generational privilege, as alumni pass down money and political protection.

The FratPac’s website, a Political Action Committee for Greek life, gloats that “In the 2017-2018 election cycle, FSPAC made contributions to 169 candidates, and 87 percent of them won and now serve in the 116th Congress.”

Heichiner (2017) of The Atlantic states that “according to the North-American Interfraternity Conference, Thirty-nine percent of Senators in the 113th U.S Congress, and one-fourth of U.S Representatives, belonged to Greek organizations, primarily fraternities—as well as one-third of all Supreme Court justices and about 40 percent of U.S. presidents.”

Fraternities’ power in our government and society as a whole is a not a result of their inherent greater qualifications or competence, simply their fortune at being involved in a club that started before most of our ancestors could even vote.

At UNI, we perpetuate this pattern on a micro-scale. SigEp men continue to dominate our student government.

Many say that it doesn’t matter, but student leaders today turn into society’s leaders tomorrow.

If SigEp wants to prove their leadership on this campus, they will work harder to elevate marginalized voices to positions of power instead of trying to speak for them in committee leadership, legislative positions and executive leadership.