Greek life reexamines core values, role in Tulane partying

When it comes to nightlife at Tulane, many students often closely associate Greek organizations with drinking and partying. With Tulane’s status as The Princeton Review’s No. 1 party school in the nation, some students are concerned Greek life has lost sight of its core values.

“It’s a scary thing to know that I started a fraternity at the No. 1 party school in America…” Micah Garber, founding president of the Alpha Epsilon Pi chapter at Tulane, said. “… you try to pitch to parents that, ‘No, your son should join this fraternity. Fraternities are great. It’s all this, like, brotherhood and bonding, and we do all this good stuff, and there’s so much philanthropy.’ And they’re like, ‘Yeah, but Tulane’s the No. 1 party school in America.'”

Garber said he believes the fraternities and sororities should do more to engage students through more public service and speakers. Tulane’s current drinking culture, Garber said, is centered on a lack of student engagement.

“I think, culturally at Tulane, Greek life could be so much. And, in reality, at Tulane it’s just kind of like over-glorified drinking clubs,” Garber said. “It’s a lot of kids from the very affluent neighborhoods pretending that they’re at a Big Ten school. We’re not at Syracuse or something, we don’t have a reason to party as hard as we party.”

Tulane’s Office of Fraternity and Sorority Programs outlines the standards to which Greek organizations are held. According to the office’s website, fraternities and sororities should uphold a “productive and viable lifestyle on campus” and promote “student involvement in co-curricular activities and community service projects.”

Elizabeth Schafer, director of Fraternity and Sorority Programs, said she believes philanthropy and bonding events remain a focal point within Greek life. Fraternities and sororities are required to host bonding sessions and philanthropy events to maintain a healthy social atmosphere.

When fraternities and sororities do host events with alcohol present, they are held to certain national and university-specific guidelines.

“… Sanctioned events with alcohol can only happen at officially-recognized fraternity houses or at third-party venues, with security present and with adherence to the University alcohol policy,” Schafer said.

Harper Garfinkle, president of Tulane’s chapter of Sigma Delta Tau, said Greek organizations can provide a structure of support for students when it comes to alcohol consumption.

“I think [a sorority] is really a great place for girls in the chapter to come as a resource for when they need advice about how to handle the party life,” Garfinkle said. “We do an extensive part in our new member period to educate the younger girls about how to safely handle the drinking culture here.”

Those students in the Class of 2021 who wish to participate in Greek life will not be able to do so until the early spring, but some of the class has already been exposed to the drinking culture that surrounds Greek organizations on campus. 

For Lily Tendler, a freshman from Durham, North Carolina, the drinking culture is not unique to the Greek community or to Tulane.

“Growing up in a college town, I very quickly learned that social life at every college is really what you make of it,” Tender said. “Every school is a party school if you want it to be.”

Though Greek organizations are often associated with Tulane’s party culture, some students said these organizations are not the primary concern when it comes to addressing negative effects of alcohol consumption.

“I just feel very strongly that while Greek life can easily be blamed as the source of this issue, I don’t believe it’s the source,” Garfinkle said. “I feel like, as we navigate through this new alcohol policy, it’s important for both students and faculty to look at the root issues rather than the consequences of the misbehavior.”

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