OPINION | Gender inequities in Greek life persist at Tulane

Billie Wyler, Staff Columnist

(Hailie Goldthorpe)

Fraternities were first established at universities in 1776. Eventually, the first sorority was formed over 100 years later in 1882. The women in these institutions felt pressure to prove that they exhibited values comparable to those that underlied male institutions. 

Thus, sororities were founded on principles that held them to high academic and moral standards. 

Despite the fact that sororities were founded by women in an attempt to level themselves with their male counterparts, gender inequality has been a recurring theme in Greek life culture. 

This gender inequality persists in modern times and is noticeable in several aspects of Greek life. For example, the recruitment process for sororities is strictly monitored, while that of fraternities is much more relaxed and informal. 

This pattern exists around the country, and it is particularly pertinent at Tulane University. The information available on Tulane’s Office of Fraternity and Sorority Programs page illuminates these discrepancies. 

On the page that describes Panhellenic recruitment, the official name for sorority recruitment, the process is described as a “four-round mutual selection process.” In comparison, Interfraternity Council recruitment, or fraternity recruitment, is described as a “semi structured” process. Almost any Tulane student could likely attest to the drastic differences in formality, structure and intensity of the sorority recruitment process compared with fraternities. 

Further, the page for sorority recruitment contains a link to a nine-page PDF that outlines the specific rules for Panhellenic recruitment. No such document or rules are provided on the page for fraternity recruitment. 

The discrepancies in the recruitment processes are only one example of the inequalities that exist between fraternities and sororities, both generally and at Tulane. 

Another unfair difference is that fraternities are able to throw parties, while sororities cannot. This is a universal issue that is in place at most universities with Greek life. 

This rule can have severe implications; since fraternities have control over a large sect of social life, they can, and do, exclude certain individuals, including members of particular sororities. This exclusivity can lead to feelings of disempowerment and embarrassment for sorority members and women in general. 

Despite the evident unequal treatment, “the National Panhellenic Conference, which governs the country’s 26 major sororities, maintains that sisters can’t swig booze in sorority houses — even as the fraternity down the street throws a keg party.” Thus, this unfair party rule remains at universities across the country, including here at Tulane. 

Interestingly, the fact that only fraternities can throw parties has not stopped Tulane’s administration from punishing sorority members for offenses related to their social events. 

Tulane junior and member of Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority, Jaime Sierens, explains how sorority members have been treated unfairly compared to fraternity members, particularly during the 2020-2021 school year when COVID-19 was at its peak. 

Sierens said, “I think it is unfair how the school allowed fraternities to have essentially school sanctioned parties, but then punished sorority members for rumors of gatherings of more than 5 girls and took substantial penalties … while turning an intentional blind eye to the fraternities.”

Sierens’ perspective highlights the frustration of sorority members who feel as though they are not treated fairly in terms of adherence to rules and punishment, when compared to fraternity members here at Tulane.

Another frustratingly biased rule at Tulane is a housing rule that provides fraternity brothers with more living options. At Tulane, men are allowed to live in their fraternity houses, while women typically do not have the same option. 

Rumors have circulated as to why sorority members cannot live in their designated houses at this school. Many believe it is because of laws in New Orleans that would consider that many women living together to be a brothel. However, the existence of a law that explicitly states this is a myth. Further, Tulane has provided little to no explanation on why this housing rule exists. 

Overall, the rules in place at not only the national level, but the local and school levels at Tulane University, create inequality between the men in fraternities and the women in sororities, ultimately favoring the men in a sexist, arguably misogynistic, fashion. 

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