Aydin Akyol

Gender dominates our lives, determining who our friends are, who is treated with respect, who gets recruited into finance and who has power on campus. With Greek rush completed, freshman guys now know if they’ll be able to host legendary house parties until graduation, and freshman girls know if they’ll get invited to those parties — or if they’ll have to wait at the door. While Yale’s Greek membership is relatively small on campus, fraternities and sports houses throw the vast majority of large off-campus parties, monopolizing control over a key resource for forming networks in college and far eclipsing the impact of secret societies on the daily life of campus.

As events in recent months have made clear, the dominance of all-male, mostly white, mostly straight social groups creates a segregated, hierarchical “party” scene on campuses across the country where women, people of color and LGBT students feel devalued and excluded from spaces controlled by men who don’t look like them — and often don’t have friends like them. Like all organizations, Yale’s Greek chapters must take action to include students of all backgrounds, but they are restricted by the status quo: National rules mandate sex discrimination in membership, prohibit sororities from throwing parties in their houses and require recruitment and pledge processes that often enforce masculine aggression and feminine sexual propriety and objectification. Sorority sisters as well as non-Greek women can thus only access social spaces through relationships with men. And once inside frat or sports houses — i.e. “private property” — status is attained through playing by the brothers’ rules, not the University’s. Membership fees, discomfort with social differences and recruitment pipelines from certain teams and high schools are additional obstacles for minority and LGBT students.

It is outrageous that white heterosexual men control almost all the social spaces at one of the world’s most progressive universities. Yale has avoided a productive relationship with Greek life, intervening only in media firestorms, but otherwise abandoning its students to fend for themselves. Given co-ed eating clubs at Princeton and Harvard’s recent push to co-educate final clubs, Yale should take this opportunity to change course and lead the nation in empowering all students to live their social and sexual lives on their own terms. United Against Sexual Assault at Yale, the Sexual Literacy Forum, Community and the Consent Educators’ training sessions at certain Greek organizations and the sororities’ dialogues on inclusion are great initiatives that should be universalized by the administration to all social and athletic groups.

Beyond integrating existing organizations, making Yale a truly inclusive place will require elevating the status of femininity, blackness, gayness and every other “-ness” we’ve been socialized to distrust. In the model of co-ops at Stanford, eating clubs at Princeton and co-ed frats at Wesleyan, Yale should create a substantial fund to help sororities and co-ed groups control their own houses, host their own parties, forge their own experiences and celebrate their own identities. As a complement to existing Greek organizations, a vibrant co-ed social system would boost the bargaining power of marginalized groups on campus, improve student experiences and serve as an alternative to dreaded annex housing.

I’m in Yale’s chapter of Sigma Phi Epsilon, and my friendships with the brothers have been one of the most enriching elements of my Yale experience. At its best, Greek life can bring us together, but we shouldn’t let a Greek organization define our identity, as can often occur when members of social or athletic groups spend most of their time with other members, likely of the same gender, income and ethnic background. Even if this segregation is “self-selecting,” research has demonstrated that the types of people we spend time with now will heavily determine those we later view positively, work well with, befriend and hire. Integrating institutions helps us embrace more diverse qualities and experiences — masculine, feminine, black, white and everything in between — making us individually and collectively more innovative and productive.

While there are differences between the sexes, there is no reason why these differences should necessitate different social roles, particularly when they are so heavily shaped by social norms. I know many women who are better at planning events than some of my brothers — along with several who are better drinkers. So why can’t they throw parties? Or even join a frat? The only response is the same sexism used against women in the workforce, co-education and gender-neutral housing: Women “don’t belong” in certain places because they’ll be vulnerable to sexual aggression and will distract men. Fence and co-ed groups on other campuses prove we are better than this: Men and women can overcome pubescent feelings of discomfort to develop healthy, fulfilling and equal friendships. To do so, however, women and men (and girls and boys) must be allowed to play, study, work, live and party together — according to their own rules. Without inclusion, there is no equality: separate but equal isn’t equal at all.

Will McGrew is a sophomore in Calhoun College. Contact him at william.mcgrew@yale.edu .

  • TB

    Why are you are outraged that white heterosexual males control most of the social spaces at Yale? White males are the biggest demographic at Yale. Most of those white males that control the social spaces are heterosexual as the result of most people being heterosexual. It would be stranger if homosexuals controlled most of the social spaces.

    Sororities are not allowed to throw parties, which is why the females don’t “control” most of the social spaces. The national sororities impose this regulation; the white male undergrads have nothing to do with this.

    It sounds like you want an expanded version of the coed secret society system or more places like Fence. Why don’t you create a coed club? If people agree with you they will join it. If no one really cares about this issue, then they won’t.

  • joe

    My main takeaway here is that the author knows several women who are better drinkers than his Sig Ep brothers.

  • GBC

    What you have written is not true. There is a co-ed frat, there are co-ed clubs, and there are plenty of parties thrown by non-white or non-straight individuals. Maybe it only seems like frats dominate social life if you are in one; I think it’s clear to everyone who isn’t a freshman that frats are not the only player in the social scene at Yale. But good on you for wanting to include everyone in the parties you’re paying for with your dues to Sig-Ep; maybe leave the door open a little more.

    Wait, is that really what this is about? “In the model of co-ops at Stanford, eating clubs at Princeton and co-ed frats at Wesleyan, Yale should create a substantial fund to help sororities and co-ed groups control their own houses, host their own parties, forge their own experiences and celebrate their own identities.” Princeton’s eating clubs are private institutions that have to fundraise and pay for their own parties; there is no “substantial fund” from Princeton paying for the rich kids’ parties, and poor students receive no assistance from Princeton in paying their way in these private clubs.

    Parties cost money, and parties are basically a waste of time. Yale has better things to spend its money on. On the margin, Yale should be discouraging drinking and partying. The people who dominate the party scene are not the “straight, white men” – they’re the rich people, as usual, and there’s a fair amount of overlap. But that’s just how the world works. It is hardly Yale’s job to redistribute its students’ money so that everyone can drink more.

  • marcedward

    “It is outrageous that white heterosexual men control almost all the social spaces at one of the world’s most progressive universities.”

    It would be outrageous if it were true. Dude, it’s just Frat parties, who wants to associate with frat guys? Only the most empty headed of people. Frats are made up of sheeple who aren’t comfortable unless they are conforming to the tastes and expectations of others. They tend to be like minded idiots who date their female counterpart idiots.

  • td2016

    This article brims with hate, intolerance and an unhinged craving for power over other people. It is intolerant and frankly indecent to complain that people of any particular race or sexual orientation maintain (or, in the overcharged vocabulary of this author, “control”) any particular amount of “social spaces,” especially on the grounds that Yale is “progressive” by this author’s count. Where is the limit to this author’s racist principles? If “it is outrageous that white heterosexual men control almost all the social spaces”(a highly dubious assertion), then is it also “outrageous” that almost all the music played in those social spaces comes from or is highly influenced by African-American sources? Does the tide of his racist and sexist vitriol have no bounds?

    If a group of people choose to maintain a party room or other social space in which to gather in each other’s company, they have that right. That right exists not by grace of this university or (God forbid) this author, but by fundamental human decency. The right of free association with those of one’s choosing is fundamental to human dignity. This article is grossly hostile to that fundamental right and human dignity, but confuses itself with politically correct gibberish. Not one of the complaints in this article makes sense. Indeed, most Greek parties are open admission subject to capacity constraints, not “invitation only,” although the fraternities could chose to go that route.

    “Progressivism” is not a stop on the road to the goonish control of our neighbors’ and colleagues’ behavior and choices that this author craves. If he (or one) doesn’t care for the Greek party scene, then tell other people why they should dislike it, too. It is fairly clear that the author of this article already knows such explanations will fail to persuade, which is why he lobbies for strong-arm tactics.

    Unlike the various ethnic houses the university unwisely subsidizes on campus, fraternities are self financing, off-campus and wholly voluntary. Nor are Yale fraternities exclusionary by race or gay orientation, or examples of mind-numbing and narrowing “safe spaces” that create official zones of free speech suppression. Does as wide a section of the university community feel the social events hosted by those houses are as free and welcoming as the Greek versions? No. Obviously not. They vote with their feet. And the reason is the narrow-minded faux “progressivism” of those houses that suppresses the fun as well as speech and minds.

    In short, this article is completely misdirected and filled with corrosive venom.

    • TB

      100% agree.

    • habitualjoker

      Took the words out of my mouth. Superbly put.

    • Ferto

      Sums up the article quite nicely

  • ShadrachSmith

    Gender dominates our lives?

    Who told you that 🙂

  • sy

    Are the colleges and dining halls (plus the Schwarzman Center) not social spaces and a “co-ed social system” where “women and men (and girls and boys) must be allowed to play, study, work, live and party together”? Though “legendary,” frat and sports houses are not the only places for loud music, dining or drinking. There are a few male and female only spaces, not to avoid sexual aggression and distraction, but so we don’t get sick of each other.

  • eli1

    By far the most segregated areas on campus are the cultural houses. How come they get no mention? Frats at Yale are extremely racially diverse (makes sense given the higher proportion of black athletes relative to the general population).

    • Jess

      “frats at Yale are extremely racially diverse” in WHAT WORLD? lol

  • aaleli

    Maybe if you are a Eunuch.

  • Rod Berne

    Please clarify something.

    First Will writes this:

    “Yale has avoided a productive relationship with Greek life, intervening only in media firestorms, but otherwise abandoning its students to fend for themselves.”

    And then writes this:

    “Men and women can overcome pubescent feelings of discomfort to develop healthy, fulfilling and equal friendships.”

    First will suggests students shouldn’t be abandoned to “fend for themselves” yet they’re capable of “overcoming pubescent feelings of discomfort.”

    Which is it? Are students helpless or are they adults with agency?

  • kizmet paradigm

    White hetero males power to party is the new oppression? They are also the ones with the highest rates of alcoholism that will shorten their life spans significantly. This is a “power” to avoid like the plague!