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BENITEZ: Something must be done about Rutgers’ fraternity party culture

Column: Hear me out

Rutgers needs to critically reflect upon how its party culture negatively affects the image of the University.  – Photo by Jacob Bentzinger / Unsplash

Rutgers is a party school. Being one of the country's most recognized state schools comes from the University's reputation for its abundant parties and the intense nightlife it allegedly offers. 

Many students come from all over New Jersey and the U.S. to New Brunswick for that exact reason, yet they often are surprised to learn that the nightlife at Rutgers is not at all what they think.

The party fame that haunts the University's name comes from the famous and controversial fraternity parties. According to Rutgers' Fraternity and Sorority Affairs Office, there are 22 active and recognized fraternities on the New Brunswick campus.

For a fraternity to be recognized, it needs to put in the work. A GPA of 2.5 or greater for all members, a great deal of paperwork and mandatory meetings are just a few of the requirements a fraternity must meet to be considered an official Rutgers chapter. 

By being recognized, besides being on good terms with the University, fraternities gain privileges, such as access to the University's facilities and participation in events such as intramural leagues, the involvement fair and the Dance Marathon.

Unrecognized fraternity chapters also exist. They call themselves fraternities but do not have to follow the strict rules that apply to official chapters, nor can they legally represent the University. 

The fraternity party culture at Rutgers is sub-par, to say the least. Not due to the music choice, hot basements, poor ventilation or people who choose to attend, but due to the sexist and problematic habits they perpetuate, starting with the classic ratio. 

A ratio, in fraternity culture, is the number of girls a guy needs to bring to a party in order to be let in. And as absurd as it sounds, it is a common practice in fraternity culture. The ratios can go from 2 girls per guy all the way to 6 girls per guy. 

That is if the parties are not "only girls allowed." And as for girls, they always go in for free. 

The rule of thumb for men involved in Greek life and people who regularly attend these parties seems to be the bigger the ratio, the better the party.

Two significant issues come with the culture of ratios. First, most guys are not allowed in fraternity parties. Unless you know the fraternity brothers who are organizing them or you are also part of a fraternity, you are automatically excluded from the biggest party source of the University. 

It seems that most incoming male students are unaware of the ratio and may end up going to a party school only to find out they probably will never be allowed in. 

The second and way more critical issue with ratios is that it turns women into the attraction of the party. This is highly problematic because it objectifies them and perpetuates the idea that they only exist for men's entertainment. They are essentially treated as party currency. 

Moreover, as a consequence, the spaces in which fraternity parties exist can be unsafe for women as they can be subjected to unwanted sexual advances or harassment. Everyone seems to know at least one person who has had an unpleasant experience at a fraternity, and those within the Rutgers community know that this is something that happens consistently.

Past studies have shown that fraternity men are three times more likely to rape women than non-affiliated members. I believe this is a direct consequence of the values and culture fraternities instill in their members. Although generalizing is not good, the numbers and examples are incriminating. 

It must be noted that it is entirely possible that the most problematic fraternities on campus are not recognized chapters or affiliated with Rutgers at all. But that does not mean that all of the recognized chapters are entirely safe from accusations and predatory behavior.

Even though fraternities are not necessarily directly affiliated with Rutgers, it is in the University's best interest to keep the fraternity parties going, as it keeps the school's reputation alive. This status attracts thousands of students, who each bring thousands of dollars to keep the University's pockets full.

The existing system benefits Rutgers, and it does not look like it will change any time soon. 

It is a shame that instead of Rutgers being recognized for its excellent academic programs, outstanding professors or its plethora of clubs, sports teams or unique opportunities, these facets are seemingly overshadowed by the worst thing that this college has to offer: fraternity parties and a sexist culture. 

Marina Benitez is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in journalism and media studies and minoring in gender and media. Her column, "Hear me out," runs on alternate Tuesdays.

*Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

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