AirTalk for March 11, 2014

The good, bad and ugly of the American fraternity system

San Diego University Student Found Dead In Frat House

Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images

Phi Kappa Theta Fraternity house at San Diego State University.

The American college fraternity system has been in the hot seat lately after a number of high profile incidents landed some new recruits in the hospital. A Bloomberg News investigation found that least ten deaths since 2006 have been linked to hazing, alcohol or drugs at at one of the country's biggest fraternities - Sigma Alpha Epsilon.

In response, the fraternity made the historic announcement on Friday that it would ban pledging for new members. Fraternity and sorority pledging has involved a high number of cases where prospective members were forced to drink large quantities of alcohol until they pass out, often ending up in the hospital with dangerously high blood alcohol levels.

The Atlantic magazine's March cover story, The Dark Power of Fraternities, features a yearlong investigation into lawsuits, accidents and deaths in Greek houses across the country. The article argues that the Greek system has become too powerful within university administrations to police itself and protect vulnerable new members.

So is Greek membership inherently bad for college students? New research published in the upcoming issue of the Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics shows that fraternity and sorority membership actually has a positive impact on students grades and campus participation.

Is Greek membership beneficial for students despite the dangers? Does the Greek system have too much power? Do the positive impacts of fraternity membership outweigh the risks?

Guests:  

Caitlin Flanagan, writer and author of a recent article in The Atlantic, The Dark Power of Fraternities  

Jay Walker, assistant professor of economics at Niagara University

Brandon Weghorst, spokesman for Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity


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