Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Student's Fraternity Plans Alarm Sister

DEAR HARRIETTE: I am a politically active 27-year-old woman. My younger brother, who is just about to enter college, informed me that he wants to join a fraternity. I actively protested against fraternities during my time in college, as I believe they promote toxic masculinity and are spaces of sexual harassment. I also have several friends who were harassed by fraternity members during their time at college. I don’t want my brother to be influenced by this toxic environment, so how should I dissuade him from joining? Or should I allow him to make his own mistakes and simply talk to him about his experiences while in the fraternity as they come up? -- Open His Eyes

DEAR OPEN HIS EYES: You may remember when you were his age that it was hard to listen to your elders as you were trying to become independent. Tread lightly as you talk to your brother. Your goal should be to get him to listen to you. You can suggest that he do some research on the fraternity that interests him. Encourage him to find out about the fraternity’s history on campus and in the broader community. Suggest that he watch out for any fraternity that has the reputation of extreme hazing, sexual harassment or excessive drinking.

Tell your brother that you want him to have a great college experience, and as his sister you want to ensure that he is safe and that he is making smart decisions. Point out what you know about some fraternities. I emphasize “some,” because not all Greek-letter organizations are reckless, irresponsible or dangerous. If you resist lumping them all into one category, your brother may be able to hear your concerns better. If he does join, keep the lines of conversation open. Do your best to stay in touch with him during the pledge process so that you can step in if he seems to be in danger. But know that you cannot live his life for him. You can be of support, but don’t try to tell him what to do.