Do Fraternities Violate the Fair Housing Act? An Empirical Study of Segregation in the Greek Organizations

77 Pages Posted: 27 Mar 2022 Last revised: 24 May 2023

See all articles by Stephen Clowney

Stephen Clowney

University of Arkansas - School of Law

Date Written: March 1, 2022

Abstract

This paper presents the first large-scale study of the racial composition of fraternity and sorority chapters at American universities. This data has, until now, eluded higher education researchers. The findings from this Article are irrefutable; the Greek organizations remain profoundly segregated institutions. At universities across the country, white students dominate the membership rolls, very few Asian Americans successfully navigate the rush process, and many chapters still have no black members.

This Article also demonstrates that fraternities and sororities are not immune from the remedial power of American civil rights law. In particular, the Greek organizations can be held liable under the Fair Housing Act (FHA) for operating chapter houses on campus. The key insight is that the universities and the traditionally white Greek chapters have become so thoroughly entangled that it is impossible to regard the Greeks as private clubs outside the reach of the FHA. On many campuses, the fraternities and sororities have become fully subservient to the higher education bureaucracy. As a result of this entwinement, both the Greek organizations and their parent universities can be sued by student plaintiffs.

Finally, this paper argues that universities are particularly vulnerable targets for impact litigation under the Fair Housing Act. Administrators at many large colleges have openly subsidized the construction of on-campus homes for the traditionally white clubs. The universities’ role as financiers, builders, and operators of these facilities has imposed a clear discriminatory burden on the housing opportunities of minority students. As a first step toward greater inclusion, I argue that universities should be forced to integrate these housing units or unwind their involvement with the Greeks organizations.

Suggested Citation

Clowney, Stephen, Do Fraternities Violate the Fair Housing Act? An Empirical Study of Segregation in the Greek Organizations (March 1, 2022). 41 Yale Law & Policy Review 151 (2023), Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4065056 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4065056

Stephen Clowney (Contact Author)

University of Arkansas - School of Law ( email )

260 Waterman Hall
Fayetteville, AR 72701
United States

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