GREEK LIFE: IT’S GOTTA GO???

Prompted by the Black Lives Matter protests, Abolish Greek Life began as a national anti Greek life movement with initial chapters at ten universities. Image from Ben Wiseman – the New York Times.

Could one-third of the Chapman University student body be wrong about Greek life?

Chapman’s own anonymous Abolish Greek Life Instagram page believes: “Fraternities and sororities are built on exclusivity and secrecy… [which are] key enablers of racism, elitism, homophobia, and sexual assault.”

And Chapman’s Greek life is no exception, with several allegations reflecting such a historically discriminatory system. 

Over the summer, following the flood of nationwide George Floyd protests, anti Greek life and reform Greek life movements sprouted amongst universities. National movements like Abolish Greek Life and Strip Your Letters called out Panhellenic Councils and Interfraternity Councils for their harmful and exclusive behavior, pressuring Greek life to either “do better” or disappear altogether. 

Image from the Abolish Greek Life Instagram.

Chapman’s chapter of Abolish Greek Life created an anonymous Instagram page filled with submissions describing individual experiences with Greek life.

One submission from a former Panhellenic member said: “A senior member [and person of color] of my sorority was silenced and removed from the senior Facebook page for speaking out about our lack of support for Black Lives Matter. She was the only one removed.” 

During the summer, Chapman’s Panhellenic Council implemented diversity measures addressing recruitment practices, basic costs, accessibility, and foundational diversity and inclusion education, according to Jaclyn Dreschler, the assistant director of student engagement.

“To me, it was powerful to see a lot of the fraternity and sorority leadership taking initiative and creating some good change,” Dreschler said. “As someone who has worked with [Greek life] for at least seven years, I think some critiques are valid and I’m happy to say that what I’ve seen at Chapman is a critical evaluation of what’s happening in our community.”

Chapman’s sorority council has also decreased recruitment fees by nearly half the amount and will continue to provide scholarships every semester to help active members pay their fees. The Panhellenic Council has rewarded around $3500 in scholarship funds this fall.  

But is that enough? 

Rachel Albright, a junior at the University of Kansas and a leader of Strip Your Letters – a movement calling for Greek life reform – recognizes that Greek life can be beneficial at its best, but has a lot to work on in terms of inclusion. 

Strip Your Letters, a Kansas-based reform Greek life movement, encourages sorority members to remove any promotion of their organizations in an effort to demand greater change within the Panhellenic Council. Image from the Strip Your Letters Instagram page.

“Organizations thrive on the visibility they get from their members,” Albright explained. “If women strip their letters, they’re taking power away from them. We want to stop promoting [Panhellenic Councils] until they can actually support [black and indigenous lives] and the LGTBQ+ community.”

Albright believes if there is legitimate dedication to change, real reform is possible. 

Chapman’s fraternity council also has a problematic history concerning perpetuated misogyny and rape culture. Another anonymous submission from an unaffiliated alumni recounts: “My freshman year, I was roofied at a Pike party. I know they and other fraternities have gone on to do this to other women, and Chapman does nothing.”

The Interfraternity Council has yet to respond on the subject. 

According to an opinion piece by Chapman’s unnamed Abolish Greek Life Instagram account owner, true reform is unobtainable due to Greek life’s foundation of exclusivity: through financial gatekeeping, strict rules, and immoral recruitment methods.

“The benefits of Greek life – friendships, philanthropy, networking – can and do exist outside of the Greek life umbrella; better yet, they exist in inclusive manners,” they wrote. 

Senior and President of the Panhellenic Council, Shannon Keane, understands arguments against Greek life, but believes removing the entire community will not allow members to recognize their role and ability to change from within. 

“By getting rid of Greek life, it would take away from a great learning opportunity of our history, how it has been more exclusive, and how [we’ve] been contributing to make it more inclusive,” Keane said.

However, Chapman’s Abolish Greek Life refutes such claims with: “Plenty of fraternities undergo sexual misconduct training, and yet sexual assault continues to be prevalent in Greek culture.”

So, can significant change be created within the Greek life system or is it beyond the point of repair? It’s up to us to determine that. 

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