Column: Greek life needs to be reformed, but abolishment isn’t the answer

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Sarah Olender

In recent months, Greek life has fallen under scrutiny and many have called for its abolishment.

Taylor Hsu, columnist

Over the summer, college students called to abolish the Greek life system. These demands started alongside, and are a part of, the national reckoning over institutional racism in the past few months. The movement to abolish Greek life has largely stemmed from the fact that Greek life is often complicit in systemic racism. As such, it is important to re-address the purpose of our country’s fraternities and sororities.

Greek life is integral to the college experience for many students, yet oftentimes membership comes with greater exposure to racist, sexist and economic segregation. So why do so many students still rush every year?

Though Greek life was founded on the pillars of friendship, service and inclusion, that does not mean they necessarily follow through on these ideals. However, does that mean abolishing the Greek system is the right answer? I do not believe it is.

At the end of the day, its abolishment may stop this oppressive culture from spreading, but in reality that may only be a temporary solution.

I believe it is worth recognizing the national organizations that stand behind each chapter and analyze how they have reacted to the movement to abolish Greek life. One such example is the response of the chapter liaison, hired by the national organization, for the Kappa Alpha Theta sorority at Vanderbilt University, who told members to stop asking why their fellow sisters decided to quit the chapter. By doing so, the liaison and national organization as a whole effectively silenced the members who left to take a stance against systemic racism. This is just one of many examples where national organizations prioritize their reputation instead of actually addressing systemic issues.

Even though standing up to oppressive systems by getting rid of your own membership may make a small difference, I do not believe it will truly change how issues such as systemic racism are ingrained in Greek life. What matters is using your membership to take a stand against the national organizations that make these decisions, but true change will only happen if those that are not directly affected also take a stand by being true allies.

By building up support amongst different chapters, there is potential for enough of an outroar that national organizations will push for a genuine change. Greek organizations may not listen if you choose to depart a chapter connected to them. However, the burden of making the change should not fall on those who were discriminated against, which makes allyship all the more important. Instead, members should retaliate as a chapter by refusing to pay dues to combat systemic racism, sexism, etc. because money talks great volumes to these organizations. Advocating for mandated diversity and sexual assault prevention training are preventative measures that can help push back against the oppressive nature of Greek life.

People involved in recruitment have a duty to emphasize the necessity of consent and the importance of restructuring the cultural environment in Greek life. However, more often than not, it may be the toxic culture pushed upon social Greek life that influences how fraternities and sororities run. 

Abolishing chapters can only change the systems at a student level. Keeping this in mind, we should instead change the Greek life environment chapter by chapter. While calls to abolish Greek life are rooted in the desire to enact positive change, simply abolishing Greek organizations will not get rid of the inherently racist system that built them up in the first place. Those in Greek life must  fight these systems by addressing national organizations in a way that encourages different chapters to be racially-inclusive and non-sexist. This way, we may finally see change at all levels.

Taylor Hsu is a third-year business administration and psychology combined major with a minor in behavioral neuroscience. She can be reached at [email protected]