The Current Conversation About Greek Life at Predominantly White Institutions

When entering college, I knew that Greek Life permeated practically all aspects of campus life at many universities. It dominates the party culture, provides connections to other organizations on campus, and (if all goes well) ensures that you will have a group of friends to stick with throughout your time in college. 

Although I acknowledged the possible benefits of joining Greek Life, I had my reservations as well because I knew that there were many ways that I did not fit the mold of a typical sorority girl. I come from a single-parent household, and I would not consider myself to be wealthy in the way that many in Greek Life are.

Most notably, I am a black woman that is not white-passing or ethnically ambiguous in the slightest. Although I would be able to hide certain aspects of my identity if I had wanted to, I knew that there was, obviously, no way of hiding my race. Being a Black woman, I knew that women who looked like me were outliers within the Greek system. As Greek life is a historically (and, truthfully, currently) discriminatory system, I knew that being visibly different would make it harder for me to receive bids from what are considered the “top houses” on my campus.

Despite being conflicted, I eventually decided to go through recruitment for the benefits even though I knew that there were a lot of problems within the Greek Life system that I would be feeding into. Many other students told me that Greek Life at my university was less toxic than at Southern universities. 

My recruitment experience, like many others, was negative. Although I was invited back to the many houses each round, I began to like fewer and fewer houses that I went back to as the days went on. From not feeling that I necessarily fit with the people in the houses that invited me back to being sad that many “top houses” had dropped me, I lost a lot of the initial enthusiasm that I had felt at the beginning of rush. In the end, I got a bid from a sorority that I did not want to join and rejected the bid as I was not willing to pay dues for a sorority that I wasn’t passionate about.

Despite not being in a sorority, I was still able to go out and party with my friends. However, I did notice that there were fewer opportunities to do so now that everyone was in their respective organizations and began having more closed events. As an outsider to a very prevalent system, I began to understand that Greek Life honestly did more harm than good on college campuses, but I still considered rushing again my sophomore year as I wanted to be part of the “in” group.

Therefore, as someone who rushed earlier this year and considered rushing again, I was initially conflicted when the account for the chapter of the Abolish Greek Life movement requested to follow me on Instagram. I read the posts submitted from other students at my university and was able to empathize with their experiences, but I was still hesitant to follow the account or let it follow me as I did not want people to think negatively of me for (possibly) being opposed to such a dominant system on campus – and throughout the nation.

However, as I continued to read more of people’s stories on that Instagram account, I began to realize that Greek Life has done more harm than good for many communities on campus – including those that are part of Greek Life themselves. Many students on my campus have suffered from sexual assault, addiction, eating disorders and many other detrimental issues as a result of Greek Life even though our system was supposed to be one of the “less problematic” ones. 

Even though Greek Life was supposed to be “better” on my campus, it was still racist, classist, sexist, homophobic and transphobic along with many other bad aspects. Although I cannot speak to all of these issues, I can say that I have noticed that Greek Life values women with a closer proximity to whiteness and thinness more. It’s hard not to when you notice that fraternities readily allow girls that fit this mold into their parties but give those that are different a harder time – or completely turn them away.

Some may be on a campus in which Greek Life is not as harmful. Others may be on a campus where the system was sincerely reformed. Even if you fit into either of those categories, you are still feeding into a larger system that supports discrimination and other problematic ideologies. Although it’s easy to absolve yourself of guilt in many ways, it’s important to remember that the dues for chapters go to the national organizations that fund and support the oppressive systems that still exist at many other universities.

I’m not here to say that all aspects of Greek Life are inherently bad. It does provide a community for many that are looking for one if the process works out for you. There’s no doubt that they provide parties, along with other social events, but only for those that know somebody that can get them in. And even so, are either of those things worth the cost of harming so many other individuals?

To those who are part of the communities that Greek Life historically, and currently, oppresses that are also members of Greek Life, I understand that it can be difficult to reconcile these two identities, but it is very important to do so. I know that many think that they can reform the system from inside (I felt the same way), but I sincerely believe that Greek Life is beyond reform at this point because reform efforts have been made before – to no avail.

Although the idea of abolishing Greek Life causes sadness and uncertainty for some, it’s something that we need to do for others. It’s not something that happens overnight, but abolition is a way to ensure that many students feel comfortable and wanted on their campuses.

photo from Cosmopolitan.com