Is it time to Abolish Greek Life? An Investigative Look Into Stanford’s Sorority System
minah locked her bike and shuffled up the steps to Cemex Auditorium. Despite finals creeping around the corner, she took a study break to attend her sorority’s biggest philanthropy event of the year, Mr. Alpha Phi. The event was a male beauty pageant with men from a variety of fraternities and clubs performing for the audience to raise money for women’s heart health. As Aminah found a seat in the auditorium, though, her sorority’s philanthropy cause was the last thing on her mind.
Aminah — who asked to withhold her real name for personal reasons — was a sophomore at the time of the philanthropy event. As a freshman, she participated in rush and had been a member of Alpha Phi for almost a year by March 9th, 2018, the date of the event. Despite forming some great friendships through her time in the sorority, the year was also filled with pain.
Aminah alleges she was assaulted by a fraternity member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) earlier in the year. At a party, Aminah repeatedly told the member she had no interest in engaging in sexual contact. He proceeded anyway. Noticing Aminah’s distress after the encounter, the fraternity brother attempted to laugh off the event, saying that “it was for the boys.”
Aminah was weary of engaging with SAE after her assault. “But comparatively, I was fine,” she noted in an interview with me. “I mean I could mentally handle the event. Others had it worse than me.”
Leading up to the philanthropy event, Aminah was distressed to learn that one of the main performers in the pageant was a member of SAE. Many women in Alpha Phi didn’t understand his involvement in the pageant. “He wasn’t known as a great guy to women,” Aminah recalled. As his turn to take the stage approached, she shrunk into her seat.
The SAE member used the skit to joke about consent and sexual assault. In front of an audience of women, he noted that his perfect date would be describing all of the physical interaction he intended to have with a girl so he could gain consent before they engaged in sexual contact. “I’m a big consent guy, you know,” he joked. Furious and terrified, Aminah left the event.
“It was very triggering for me to listen to these guys joke about consent and joke about doing things for the boys after I had been assaulted by someone in the same fraternity,” she said.
After the event, many members of Alpha Phi began voicing concerns about their continued relationship with the fraternity. Several of Aminah’s friends had also experienced unwanted sexual contact at events held by the fraternity. Frustrated with the lack of action taken by Alpha Phi, a cohort of women drafted a formal letter to their executive board, pleading for a termination or suspension of events with the fraternity.
This plea by many members of Alpha Phi would not end in the suspension of relations between their sorority and SAE, nor would it entail receiving an apology from SAE members for their rhetoric towards the sorority. The movement rather ended with Aminah and others resigning from the sorority, frustrated and distraught
Stories like Aminah’s are common at Stanford. Scores of current and ex-sorority members have recently begun voicing their negative experiences with sexual assault, classism, racism, and exclusivity within sorority life. Aminah has joined a growing group of Stanford alumni and ex-Greek life members campaigning for the abolition of sororities and Greek life on campus.
The group — known as Abolish Stanford Greek (ASG) — arose this summer in the midst of protests over the death of George Floyd. Inspired by the national uproar over racism in the United States, the cohort of Stanford students and alumni sought to abolish an institution they viewed as central to upholding racist, sexist, and classist ideals at Stanford. The group immediately attracted hundreds of members, put out petitions, and created social media platforms to rally for their cause.
Calls to reform sororities are not new. Students have long campaigned to change Stanford’s sorority system, with varying amounts of success. Yet with the COVID-19 pandemic disrupting on-campus housing for the 2020-2021 school year, ASG has chosen an opportune moment to demand an end to Greek Life on campus. When undergraduates eventually return to Stanford, they may arrive at a campus with a radically different sorority system.
Sororities at Stanford
Sororities are some of the oldest organizations on Stanford’s campus. Sororities arrived at Stanford in the early 1890’s, just a few years after the university’s founding. Unlike most educational institutions during its time, Stanford was founded as a coeducational school with women included in its first class of students.
Sororities initially met a housing need among women at Stanford, rather than a social one. The university originally hoped all constructed dormitories would be suitable for the housing needs of students. However, when the construction of dormitories didn’t keep up with the growth in female enrollment in the early 20th century, female students turned towards sororities to meet their housing needs.
Social divisions from the sorority system soon erupted at the university. Female enrollment skyrocketed at Stanford during World War II, placing pressure on the sorority system to accommodate more women. No sororities were added to the university during this period, making the nine sororities on campus coveted places to live. Nearly 75 percent of women in the 1940’s went through the rush process, resulting in a process that was highly competitive, exclusive, and elitist. Sororities regularly rejected the majority of applicants. Some women who failed to gain entrance to a sorority transferred or left Stanford.
The University responded to the social competition and unrest surrounding sororities by banning them in 1944. When the decision was announced to a packed auditorium of female students, cheers and songs sporadically erupted. Sororities houses — which were originally operated outside of University control — were later transformed into general housing residences for women.
After growing pressure from several student groups on campus to create social spaces for women, the Board of Trustees reversed the 34-year ban on sororities in 1977. Six sororities had formed on campus by the year’s end, with over 200 women becoming sorority members. University policies were at odds with providing housing for the organizations; In the late 1970’s, most national sororities had policies that required sorority houses to be owned by the national chapter. However, Stanford policy dictated that all on-campus housing would be owned and operated by the University. For nearly two decades, sororities existed as social, unhoused groups.
That changed in 1993, when the University announced a proposal that would enable sororities to bid for houses presently occupied by fraternities. The policy resulted in several sororities gaining housing by 1998. Despite initial worries among sorority members that they would not be able to fill their houses, recruitment heavily increased among sororities, leading to most organizations turning down women at their rush events. To this day, Stanford has managed to retain ownership over the houses despite traditional requirements that national organizations own the properties. This unique arrangment gives Stanford more power over its Greek system compared to other Universities.
While the first century of Stanford sorority reform centered around housing, the last two decades have seen the organizations take on other obstacles. Brock Turner’s rape of an unconscious woman at the Kappa Alpha fraternity house sparked conversation surrounding sexual assault and Greek life at Stanford. Stanford instituted a number of regulations from 2014 to 2015 to combat sexual assault by fraternity members (nation wide, men in fraternities assault women at three times the rate of non-fraternity students). In 2014, Stanford announced that “one sexual assault by a fraternity member will lead to a loss of housing privileges for the entire fraternity.” However, few actions were taken to provide alternative social spaces for women, such as working to end the ban on sorority houses hosting parties.
The last few years have also seen a call for increased diversity in Greek life. In 2014, Jackie Fielder ‘16 launched the Greek Life Diversity Coalition, which sought to “address discrimination against students from marginalized backgrounds” in the rush process. The coalition helped institute diversity training events before the commencement of the sorority rush process and established ‘diversity office hours’ to assist prospective members of Greek life. When asked whether the Stanford administration still requires diversity training before the rush process, the University declined to comment.
Despite calls to reform Greek life over the last decade, sorority life has increased in popularity among Stanford women. Sororities on campus saw a 123 percent rise in enrollment between 2008 and 2018. Stanford points to the need for increased social spaces and connections among students as an explanation for the rise in the popularity of sororities. Members of housed sororities also get access to private chefs and better housing choices, heightening the appeal of joining.
2020 started out as a significant year in solidifying the presence of sororities on Stanford’s campus. In March 2020, two sororities — Chi Omega and Kappa Kappa Gamma — were awarded houses previously occupied by fraternities, bringing the total number of housed sororities to five. Although COVID-19 disrupted the transition of housing in 2020, the 2021-2022 school year may see a large increase in the percentage of female undergraduates residing in Greek housing. Yet 2020 has also resulted in significant threats to the existence of sororities on campus: for the first time since 1944, calls for the university to reform Greek life may result in the end of Stanford sororities.
The Fight to Abolish Greek Life
Despite decades of anti-Greek sentiments at Stanford, no large movement or organization had ever been formed dedicated to its abolition. That changed this summer.
2020 presented a unique opportunity for students and alumni to imagine a future without Greek life at Stanford. The COVID-19 pandemic prevented Greek organizations from participating in Rush during the school year, adding no new freshmen to their communities. When presented with the idea of virtual rush, most shied away from it.
The summer also saw heightened national dialogue surrounding issues of racial discrimination and white supremacy. Many Stanford students jumped to social media after the killing of George Floyd, voicing support for social movements and demanding policy changes on a wide range of issues.
Social movements throughout 2020 inspired Stanford students to discuss how institutional racism had affected their college lives. Experiences with Greek life arose as a common point of strife. Social media groups formed where Greek and non-Greek students lamented the racist, classist, and sexist incidents they had experienced within Stanford’s Greek system. Groups of students began to jointly imagine a Stanford without Greek life.
“I would say it was really organic, and definitely kind of came out of pandemic conversations on social media,” said Sylvie Ashford, a Stanford senior and member of Abolish Stanford Greek. During the summer, Ashford began publishing her thoughts regarding Greek life on social media. To her surprise, dozens of friends and recent Stanford alumni messaged her regarding her post. They expressed similar sentiments regarding their experience with Greek life at Stanford and asked if there was a movement they could get involved with. “I told them I wasn’t aware of one, but I’d love to get something started,” Ashford said.
Ashford soon learned that a group of former and current Stanford students in favor of the abolition of Greek life had been forming through word of mouth. The group was founded by recent Stanford Greek alumni, including Marin, a former member of Pi Beta Phi. Inspired by national dialogue on social justice in the wake of George Floyd’s killing, Marin sought to spark conversations on white supremacy, race, and inequality within her Stanford social circles. She posted a message in the Stanford Pi Beta Phi alumni Facebook group calling for members to deactivate because of what she described as the organization’s history of racism, misogyny, and heteronormativity. To her surprise, the post struck a chord.
“A bunch of people reached out after the post,” Marin noted. “So I started this informal Facebook group chat for Pi Phi alumni and current members speaking out about [Greek life].” The group eventually connected with others like Ashford and engaged in informal conversations about what it would take to abolish Greek life at Stanford. From these conversations, Abolish Stanford Greek was born.
Abolish Stanford Greek is a group of students with a wide range of experiences at Stanford. It includes alumni and current students, students who had been Greek members and those who had not, and even students who were still affiliated with Greek organizations. Organizing throughout the summer, they developed a structured campaign to demand the end of Greek life at Stanford.
While the group was founded by a few key actors, Abolish Stanford Greek has no single leader or president. They prefer to keep a horizontal structure that allows for the input of every member. The group is loosely organized by various subcommittees to allow its members to pursue abolition through a variety of avenues. A core leadership team runs weekly meetings, manages their Slack channel, and drives the communication strategy for the group. Another team runs their Instagram and social media pages, while the ‘administration pressure team’ is formed of students that regularly meet and discuss the issue of Greek life with Stanford’s administration. There is even a team dedicated to imagining the many social and housing alternatives to Greek life in the future.
The structure allows “people to join whatever effort interests [them]most,” Ashford said. It has also allowed the groups to gain an impressive social following after only launching months ago.
The group went public on August 6th and officially adopted the name ‘Abolish Stanford Greek’. In a letter in The Stanford Daily, Abolish Stanford Greek argued that Stanford’s Greek organizations were not exceptional compared to Greek organizations at other universities. The letter listed the group’s primary motivations for abolishing Greek life, including the racism perpetuated by the organizations, the inherent clacissm associated with Greek life’s exclusivity, and the problematic relationship between sexual assault and Greek life. A petition put out by the group garnered over 600 signatures in a matter of days, signed by students, alumni, and professors.
Abolish Stanford Greek launched their Instagram account the same week. The account serves several purposes, such as helping Greek members disaffiliate from their organizations and posting updates on the group’s progress. Yet the most notable use of their social media comes from the anonymous sharing of Stanford stories surrounding Greek life.
The group posts daily accounts of Stanford students’ experiences with Greek life on campus. Some submissions detail experiences with sexual assault at fraternity houses, portraying the Greek system as inherently protective of social status and brotherhood rather than the safety of women. Other submissions discuss the classist undertones of the sorority rush process. Many people of color have used the platform to describe the consistent microaggressions they experienced while in Greek life.
Conversations with Abolish Stanford Greek members unearthed a distinctive characteristic among participants of the movement: it is composed almost entirely of women. There are a few prominent men who have come out in support of the movement to abolish or reform Greek life; Terrell Edwards ‘21 recently stepped down from his role as Stanford Interfraternity Council (IFC) President to voice his support of an ASSU Senate resolution to dehouse Greek life. Yet the vast majority of Abolish Stanford Greek organizers and supporters are ex-Greek and non-Greek life women. The submissions on the Abolish Greek Life Instagram page also primarily detail the negative experiences of women and non-binary students within the Greek system.
“People supporting us, in general, tend to be largely women and non-binary folks. And I think that’s for a couple reasons,” noted Marin. “Women are just more directly harmed by this system than men. Women are sexually assaulted. Women are graded and judged and shamed and all of these things. And the system largely caters to men: what they want, their needs, and their fun.”
Abolish Stanford Greek’s membership presents a paradox. Until COVID-19, sorority membership at Stanford had never been more popular. There were more housed sororities on campus than anytime since the 1940s. The number of women participating in Rush significantly rose in the last decade. Yet countless women used their summer months to actively campaign for the end of the Greek system. Why are Stanford women now calling for an end to Greek life? And what do their experiences look like within the Greek system?
The Stanford Rush Process
Stanford women gain their first exposure to the Greek system during rush. For most women interviewed for this piece, this half-week was their most scarring memory from their time in Greek life.
Every Spring, hundreds of freshman girls walk up the stairs of Tresidder to begin the three-day marathon known as rush. The afternoon begins with freshmen girls running through the hallways of dorms, sharing accessories with friends and putting on makeup together to prepare for the day. A parade of nervous 18- and 19-year-olds walk in cohorts together from the freshman dorms, wearing nice shoes, clothes and jewelry to prepare for the day.
After a brief opening ceremony at Tressider, the girls are whisked into straight lines and marched around campus. They visit a new sorority every hour for a grueling seven-hour day. Unlike the fraternity rush process, potential new members (PNMs) — the nickname sororities give to women rushing — are not allowed to talk to whomever they’d like at each visit. They are instead assigned a sorority member to talk with for four to five minutes, after which they are passed off to someone else. Every minute of the conversation matters, as these three days will largely determine the social reality and housing opportunities of each girl for their entire Stanford experience.
It is hard to verbalize exactly what ‘qualities’ sororities look for in PNMs. Unlike other exclusive student groups — such as a cappella groups, club sports, or investment clubs — women are not picked based on interest or talent in a specific area. Stanford Politics reached out to seven sororities to ask what criteria they judge new members on, none of which agreed to comment. Unbeknownst to most PNMs, though, many important steps of the recruitment process are made before rush begins.
“They make a list before recruitment even starts with people that they want,” noted Kristen, a former member of Alpha Phi who asked to withhold her last name for professional reasons. “The voting structure [during rush]didn’t actually mean anything, because they already knew the people that they wanted before it even started.”
Another former member of Stanford Greek life who wished to remain anonymous for professional reasons noted that, in her sorority, “you were allowed to submit names in a Google Form to the recruitment team and be advisors of people that you thought would be a good fit. Then they put those names into a spreadsheet.” Marin agreed, remembering that “all of the members had people that they wanted in” before rush started. In Pi Beta Phi, she said, “it was all about connections.”
Many of these connections made between freshmen and upperclassmen Greek members happen in spaces not normally accessible to low-income students. Greek Women meet potential new members “in Stanford Women in Business, or they go to Soulcycle together, or they are in the same clubs or venture capitals,” noted Marin. Greek members also advocate for girls that went to the same high school as them during the rush process. Because of lack of connections, freshmen from poorer and lesser-known schools face heightened obstacles getting into housed or ‘top’ sororities. The information gap between various cliches and communities makes the process inaccessible to many, especially those who are not well connected to the Greek community.
Class is also accentuated during the three-day rush process. Potential new members signal their class and wealth through a variety of methods, from wearing expensive designer clothing to mentioning their hometown. “If you are bonding with someone over what bracelets you are wearing or where you vacation, it’s all very geared towards bonding with someone of higher socioeconomic class,” noted Jazlyn Patricio-Archer, a former member of Delta Delta Delta.
Women are allowed — and sometimes encouraged — to ask about financial aid options to cover the several hundred dollar expense of sorority membership. However, admission of one’s lower-socio economic class may harm their chances of admission to certain sororities. During Kristen’s time in Alpha Phi, the sorority had specific protocols to follow for financial aid-related questions during rush. The rush chairs hung a single financial aid pamphlet in part of the rush room. When low-income PNMs asked about aid, sorority members were required to “walk them across the room to the paper on the wall. So everybody in the room sees you walking this person over to a paper to look at financial aid, just singling them out even more.” When reached out to, members of Alpha Phi declined to comment for the piece or explain new rush policies they were adopting.
Understanding why freshmen of similar socioeconomic and racial backgrounds are, year after year, sorted into the same sororities may have less to do with rules and signals than simple social aspects that accompany growing up with wealth. Amy, a former member of Stanford Kappa Alpha Theta, noted that it was easier during the rush process to connect with women who shared similar socioeconomic identities.
“You will naturally connect with people who look like you or have similar backgrounds,” noted Amy. “So in your five to eight minute conversation with a potential freshmen, if you went to the same school, played the same sports, have traveled to the same places … you can connect on things that are very class-based, that automatically gives you something to talk about and something to connect over.”
It is difficult to address the reality that women of particular backgrounds may subconsciously prefer to surround themselves with those of similar experiences. After coming back from one discussion on unconscious bias and diversity training during a Kappa Alpha Theta chapter meeting, Amy recalls her sorority sisters bemoaning the purpose of the meeting.
“Yeah, it’s cool that we talked about it, but we all know nothing’s gonna change,” one member joked.
Many women enter Greek life with the ambition to reform it. They are often prevented from doing so not by fellow sorority members but by representatives from their national chapters. Most sororities and fraternities on Stanford’s campus have national affiliations. As a result, their decisions are directed in part by people outside Stanford.
For some sororities, this national relationship defines almost everything about the chapter. Noor Fakih ‘22 — who served as the recruitment chair and later President of Alpha Chi Omega (AXO) from 2019-2020 — noted this toxic relationship with the national chapter was her primary reason for leaving the organization. According to Fakih, the national representatives dictated nearly every detail of the AXO rush process.
“Formal recruitment headquarters refused to let us plan to wear white dresses because ‘our women have certain body types that shouldn’t be seen in white,’” Fakih noted. “They also wanted me to police the women … they told me that if they have a pear shape then they should wear this style of dress and if they have an apple shape then they should wear this style.”
This type of micromanaging continued after the recruitment process as well. According to Fakih, AXO national representatives were incessantly concerned with how the Stanford chapter presented themselves on social media. Everything was centered around “how we can look good and what would look good on Instagram. This translated to them telling me that I need to filter and edit images and advice such as using the ‘classic’ sorority filter. There was an inherent misunderstanding that we couldn’t do that because that filter only looks good on white people.” When reached out to, national members of AXO did not respond to questions about their rush process.
Alpha Chi Omega was not unique in its relationship with the national chapter. Members of Pi Beta Phi, Kappa Alpha Theta, and Alpha Phi noted they had national members present with them during their rush process. When asked about the role of national advisors in their sorority, a representative from Chi Omega responded that “we technically aren’t able to give comments to media, including school publications.” Still, former members of Chi Omega have previously claimed in The Stanford Daily that their national representatives actively campaign against providing more financial aid for sorority members, as “these efforts would lower the value of being in the chapter.”
While most national representatives serve in an advisory role, some take active part in choosing which freshmen were admitted to the sorority. Despite having a system which allowed every member to submit feedback on potential new recruits, final decisions on the admission of new members into Alpha Phi was reportedly only made by those in leadership roles and were heavily influenced by national representatives. Kristen noted that “a really small group of people at the top, who are mostly not students” often ignored feedback from the chapter and chose new members based on other ‘criteria.’
While some view the Stanford rush process as inconsequential and superficial, its results shape the experiences and opportunities of many Stanford women throughout their undergraduate careers. Gaining entrance to a housed sorority also means having access to private chefs, superior living options, and a consistent community of support for three years. Men in housed fraternities experience similar advantages, getting to live on the row for up to three years as a reward for their successful admission into these social groups.
According to Ashford — a leading member of Abolish Stanford Greek— the Stanford rush process is one of the key factors driving the movement to abolish the Greek system. “If you look at the rush process, you have to think, what determines the composition of these groups? What is the basis for selection? It’s a prejudice basis.” When asked about possible reforms to change the selection of the groups, Ashford replied: “Exclusivity is a feature, not a bug. And so is the classism, racism, and sexism that comes with Greek life.”
Pressures within Greek Life
Nearly every current and former sorority member interviewed for this article highlighted that, despite the negative reality of rush, they relished getting to know an impressive and supportive group of women. From having talks on sex positivity to hosting women-only events, sororities provided a safe place for many women at Stanford. However, Stanford sororities often still fail to protect women’s sexual and physical health and safety.
Unlike fraternities, Stanford sororities are restricted from hosting parties. This restriction, commonplace around the nation, is imposed by the national chapter of each sorority. As a result, sororities are largely dependent on fraternities for social experiences. Sororities cater to fraternities, relying on them for invitations to events and parties. “In order for sororities to be popular, they have to have the most fun social calendar. And that’s entirely dependent on fraternity,” remarked Kristen.
Freshmen women are encouraged to engage with fraternities from the moment they enter a sorority. Sororities bring their new members to parties hosted by fraternities on bid night, the first large Greek social night after rush. The night is meant to be fun and light-hearted, but also gives fraternities an opportunity to interact with the younger sorority members for the first time. Reflecting on the event, ‘Anna’ – a former member of Kappa Alpha Theta who wished to remain anonymous – recalled that “the older girls were basically presenting the young pledges to the frat boys to hook up with them … When they bring in the new pledges, you know, it’s a little weird to be like, ‘Oh, you are the men I’m supposed to socialize with and in theory hook up with.’”
No women interviewed for this piece claimed that the majority of events and relationships between sororities and fraternities were problematic; most interviewees noted they enjoyed using fraternity parties as social outlets. However, some subtle mechanisms within Greek life prioritize preserving this social outlet over the comfort and safety of some women.
Many sororities have point systems that require their members to attend a certain number of events. If women don’t meet a point threshold, they may face certain consequences and be barred from events like formals or Special Dinners. Women uncomfortable with the men their sorority chooses to socialize with often have few other choices to fulfill their social attendance requirements.
This was the dilemma Aminah faced after the 2018 Mr. Alpha Phi event. Following the event in which an SAE member openly joked about sexual assault, a coalition of Alpha Phi members submitted a letter to the executive members in the sorority. They requested that Alpha Phi temporarily suspend future events and interactions with the fraternity and asked the sorority leadership to file a complaint with the Office of Student Engagement detailing the actions of the fraternity member. To address the issue, national representatives from Alpha Phi met with the executive team during the Spring of 2018.
In the end, no retribution was taken against SAE by the president or other members of Alpha Phi, nor was the sexual assault comedy skit from the philanthropy night discussed and acknowledged in Alpha Phi’s chapter meeting following the event. Despite a large coalition of Alpha Phi women pushing their sorority’s leadership to end all future interactions with SAE, Alpha Phi’s social calendar contained four events with SAE in the 2018 spring quarter alone. Alpha Phi’s continued reliance on SAE drove Aminah to eventually leave her sorority.
“You need points to remain in the sorority, and the best way to do that is by going to events,” Aminah notes. “We were being coerced to hang out with these guys who don’t believe in consent.”
Aminah is not alone in her experience. Other Stanford women have lamented that the social reputation of their sorority was prioritized over the safety and preferences of sorority members. On January 28th, 2020, Lizzie Ford ‘20, the former diversity chair of Pi Beta Phi, published an op-ed in The Stanford Daily detailing her experience in Stanford Greek life. Ford’s op-ed stirred conversation on campus, sparking dialogue on the reforms necessary in the Greek system. Her writing particularly brought attention to her sorority’s willingness to focus on its relationship with fraternities over the comfort and safety of its members.
In the piece, Ford alleges that Pi Beta Phi allowed a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity to reside in the sorority house for a week despite the sorority’s prior knowledge of this member’s assault against Ford. The Sigma Chi member, who reportedly hit Ford during her freshman year, was chosen to stay in the house during the annual Pi Beta Phi-Sigma Chi swap event. Despite several members of the Pi Beta Phi committee having personal information on the history of Ford’s assault, he was nonetheless welcomed into the house.
Greek life thus poses potential harm to women through both the fraternity and sorority systems. Women in Greek life are much more likely to be assaulted during their time at Stanford than women not in Greek life. Nearly 14.5 percent of women in Greek life will experience non-consensual penetration by physical force or inability to consent before they leave Stanford, compared to 7.4 percent of non-Greek women. Despite living in a community of women, the unique structure of Greek life also provides incentives for sororities to prioritize the social standing of their organization over the safety of its members.
Pressure to uphold certain images and cater to fraternities also results in other issues within the sorority system. “I saw a ton of the girls in the house develop eating disorders and have Greek life really negatively affect them,” recalled Anna. “If you don’t have a strong sense of self, you can get wrapped up in the social climbing pressure, you know, like a hamster on a wheel. So eating disorders were a big problem in the [Theta] house.” Indeed, a common problem discussed on the Abolish Greek Life social media page is the rampant issue of eating disorders plaguing women throughout the Greek system.
Many Stanford students and alumni are dedicated to abolishing Stanford’s Greek system because of the unexpected harm it does to students inside the system. For Ashford and the Abolish Greek Movement, beyond campaigning to end Greek life for its exclusive features, they lament that the system “causes pain to the members of Greek life themselves.”
The Push to Keep Greek Life
The Abolish Stanford Greek movement has garnered significant attention on social media. Yet its message has not been universally accepted on campus among women. Many women acknowledge the issues embedded in the Greek system, but most don’t see abolition as the right path forward.
In response to the ASG coalition, sororities announced a wide range of efforts they plan on adopting to address issues of class and race often present in the Greek system. Some sororities are pushing towards abolishing legacy preference and discontinuing their relationship with their national chapter. Others, like Alpha Phi, have pledged to increase resources toward anti-racism and diversity training. Alpha Chi Omega decreased dues this year to make the chapter more accessible to low-income students. In response to criticism from current and former members, Pi Beta Phi established an anonymous reporting system to allow members to report acts of discrimination.
Before COVID-19 disrupted the 2020 Spring Rush, the Inter-Sorority Council had also planned to transform certain aspects of the recruitment process to ensure it was more inclusive and compassionate. Adithi Iyer — the former President of the Inter-Sorority Council — led the campaign to change rush at Stanford.
“We wanted to provide uniform dress [codes]for girls going through recruitment to reduce bias based on attire, which often discriminates on socioeconomic status,” Iyer recalled in her interview. “I was also working with some brilliant women to reimagine our matching algorithms to improve fit and reduce bias on both the chapter and Potential New Member sides.” Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic halted attempts to implement these and other changes, such as restructuring the rush process to focus on philanthropy.
While the rush process may see reforms, it also important to note that, for many women, rush was an enjoyable process. Tilly Griffiths — who uses a wheelchair for mobility — noted in a Stanford Daily op-ed that the Inter-Sorority Council worked tirelessly during the recruitment process to ensure her needs were met. “I found the whole weekend to be a thoroughly enjoyable experience … I came away feeling enriched by the conversations I had and increasingly excited about the prospect of joining one of these groups of inspiring women.” ASG’s desire to portray the Rush process as a monolithic, negative experience certainly conflicts with reality.
Others claim that issue of sexual assault commonly associated with the Greek system will not dissipate with the abolition of sororities and fraternities. The levels of sexual assault experiened by sorority members may well be a symptom of Greek life’s relationship with alcohol rather than the problematic nature of fraternities.
While less than 80 percent of non-greek students reported drinking during their time at Stanford, 95 percent of greek members reported drinking. Further, when asked in a survey, 58 percent of greek members reported binge drinking one or more times in the past two weeks. Nation-wide, over half of sexual assaults reported on college campuses involve alcohol or some level of intoxication. Investigating the prevalence of sexual assault in non-Greek environments with heavy alcohol consumption, such as self-operated row houses, may help clarify the relative contributions of alcohol and Greek culture to sexual assault among fraternities and sororities.
Finally, while ASG believes abolishing Greek life on campus will reduce socioeconomic gaps between students, ending Greek housing may do the opposite. Eliminating Greek housing and organizations may encourage the adoption of off-campus housing by former Greek members. Those with significant family wealth can choose to rent houses and form communities outside of Stanford dorms, further exacerbating social gaps between high- and low-income students. Indeed, several former members of the Kappa Alpha chose to form a community off campus this year after losing their fraternity housing. While Stanford has power over its own buildings and housing, it cannot fully control student reactions to its policies.
These reasons have compelled many Stanford students with poor opinions of Greek life – like Michael Brown’22, an ASSU senator – to oppose the complete abolition of all Greek organizations.
“I have personally witnessed and experienced microaggressions at parties,” noted Brown. “At one party my freshman year, a pair of friends were called racial slurs after refusing to dance with guys at a party.” Still, he “does not personally support the abolition of traditional Greek life nor ethnic Greek life as they are both conduits for facilitating social life within the Stanford community.” Brown – like many others – supports reforming Greek life in a number of ways to increase equity for the entire student body.
Greek Life Looking Forward
Abolish Stanford Greek (ASG) has viewed the COVID-19 pandemic as the appropriate opportunity to campaign against sororities and fraternities at Stanford. With the freshman and sophomore classes have yet to go through the rush process, nearly half of Stanford’s undergraduate student body has yet to fully experience sorority life. Members of ASG hope they never will.
ASG advocates met with members of the Stanford administration throughout the fall quarter to express their concerns about Greek life and lay out their goals for a future Stanford free of the Greek system. On September 10th, members met with Susie Brubaker-Cole, Stanford’s Vice Provost for Student Affairs. ASG used the meeting to propose a phase-out plan for Greek life, advocating to end the rush process but not force current Greek members to give up their affiliations.
ASG members also used the meeting to argue that Greek life conflicted with Stanford’s future plans for a ‘neighborhood’ system of housing. “One of the great things that [Stanford did] is they really tried to make the all freshmen dorms a microcosm of the diversity of the freshman class.” Marin notes. “And then Greek life swoops in and tries to replace all of that really intentional work, which is such a shame.” Many students interviewed for this story described accounts of many friendships and social circles from their freshman year being destroyed by the Greek system. Adopting a more constant and uninterrupted form of housing, ASG hopes, will lead to a healthier and less exclusive social scene at Stanford.
The Abolish Stanford Greek movement has already brought about some concrete steps toward abolishment. In late October, the ASSU undergraduate senate unanimously passed a resolution calling for Stanford to dehouse all Greek organizations. While the act carried no enforcement mechanism, it represented strong pressure from the undergraduate senate for Stanford to address the inherent inequalities that come with the Greek system.
Despite their campaigning efforts, ASG doubts that Stanford will discontinue rush this year. Stanford currently plans to host a virtual rush period for Greek organizations in the winter quarter. This rush period would allow both freshmen and sophomores to join Greek organizations for the first time. When reached out to for more details about the Winter rush process, the Stanford administration did not respond.
To counter Stanford’s plans, ASG plans to launch a ‘boycott rush’ campaign to discourage underclassmen from joining Greek life. Yet despite the controversy surrounding Greek organizations, social groups like fraternities and sororities may appeal to freshman and sophomores who lack nearly all collegiate social interactions this year.
However Greek life changes in the upcoming years, Stanford must recognize that its current sorority system does not serve all women equally. For people like Brown, changes in the Greek system will hopefully allow new types of students typically not included in sororities and fraternities to reap the benefits from Greek membership. “It’s important to recognize that a time comes to change the old systems that are put in place to allow our community to grow stronger together.”
Nathalie Kiersznowski’ 21 studies economics and political science and is editor in chief of Stanford Politics.
Outcomes of the 2021-2022 University Theme House–Special Interest: Fraternity & Sorority Life application and selection process
Dear Greek leaders and chapter advisors,
We’re pleased to share that we have completed the first University Theme House–Special Interest: Fraternity & Sorority Life (UTH-SI: FSL) application and selection process.
Thank you for your leadership and the support that you have given your organizations through this extremely challenging year. Leading a student organization is a huge undertaking under normal circumstances, and we are especially grateful for your willingness to do so during this difficult year of remote campus activities. We are writing today to share an overview of the application processes for University Theme Houses (UTH), the process and outcomes from this year’s UTH-SI: FSL process, the length of appointments to houses, and preliminary information about the next application cycle.
- Delta Delta Delta, Kappa Alpha Theta, Kappa Sigma, Phi Kappa Psi, Pi Beta Phi, and Sigma Nu are previously housed organizations that will continue to be housed for the 2021-2022 academic year.
- We are also pleased to welcome five new organizations to housing for the 2021-2022 academic year: Chi Omega and Kappa Kappa Gamma, which were approved in the 2019-2020 process; and alpha Kappa Delta Phi, Alpha Phi, and Sigma Phi Epsilon, who were approved through this year’s process.
- Like all UTHs overseen by the CoRL process (discussed below), these organizations have received a one-year appointment for the 2021-2022 academic year.
- In the next application process, which will launch in winter of 2022, the ten fraternity and sorority houses will be allocated to the applicants who demonstrate the highest achievement according to the selection process criteria. Those chapters will be given four-year appointments that will begin in the 2022-2023 academic year.
We congratulate the continuing and newly housed organizations, and we thank those who put time and effort into submitting applications. We hope the feedback offered to all applicants will support chapters’ continued growth and improvement and provide helpful direction for those who reapply next year.
We recognize that this is a considerable shift in our practices and rationale for fraternity and sorority housing, especially for those chapters that have had campus housing for many years. We do not take this change lightly, and it is our intention that this new housing structure will affect positive change for the Greek system and our campus community. As our lengthy discussion below explains, we are confident that the values underlying this change — fairness and transparency of processes; inclusive, equitable access; accountability to values-driven high standards — are what can create the brightest possible future for Stanford’s Greek community at a time when Greek life is being contested here and across the country.
University Theme House process overview
As we shared with the ResX announcement in February, there are four types of University Theme Houses (UTH) including Academic, Co-op, Ethnic Theme Dorms and Fraternities and Sororities that are overseen by two governance structures with all decision-making ultimately residing with the Undergraduate Residence Governance Council (URGC).
Governance of Academic, Co-op, and Fraternities and Sororities
In the 2018 ResX report, the ResX task force affirmed the importance of a diverse set of themed housing options to continue to foster the unique learning and community experiences that characterize Stanford’s undergraduate education. The ResX recommendations also identified the need to establish a themed housing governing body to “ensure high programming standards and continued relevance to the student population.” TheCommittee on Residential Learning (CoRL) comprising faculty, staff and students and established via the Faculty Senate in 2017 to “ensure the highest standards of liberal education in the undergraduate residential experience,” was assigned oversight responsibility for three distinct types of University Theme Houses (UTH): Academic; Fraternities and Sororities; and Co-op.
CoRL has designed separate cyclical application and renewal processes for each of these three theme types, with some common elements and some that are specific to the type of student community they represent. Through these processes, CoRL reviews applications and submits recommendations to the Undergraduate Residence Governance Council (URGC), which is composed of the vice provosts for budget and auxiliaries management, student affairs, and undergraduate education. The CoRL process sets clear criteria for the various themed housing types, ensures that theme houses are achieving those standards, and allows new themes to be proposed periodically. The URGC receives the CoRL recommendations and makes the final determination on which proposals will be awarded housing as well as the house locations and the term length for approval. At the end of a UTH’s approved term, the UTH may apply for renewal, and new UTHs may also be proposed in each application cycle.
As you may know, this year the UTH-Academic (UTH-A) houses were the first to undergo the application and approval process. CoRL received twelve UTH-A applications and approved nine, with eight launching in fall 2021 and the ninth launching in fall 2022. Given the newness of the CoRL process, the abbreviated application window, and the new implementation of UTH-As in the ResX system overall, the UGRC granted eight approved houses an introductory one-year term, academic year 2021-22, and the ninth will defer its launch until fall 2022. UTH-A houses will reapply next year, along with any newly proposed themes, for a four-year term that will begin in fall 2022.
In the case of co-ops, student leadership is tied to houses being in operation, which was not the case this year, so there was no student leadership in place to develop a plan and apply. The co-op review process has thus been deferred to 2022. Academic year 2021-22 will constitute an interim year for co-ops, and the next review cycle will similarly result in new four-year terms.
Governance of Ethnic Theme Dorms
Ethnic Theme Dorms are also a part of the UTH program and are overseen by the URGC, through a subcommittee, much like CoRL, with expertise in the scholarship of race and ethnicity. The leadership of CoRL and the URGC jointly determined that the ethnic theme programs require a unique form of governance and oversight provided in partnership with the community centers. Ethnic theme communities have a longstanding, robust model to engage students in structured intellectual discovery and advance diversity, inclusion and belonging through a range of formal and informal programs. They are also tightly interwoven with the programming and communities of the four ethnic community centers. While a distinct form of governance, all decisions for all UTHs ultimately rest with the Undergraduate Residence Governance Council.
UTH-SI: FSL process and outcomes
The UTH-SI: FSL process launched in early April 2021. CoRL provided organizational leaders an overview of the process, the timeline andcriteria for review. It also offered an information session (recorded for those unable to attend) and the opportunity to receive feedback on application drafts. In addition to the written application, each chapter participated in a short conversation with the CoRL subcommittee.
CoRL received sixteen UTH-SI: FSL applications with fourteen completing the process. Currently housed and unhoused organizations were evaluated separately. The URGC has approved eleven applications for UTH-SI: FSL housing for fall of 2021, applying the following priorities:
- Honoring the CoRL criteria and recommendations;
- Aligning with the ResX guiding principles (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion; Community and Belonging; Intellectual and Personal Growth; and Health and Well-being).
URGC also matched chapters to the houses that best meet the needs of each organization.
Delta Delta Delta, Kappa Alpha Theta, Kappa Sigma, Phi Kappa Psi, Pi Beta Phi, and Sigma Nu are previously housed organizations that will continue to be housed for the 2021-2022 academic year.We are also pleased to welcome five new organizations to housing this year: Chi Omega and Kappa Kappa Gamma who were approved by the process in 2019-2020; and alpha Kappa Delta Phi, Alpha Phi, and Sigma Phi Epsilon who were approved through this year’s process. The four fraternities will be placed in four houses and the seven sororities will be placed in six houses filling the ten allocated fraternity and sorority houses.
With this year’s process, it was important that we recognize that our fraternities and sororities have gone through an annual review process with the Standards of Excellence since 2014. Through that process, currently housed organizations have effectively received a commitment from the university to be housed for the 2021-2022 academic year, and we are honoring this commitment. However, this year’s review process demonstrated that not all currently housed organizations are achieving equal outcomes. Some currently housed chapter applications were truly excellent; others fell significantly short of expectations for what we consider to be high-achieving organizations. We have shared our specific feedback with each organization to ensure that there is clarity on what areas need improvement for the organization to be a competitive applicant for housing in the next cycle.
Length of term for housing
The UTH-SI: FSL process raised the question of how long an organization should be appointed to occupy a house. In our current system, some houses are allocated in perpetuity (unless removed for violations of university policy) while others have been allocated for a specific number of years. The URGC deliberated extensively on what, if any, term length should apply to UTH-SI: FSL. Four primary considerations emerged that merit substantial discussion here.
First, as the URGC reviewed the applications, the CoRL recommendations and feedback from Fraternity and Sorority Life professional staff advisors, there was clear evidence that the 15 months of the pandemic significantly disrupted the level of activity and coherence of multiple chapters, as has been the case with many other Stanford registered student organizations. Given this, the URGC wished to provide an opportunity for chapters to regroup and reconnect before committing to long-term housing assignments. Thus, all chapters approved in this year’s process are granted a pilot one-year term (academic year 2021-2022) and will be asked to reapply, alongside unhoused chapters interested in housing, for the fall of 2022. This will also allow chapters time to incorporate feedback effectively.
Second, the URGC gave lengthy consideration to the campus context surrounding access to dedicated Greek housing. Greek housing has been a controversial topic on our campus for a number of years. Most recently, Abolish Stanford Greek (ASG–a coalition of students and alumni) and the ASSU Executives have advocated for eliminating Greek housing altogether. We have spoken with ASG and ASSU about their student-led campus survey and their objections to Greek life housing. While we share their goals of improving equity, inclusion, safety and wellbeing, we envision a different path to achieving these goals. The opportunity to learn and grow should be a core component of all recognized student organizations. We believe that Greek chapter members should be given the opportunity to learn and effect change in the areas listed above with support from the many resources in VPSA, VPUE, SHARE and more.
Several chapters shared that this year’s UTH-SI: FSL process and the CoRL criteria constituted the most transparent process to date, and CoRL intends to use further feedback and lessons learned from this year to refine criteria and processes for the fall 2022 application cycle. It is critical that we do our part, as a university, to provide clear, transparent standards that embody university values and the coreResX principles — and that define for Greek chapters what constitutes excellence and how it will be assessed. Chapter leaders have been asking for clear criteria and metrics, and the criteria applied in this year’s CoRL process are a strong step in this direction. The CoRL committee will continue to work with the Fraternity and Sorority Life office to develop the criteria and ensure alignment with the Fraternity and Sorority accreditation process, currently known as the Standards of Excellence (SoE).
Third, unhoused Greek chapters have voiced their dissatisfaction and frustration that, prior to the pandemic, they had no hope of gaining housing unless another chapter was removed for serious university policy violations. Several have also contended that their organizations are equally, if not more, deserving of the privilege of housing than some currently housed chapters. We agree that access to a dedicated campus residence should be a privilege afforded to the highest achieving chapters as demonstrated through clear alignment with established criteria. We also believe that chapters that gain housing should be assessed and held accountable to these criteria on a predictable cycle — and that all organizations that desire housing should have the opportunity periodically to apply and demonstrate their achievements.
Fourth and finally, and very importantly, our decision was influenced by the work of theGreek life working groups and by reading through your applications. It is clear that you know there is work to be done, that you are committed to that work, and that you want to be a part of making our campus better for all students. We believe in you and your ability to take on this work.
In summary, with these considerations, we have decided to: (1) assign housing for one year (academic year 2021-2022) for the organizations that were approved in this application cycle; (2) appoint chapters to four-year housing terms, beginning in the 2022-2023 academic year. The 2022-2023 process will be open to all interested Greek chapters, and houses will be allocated to the highest performing chapters according to the process criteria. This timeline will also provide the opportunity for all chapters to strengthen their organizations and to gather and incorporate feedback for the next application cycle.
Next application process
As we continue to refine this housing allocation process, we will seek feedback. The next application process for housing through CoRL will begin early in winter quarter 2022. We hope that all fraternities and sororities that believe that housing will strengthen their organizations, their neighborhoods and our campus will consider applying to be housed. We do anticipate that next year, in addition to the application materials and feedback from your Stanford organizational advisors, we will include Organization Conduct Board records and, if you are housed, feedback from your organization’s neighborhood community council in the review process.
As you plan for next year, we encourage you to focus on theCoRL criteria, which will continue to be the foundation of the application process, along with certain refinements as to what constitutes success in each of the criteria categories. Also, consider what contributions your organization can make for its members as well as for the broader campus community, and, for housed organizations, the neighborhood in which you are housed. Given the current campus-wide work through IDEAL and the most recent data from theAAU and alcohol and drug surveys, we also ask that you each consider how your organization can make a meaningful, action-driven commitment to advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion, combating high-risk behaviors with drugs and alcohol and eradicating sexual violence on our campus.
We recognize that this is a lot of information and change to process. Some of you may be concerned about how this may affect your organizations, your members and your time on campus. We and your FSL advisors are here to help you lead your organizations through this change. You may also be concerned about the impact these changes will have on campus social life. We share this concern, and we also want to see social life become more robust than in the recent past. We are optimistic that the current student-led initiatives like The Social Project, as well as efforts in your chapters, have already begun to transform students’ experiences of social life. There is more to do, and we believe that we can make our campus better together. Through the many individual and group conversations we’ve had with you over the last few years, we know you are committed to this work and to ensuring excellence in our fraternity and sorority community. Thank you for your continued partnership and commitment to our campus.
Vice Provost for Student Affairs
Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education
Vice Provost for Budget and Auxiliaries Management
Fraternity and Sorority Life (FSL)
COVID - 19 Updates
University COVID-19 Updates can be found here.
Fraternity and Sorority Life Community Updates
FSL professional staff continues to work remotely based on University guidance. We are still a resource for you and available to connect virtually. Do not hesitate to reach out if you have any inquiries. Please email [email protected] or reach out to a staff member.
Welcome to the home of the Fraternity and Sorority Life (FSL) community at Stanford University!
Here you will be able to find information about our vibrant and diverse community that is as old as the founding of the university. We invite you to explore the information we have for prospective members, current members, community leaders, alumni, parents and friends of the community. Please feel free to contact the advising staff if you have any questions.
There are a total of 26 social Greek-letter organizations across four governing councils on campus.
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Fraternity and Sorority Life team can be found on the second floor of Old Union in Suite 206.
Address: 520 Lasuen Mall
Stanford announces which Greek organizations will be housed next year as “University Themed-Houses”
Stanford will house 11 Greek organizations on campus next year, according to an announcement released Tuesday.
Five fraternities and sororities earned housing privileges for the next academic year, bringing the total number of housed Greek organizations to 11. As part of Stanford’s new residential neighborhood system under the ResX initiative, these Greek organizations will be categorized as University Themed-Houses (UTHs).
The newly housed organizations include Chi Omega, Alpha Phi, Kappa Kappa Gamma, Sigma Phi Epsilon, and alpha Kappa Delta Phi (aKDPhi). Delta Delta Delta, Kappa Alpha Theta, Kappa Sigma, Phi Kappa Psi, Pi Beta Phi and Sigma Nu will continue to be housed on campus. aKDPhi is Stanford’s Asian American interest sorority, and not part of the Inter-Sorority Council or Inter-fraternity Council.
In the new ResX system, students are assigned to a neighborhood for all four years of their undergraduate experience. Students can apply to live in UTHs regardless of their neighborhood assignment. These themed houses will be “overseen by two governance structures with all decision-making ultimately residing with the Undergraduate Residence Governance Council (URGC).”
The decision to house Greek organizations will be a controversial one on campus: in a survey conducted by the Associated Students of Stanford University (ASSU), it was reported that nearly 60% of all students on campus supported either unhousing or banning Greek life altogether. Abolish Stanford Greek (ASG), a coalition of alumni and students, has voicedsomeofthe negative experiences students have had with Greek life through social media, including abuse of alcohol or drugs, racism, sexism, classism and sexual assault or harassment.
The group was formed last summer, following the death of George Floyd and national protests over racism, to fight back against institutions that members feel perpetuate racist, sexist and classist practices.
ASG said they are “deeply disappointed” by the decision and remain skeptical of the ability of Greek organizations to become more inclusive. In a release, ASG said that the standards “used to determine housing eligibility leave it to fraternities and sororities to decide for themselves what measures, if any, they will take to prevent sexual assault and hazing.”
“They do not require any objective measurement of student safety, nor do they impose any metric of student safety as a condition for future housing,” they added.
In April, Stanford’s Inter-Sorority Council (ISC) and Inter-fraternity Council (IFC) held a virtual rush despite concerns on equity in Greek life raised by students, and a total of sixteen Greek organizations applied to be housed for the fall 2021-22 academic year.
Approved organizations will be granted one year of housing. After this year, all of the Greek chapters will have to reapply for housing, whereas in previous years some chapters were housed in perpetuity. According to the announcement, giving these Greek organizations only a year to be housed will allow them to “regroup and reconnect before committing to long-term housing,” after the COVID-19 pandemic.
This article has corrected to reflect that Stanford’s Asian-interest sorority is alpha Kappa Delta Phi, not alpha Delta Kappa Phi. The Daily regrets this error.
Greek life stanford
Letter to the Community: It’s time to end Greek life at Stanford
Abolish Stanford Greek is a growing coalition of Stanford students and alumni committed to ending the presence of Interfraternity and Inter-Sorority Council Greek chapters on Stanford’s campus. We believe these Greek chapters perpetuate white supremacy in addition to furthering a culture of misogyny, ableism, classism, homophobia, heteronormativity and elitism on campus that goes against the values Stanford claims to support.
After years of inadequate reforms and burdensome efforts, predominantly led by Greek members who are first generation, low income, LGBTQ+, and/or people of color, we are organizing to abolish this system, which was designed to institutionalize privilege and divide us. To be clear, we draw a distinction between organizations in the Interfraternity and Inter-Sorority Councils (IFC/ISC) and those of Multicultural Greek Council (MGC) and African American Fraternal and Sororal Association (AAFSA) governing councils. MGC and AAFSA organizations provide an incredible community for BIPOC students, and should not be considered in our call to action. All further references to “Greek life” describe IFC and ISC organizations.
We are following the lead of folks who have been calling to abolish Greek life for years, even decades. As much as Greek life has been harmful to some members within the system, it ultimately has been a sore that has harmed communities across Stanford. We acknowledge that we are joining this movement late, but we are now calling to abolish Stanford Greek life in the hopes of contributing to positive change.
Amongst Stanford students, and especially those in Greek life, there is a mentality that Greek life is somehow “different” at Stanford — that we don’t condone the overt racism of Southern chapters or don’t associate with the racist origins of the national organizations. This is not true. Stanford is not exceptional. From the personal stories published on the @DearStanford Instagram account to the numerous op-eds in The Daily over the years, it is abundantly clear that Greek life has caused irreparable harm to the Stanford community. Earlier this year, Lizzie Ford ’20 detailed her own racist and classist experiences within her ISC chapter. Today, we echo her call for the end of Greek life at Stanford. Given everything from the repeated instances of non-Black Greek affiliated students using the n-word in social settings to the Greek system’s protection of sexual assault perpetrators, it’s time to stop making excuses and organize to abolish a violent and antiquated system. Only then will we realize institutional change.
Stanford Greek life is inseparable from its roots, its national affiliations and its history of harm on this campus. As colleges became more diverse after the Civil War, fraternities required members to be white, Protestant, and even “Aryan” to prevent Black, Jewish, and other marginalized students from joining their ranks. These racist chapters still exist and thrive today. Earlier this summer, alumnus Rep. Joe Kennedy disaffiliated from Stanford’s Kappa Alpha Order, a chapter founded by members of the Confederacy.
While these organizations no longer limit membership to white Christian students, they still uphold white supremacy. For example, many continue giving preference in recruitment and leadership to students who are “legacies” and have family members with prior ties to the organization, thereby perpetuating white privilege even to this day. An organization founded on white supremacy, toxic masculinity and heteronormativity cannot be reformed, as we’ve learned through personal experience.
Many of us in Abolish Greek Stanford were not only a part of Greek life during our time at Stanford but also worked to make our chapters and the community as a whole more equitable and inclusive, only to be met with apathy and resistance. Reform efforts over the years have been consistently dismissed or failed to take hold. ISC and IFC Greek life must be abolished. Of course, the burden for initiating these has also fallen on the few FLI, LGBTQ+, and BIPOC students in the organizations. Five years ago, California State Senate candidate Jackie Fielder ’16 published an op-ed explaining why she deactivated while she was ISC President, after encountering institutional efforts against her proposed changes to make ISC recruiting more accessible to low-income students like herself.
After little change, enough is enough. We are frustrated that members of color are often treated as indistinguishable tokens of diversity within their own organizations. Frustrated that sororities are forced by their leadership to continue relationships with fraternities whose members have harmed so many students in order to uphold social standing. Frustrated that the same few people have to not only call out but fight leadership when a bigoted theme for an event is suggested. Frustrated that we have to beg our national organizations to state they will accept trans students as members. Frustrated that the same few people have to call out chapter leadership for appropriating Native culture. Frustrated that every year, leadership and membership is predominantly white. Frustrated that our fellow members cannot be bothered to pronounce the names of members correctly, even after years of our membership. Frustrated that frat parties are filled with non-Black members saying the n-word and justifying its acceptability as part of a song lyric.
As white America belatedly reckons with the systems of white supremacy that undergird police brutality and perpetuate racism at every level of government and American society, Stanford’s IFC and ISC organizations choose to look the other way. For those organizations that have acknowledged their racist histories and promised to use their privilege for progress, we ask you to heed your own words and disband your chapters. Consider this op-ed a public response to the statements that many chapters released pledging to be “better allies” and asking for “accountability.” Now is the time to not just reflect on these organizations’ roots and problematic positions on campus, but also to actualize real change and not merely reforms. In addition to the countless instances in which ISC/IFC organizations have caused harm on campus, their existence alone as chapters of national Greek organizations is tacit consent to white supremacy.
In addition to its social harm, Stanford Greek life perpetuates material inequality on campus by allocating preferable housing options to members of ISC/IFC via frat and sorority houses. Sigma Nu and Phi Psi enjoy prime real estate on the lower row, TDX and Kappa Sigma are conveniently nestled behind Tressider. Sororities are slightly less centrally located, but still benefit from the general advantages that come from living in a self-op – a private chef, endless snacks, and two-room doubles. As a result, non-Greek students are more likely to be relegated to the margins of campus. Given the demographics of these Greek organizations, and the fact that students have to pay expensive dues to join, these advantages are funneled towards the white and wealthy.
None of this is acceptable and we can’t keep pretending that it is. The internal changes we’ve been trying to implement for years have not led to meaningful improvements in the inclusivity of our organizations or in our individual experiences as marginalized students. We also can’t keep pretending that the system will magically or naturally fix itself. Nor can we pretend that a system built on the premise of elitist exclusion will ever be inclusive.
We do want to acknowledge that some Stanford ISC/IFC chapters have also provided important community spaces for folks from marginalized communities. We do not wish to discount those experiences. Moving forward, we want to reimagine what types of community spaces we can create that still support students from marginalized communities but are not entrenched in the intolerant structure of Greek life.
While we do not and cannot speak for all historically marginalized communities, based on our experiences, IFC and ISC organizations are incongruent with Stanford’s community goals and values of diversity and inclusion. As the Black Lives Matter movement grows in strength and Stanford’s own recruitment and residential life plans are disrupted due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, now is the time for Stanford to abolish Greek life for good.
As Stanford alumni, today we are launching the @abolishstanfordgreek Instagram account and petition to call for an end to Greek life at Stanford. If you have a Greek life experience that you would like to anonymously share with @abolishstanfordgreek, please fill out this form.
To each chapter and individual who posted a statement claiming allyship, we challenge you to demonstrate your allyship by joining our call to action and signing on to this open letter to the administration calling on Stanford to abolish Greek life, voting within your chapter to disband yourselves, and deactivating. The current list of signatories is by no means all encompassing as it is a live list. This open letter to the community is merely a starting point, and we welcome you to join our list of signatories here. You can view the most up to date list of signatories here.
Abolish Stanford Greek
Contact the writers of the letter at abolishstanfordgreek ‘at’ gmail.com.
The Daily is committed to publishing a diversity of op-eds and letters to the editor. We’d love to hear your thoughts. Email letters to the editor to eic ‘at’ stanforddaily.com and op-ed submissions to opinions ‘at’ stanforddaily.com.
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