500 signatures reached
To: Chancellor Martin
Abolish Greek Life at Washington University in St.Louis
These stories are not anecdotal. The impact is real and felt at the core of our student body. We are an institution that prides ourselves in knowing its community members by name and story, and those stories are out. We have spoken our truth. As an institution that prides itself in finding “Strength in Truth,” it is the duty of our administration to take action and to build a campus that represents the needs of our students. The people have spoken, according to the SU survey, the majority of Washington University students are in favor of abolition. You hear us, so protect us.
We demand the abolition of WPA and IFC organizations at Washington University. In order to achieve this goal, we also demand that all WPA and IFC chapters at Washington University must be banned by the university so that the national charters would thereby be revoked on campus. By revoking these charters, we can ensure that nationals can not come back and recruit in the future. We want mass deactivation to be prioritized. Students have been direct that they do not want to perpetuate a system of harm, so there should be no barriers for members of these organizations to leave. Finally, we demand active student representation in all further steps for abolition. This is a process, a process where our voices will lead and guide us towards the future we want to see on campus. We will have a seat at the table every step of the way.
Greek life must pay reparations to the communities it has harmed. We demand that funds originally allocated to Greek life be redistributed to organizations supporting underrepresented groups on campus. We also encourage individual members to allocate the funds originally used for their dues towards St. Louis organizations fighting for justice. Lastly, we know that Greek life has caused a large amount of harm on an individual level; therefore, there must be a conversation about individual reparations even if the conclusion is that this would be impossible.
A non-negotiable aspect of this includes spatial reparations that come at no cost to marginalized groups looking to reclaim the space. IFC members have been able to occupy houses on fraternity row that enforce spatial power, which has caused serious harm to many people. IFC chapters should no longer have the privilege to live in or use the houses beyond the 2020-2021 school year. In regards to WPA, although there aren’t houses, the suites dedicated to each sorority in the Women's building should no longer be a place of exclusion. Both the houses the IFC maintains, and the suites WPA uses should be spaces reimagined for marginalized groups to use. These spatial reparations are long overdue.
Why is this important?
Greek life is beyond repair. Abolition is the only option for a system that was designed to exclude. As students, it is our responsibility to dismantle systemic injustice as it presents itself on the campus we call home.
Greek life is inextricably tied to racism. Through a lack of diversity, exclusion, tokenism, and performative allyship, Greek life amplifies privilege and perpetuates disadvantages for marginalized people. As an institution with a history of racial exclusion, it is the epicenter of segregation and institutionalized racism on campus.
Greek life is exclusionary. In the recruitment process in most chapters, legacies are asked back after the first day no matter what, giving them an upper hand. Legacies being boosted each cycle creates an environment that excludes everyone else.
Historically, fraternities and sororities have been very white spaces, so most legacies tend to be white. Greek life lacks diversity. The exclusivity of greek life combined with the high retention rates of legacies create an environment that excludes new types of members. This is a problem because there has been a lack of support when issues are brought up by BIPOC members.
Many WPA and IFC chapters tokenize BIPOCs. Using them on their promotional materials and social media, expecting them to speak for all marginalized people. Yet letting their expression of negative personal experiences fall on deaf ears.
Placing the onus on a few marginalized members to speak for the group is especially problematic when they are used as tokens.
- Performative Allyship
Many efforts to reform Greek life have been performative. The recent activity surrounding Black Lives Matter is a good example. Part of the reason why reform is not possible is that most efforts will be used for optics instead of real systemic change.
Greek life is an institution that, by design, perpetuates the patriarchy and hinders our institution and society from being liberated from patriarchal ideals. Sexism, misogyny, homophobia, and rape culture are all facilitated and promoted within these social structures.
- Sexism and Misogyny
Greek life is sexist and misogynistic. Houses are only awarded to fraternities on campus and create an unbalanced social dynamic favoring cis-gendered men. Their space is dictated by their rules. The rules are not the same between fraternities and sororities, and they are reinforced by binary gender norms on both sides. In the past, sororities have tried to mix with each other, but because there aren’t houses for sororities, sorority members have had to depend on the spaces fraternities provide.
- Heteronormativity and Transphobia
Greek life is heteronormative and transphobic. Greek life isn’t always accepting of LGBTQIA+ people. Public displays of affection, whether at a mixer or a formal, that aren’t between heterosexual couples aren’t made to feel comfortable by many peers. Students often don’t feel like they are safe to simply show their affection when it is “normal” and accepted for heterosexual couples to do so. Transphobia is perpetuated through cissexism leading to harmful gender norms with the inherent exclusion of non-binary people. There isn’t a welcoming environment for trans folx to begin with.
- Rape Culture
Greek life promotes rape culture. Greek life is an environment in which rape is prevalent and in which sexual violence (against women) is normalized. Many efforts to prevent sexual violence haven’t led to any significant changes. The burden has been heavily placed on sororities to address this problem. For example, requiring sororities to have sober contacts to hold frat brothers accountable. Women have to monitor and keep track of which fraternities to avoid due to higher incidences of assault and/or violence.
These issues are not new. These issues have been “addressed” time and time again. The problem has not changed because the existence of Greek life is the problem. No amount of reform or education can fix a system that was designed to benefit from these forms of discrimination.
- Socioeconomic Exclusion
Dues are how students maintain membership in their chapters. They are incredibly expensive (ranging from $400-$800 a semester). There aren’t nearly enough scholarships, opportunities, or payment plans put in place by fraternity and sorority chapters for students who can't afford dues to feel welcome. Having economic barriers for entry like this contributes to upholding classism within greek life. Part of sororities dues finances their chapters suites in the Women's building, which makes that building exclusionary.
In addition to dues, many chapters require students to pay for miscellaneous items in large volumes that impact their experience in the chapter.
Abolition isn’t about tearing something down. It’s about building something better to take its place. We want to see a new social system for our campus, one that reflects all of the students that are a part of our community.
We want to assemble a team of students to reimagine social life after abolition.
We want more funding and focus on clubs and other organizations that already struggle to get the support they need and deserve.
We want to protect multicultural organizations due to marginalized groups being historically excluded.
We want the university to stop encouraging student leaders to promote Greek life. There are other social systems in place that can be encouraged: ResColleges, other clubs/organizations, etc.
We need statements of accountability from individual chapters after they disband or disaffiliate. If they are not able to disband or disaffiliate, they should mass deactivate to stand in solidarity with the Abolition movement.
Washington University must hold the demands and wishes of students above the charters of individual chapters. Abolition is an example of the change we want to see in our larger society.