As it stands now, Greek life at UChicago is the subject of a contentious debate. Dialogue is often reduced to polarizing viewpoints from outspoken minorities on both sides that pander to an undecided middle. Greek life is simultaneously portrayed as an elitist incubator of “isms” and a powerful community of service and support. It’s hated. It’s loved. And it’s growing.
Ten fraternities are currently active on campus: Alpha Delta Phi (Alpha Delt), Alpha Epsilon Pi (AEPi), Delta Kappa Epsilon (DKE), Delta Upsilon (DU), Phi Gamma Delta (Fiji), Sigma Chi (Sig Chi), Sigma Phi Epsilon (Sig Ep), Zeta Psi, Psi Upsilon (Psi U), and Lambda Phi Epsilon (Lambda). The undergraduate alumni of the fraternity formerly known as Phi Delta Theta (Phi Delt), whose charter was suspended this year, effectively still operate as an eleventh fraternity.
There are four sororities within the UChicago Panhellenic Council (Panhel): Alpha Omicron Pi (AOII), Delta Gamma (DG), Kappa Alpha Theta (Theta), and Pi Beta Phi (Pi Phi). Six fraternities and sororities operate within the Multicultural Greek Council (MGC). Of these six, only Lambda and alpha Kappa Delta Phi (aKDPhi) have UChicago-specific chapters. The others have city-wide chapters, with only a few UChicago students in each.
Fraternities, sororities, and multicultural Greek groups all abide by different constitutions, as does each organization within those three categories. In total, however, that’s an official 19 Greek organizations—20 counting the undergraduate alumni of Phi Delt. Of the 5,547 students in the College, 1,089 participate in Greek life: 575 in non-MGC fraternities, 456 active members in non-MGC sororities, and 58 in MGC.
A little history
A year in review
As anyone plugged into campus news knows, it’s been a rough year for UChicago Greek life. Sexual assaults reported at DU and Psi U, racist e-mails leaked from AEPi, and the suspension of Phi Delt’s charter have dominated campus discourse. In one issue of The Maroon, you’ve seen two opposite viewpoints on the same page: one calling for the school community to trust fraternities to reform themselves, another for their abolition. Meanwhile, sororities and multicultural organizations have tried to avoid getting lumped in with their counterparts while simultaneously working to help them improve.
New initiatives for change have emerged from inside and outside Greek life. Projects like Greek Life in Front now hold fraternities accountable to publicly available sexual assault policies. Panhel banned Spring Quarter mixers with campus fraternities, and fraternity presidents began to discuss the creation of a regulatory council. Sexual violence prevention and support groups like Phoenix Survivors Alliance (PSA) and Resources for Sexual Violence Prevention (RSVP), as well as campus cultural organizations, also met with some fraternities.
Meanwhile, fraternities and sororities continued to engage in service and host philanthropy events. AEPi ran another successful Latke-Hamentashen debate, and Fiji reports raising over $25,000 for various causes. According to its Community Service Chair, Sig Chi raised $20,030 through its annual Derby Days. Together, sororities raised over $131,800 through their annual events alone, benefiting organizations like the Avon Foundation for Women. One fraternity fundraised for the Hyde Park–Kenwood Little League team while another supported a “Be the Match” bone marrow drive.
It’s clear that Greek life at UChicago, as a whole, is a mixed bag. Incidents at fraternities in particular point toward the necessity of change, and the first step toward change is transparency—the antithesis of secret society. In order to figure out where Greek life is headed, it’s important to understand where it stands now—to take a comprehensive snapshot of 2016 UChicago Greek life. Quite simply: who’s Greek, and why?
To this end, Grey City conducted two surveys on Greek life this school year, one in the fall and one in the spring. Overall, students in Greek life proved willing to participate, disclosing demographic information—more than has ever been gathered before—and sharing thoughts on the current Greek dynamic.
Demographics and Growth
The fall survey, posted on The Maroon’s website, polled Greek and non-Greek students alike. It asked about their overall views on the role of campus Greek life, racking up 404 responses, split evenly male/female—132 Greek students (33 percent) and 272 non-Greek students (67 percent).
The spring survey focused on Greek members exclusively, polling fraternity and sorority members separately on demographic info and satisfaction with Greek life. 200 brothers across all campus fraternities, except for Fiji, chose to participate in the spring survey. The undergraduate alumni of the fraternity formerly known as Phi Delt also chose to participate.
The spring survey was not endorsed by sorority national headquarters, campus sorority presidents, or the UChicago Panhellenic Council. Furthermore, national chapter administrators discouraged sorority members from participating. As a result, the survey was administered through social media and personal networks.
107 women participated across the four Panhellenic sororities and aKDPhi. Overall, participation rates in the spring survey amounted to 35 percent of fraternity members (44 percent of participating fraternities) and 23 percent of active sorority members. MGC fraternities and sororities with fewer than 19 members did not participate.
Note: Consider in-group and selection bias, as well as the dangers of self-reporting and sample size when processing these results.
Who’s in Greek life?
The administration doesn’t keep any data on Greek membership at UChicago, so the true percentage of students has long been a mystery, especially after rapid growth in the last decade. Eavesdrop on a tour group, and you might hear a guide spitball 15–20 percent.
Michele Rasmussen, current Dean of Students in the University, proffered a more conservative figure: “Our best estimate is that it’s anywhere from 12–15 percent of the undergraduate student body. And that’s definitely an estimate. I don’t know the exact number.”
Currently, it’s at 19.6 percent, according to national headquarters and self-reported chapter totals. That number is steadily growing.
Over the last decade, a number of campus fraternities—including Fiji, Psi U, and AEPi—have seen significant growth. Sig Chi joined campus in 2010, and Zeta Psi in 2013.
Pi Phi was chartered in 2011. Since that year, the number of women signing up online for sorority rush has increased by 95 percent, according to Panhel recruitment records and a 2014 Maroon article.
Of course, not all fraternities are equally diverse. Those with a particular cultural bent, like Asian- or Jewish-interest groups, are more homogenous, but perhaps in a way that is more acceptable to a liberal college campus’s conception of inclusion.
“As a Jewish person myself, I think it’s very important that AEPi retains its ties to Judaism because, for decades, Jews were excluded from other fraternities. That’s why AEPi was formed,” said first-year AEPi brother Zander Cowan, a representative-elect for the Class of 2019 and Admissions Office employee.
There are six fraternities and sororities under UChicago’s Multicultural Greek Council. These include Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Lambda Phi Epsilon (Lambda) International Fraternity, Lambda Pi Chi Sorority, and alpha Kappa Delta Phi (aKDPhi) International Asian Interest Sorority.
Unlike Panhellenic sororities and non-MGC fraternities, MGC organizations are cultural-interest groups, encompassing Asian, Black, and Latina interest. According to MGC members, these groups are highly intimate and place a greater emphasis on the service element of Greek life.
“Being part of aKDPhi has given me a place to really embrace my heritage. Since we’re so tight-knit, we have a different culture from some of the Panhellenic sororities in that I do know everyone in our active house,” said second-year Jessica Lee, Vice President External of aKDPhi.
MGC members can also relate on lived experience. For example, fourth-year Taekwan Yoon joined Lambda as a first-year but left campus after a year, returning home to Korea to fulfill two years of mandatory military service in order to maintain his citizenship. When Yoon returned to campus this year, the transition back to UChicago was harsh, but he credits Lambda with helping him pull through.
“The Lambda community, they were there always very friendly, and I just like clicked right in. I think our frat is more used to seeing people who go to army and take a leave of absence and then come back, so we are more willing to really help them integrate into it again,” Yoon said.
This intimate atmosphere comes at a price: MGC groups are often so small that they are overlooked. Lambda bolsters 30 members, but the Beta chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha (AKA), a Black-interest sorority, has three members. Third-year Elizabeth Adetiba, campus representative for AKA, offered her thoughts:
“Before this year, I would have said that there is no relationship between MGC and Panhel. However, we have at least opened communication. We’re not invited to participate in Greek Week or Inter-Fraternity Sing. We fluctuate between invisibility on campus, or, when instances like the AEPi debacle take place, we get lumped in with fraternities and Greek life as a whole—antagonized in a way that says none of these organizations should be allowed to be here. Greek events on campus often exclude us. We don’t throw mixers like they do. That’s the opposite of what we do and why we’re on campus.”
Sexual orientation: Overall, the data showed that Greek life as a whole is pretty racially heterogenous. Does the same hold true for sexuality?
Many argue that UChicago fraternities are exclusionary to LGBTQ+ students. Fourth-year Sara Rubinstein, a member of Queers United in Power (QUIP), weighed in:
“I think frats and sororities are inherently heteronormative and very gendered spaces on some level that can make them groups many LGBTQ people don't necessarily want to join. For example, you're expected to engage in certain traditionally ‘feminine’ activities in sororities (wearing dresses and makeup, baking, crafting, etc) and ‘masculine’ activities in fraternities (sports, drinking a lot of beer, etc), plus heteronormative activities in both (mixers, formals).”
According to the University’s online 2015 campus climate survey, 76.3 percent of male respondents identified as heterosexual. 9.2 percent identified as gay and 4.0 percent as bisexual, among other options including asexual, queer, and “decline to state.”
In the spring poll, 87.8 percent of fraternity brothers identified as heterosexual, 7.4 percent as homosexual, and 4.2 percent as bisexual. One brother identified as asexual. In fact, the percentage of those who reported homosexuality or bisexuality was actually much higher than a Gallup Poll’s recently estimated national average of 4 percent.
According to the campus climate survey, 68.4 percent of female respondents identified as heterosexual, 9.5 percent as bisexual, and three percent as queer. Fewer than 20 women identified as lesbian; however, 13 percent of women selected multiple options.
Of the 107 sorority members responding to the spring poll, 84.7 percent identified as heterosexual, 13.3 percent as bisexual, and 1 percent as homosexual. Overall, while respondents to the spring survey of sororities represent a lesser diversity of sexual orientations, a larger percentage of respondents identified as bisexual than on campus at large.
Dues: The relatively high socioeconomic status of Greek members is another common line of rhetoric. Fraternity membership costs money, no doubt. But are all members wealthy?
The data did not support this conclusion. Exactly half of fraternity respondents reported being on financial aid or federal work study—10 percent lower than the College percentage. Over 82 percent of respondents reported paying between $200 and $400 in quarterly dues, with an average of $330 quarterly. Four brothers reported paying $0 in dues. Nearly 70 percent of respondents said they had a part-time job, with half of those employed reporting that the job covered their dues.
While sororities were not polled on dues, 39 percent of respondents indicated that they were on financial aid or work study. Roughly the same percentage of sorority members held part-time jobs as did fraternity brothers.
Legacy: Of the polled members, participants also provided some information on legacy status. 10.1 percent of fraternity brothers reported being legacies to UChicago, with 3.7 percent reporting legacy to their fraternity. A mere four brothers reported being legacies to the UChicago-specific chapter of their fraternity.
Satisfaction: Although the data indicated only 16.6 percent of current members were definitely interested in joining Greek life coming into college, 79 percent of respondents reported feeling more invested in the UChicago community thanks to participation in Greek life. Only 10 brothers noted that they would not join again.
GPA: Across all majors, the average GPA of a fraternity member was 3.49. (For reference, the GPA required to reach the Dean’s List is 3.25.) Naturally, that GPA varied within each major.
Sororities were not polled on GPA.
Majors: Another common campus perception did hold up to scrutiny. Fraternity brothers may not all be white, but if you think they’re all econ majors, you’re not too far off. Of those polled, a whopping 41 percent reported majoring in economics. That’s nearly double the undergraduate average of 24 percent, according to data published by the College Registry.
While econ was the big winner, other majors were also well ahead of the campus breakdown. Overall, 84 percent of indicated majors belonged to the top five choices—economics, political science, public policy, biological sciences, and philosophy—a lack of major diversity that is almost double the same top five grouping percentage of the College in general. At the same time, fraternity members reported 39 unique majors.
When polled on future career goals, there was also a strong trend toward white-collar professionalism—prestigious one-word careers like banker, consultant, etc—with interest in finance leading the pack at 20 percent of respondents. Over half of brothers indicated interest in finance, business, consulting, or health. When asked about the benefit that fraternity membership had on career prospects, respondents reported an average 4 out of 5, where 1 indicated no benefit and 5 indicated great benefit.
Third-year JP Dorval, president of DKE, commented on the benefit of the alumni network:
“The interesting thing about the career help that Greek life can provide is that a lot of people don’t realize how big it is until you get outside—until you graduate and enter your Greek alumni network. I was working at the White House this past summer, and a majority of people—White House staffers I spoke to—at least a lot of them were part of Greek life when they were undergrads.”
Take Bernie DelGiorno, for example. His name should sound familiar—the 84-year-old Fiji alum, who works at global financial services titan UBS, has given generously to the University over the years. A house in South bears DelGiorno's name, Ratner features the Bernard DelGiorno Fitness Center, and, at the base of its tower, Saieh Hall harbors an octagonal DelGiorno room, showcasing Nobel Prize medals and Presidential Medals of Freedom. DelGiorno has now turned his attention to refurbishing his fraternity’s house.
“Our house, which is 106 years old, was actually modeled after the Villa Ariosto in Ferrara, Italy, dated 1569 or something like that. We’re in the process of a multi-million dollar rehab. Two million is my minimum guess. I guess by virtue of my position, my major activity is to sign checks and support the current major reconstruction there,” DelGiorno said.
Fiji alums don’t end at DelGiorno. Jeff Metcalf, former Dean of Students at the Graduate School of Business and Director of Athletics, was a Fiji, as was billionaire and former Goldman Sachs Vice Chairman Byron Trott.
“[Metcalf] made a call and got Byron Trott a job at Goldman Sachs,” DelGiorno recalled.
This past fall, 25 students rushed Fiji. Sitting down for a chat with Bernie is an integral part of this rite.
“I’ve enjoyed—not only just enjoyed—been thrilled with my opportunity to get to know undergraduates so well. I have the additional opportunity to hire interns and most of my interns, would you believe, are Phi Gam athletes. There are students who want to get some exposure to the world of finance,” DelGiorno said. “I’ve been doing this for decades, and many, many of our brothers have gone on to pursue very successful careers in the world of finance.”
DelGiorno is not the only alum who values his Greek college days.
“Working at the call center we got information about each alumnus,” said first-year Zainab Aziz, former call center employee at the Maroon Line. “We would be given talking points that we could use to strike up a conversation with them, and one of the talking points was affiliated organizations. Generally, you wouldn’t see an affiliated organization that was left blank, but if it was filled it would be for Greek life. So no one would really affiliate themselves with another RSO, but they would have a certain amount of pride that they were in Greek life.”
“Certainly a lot of alumni leaders that I know were part of Greek life, and they feel very strongly and protective of that. That’s undeniable,” said John Boyer, Dean of the College.
An administrator from the Alumni Association confirmed that the University keeps records—to some degree—of the Greek past of UChicago alumni. However, data comparing the giving rates of Greek versus non-Greek alumni has not been released.
When pressed on whether the school’s courtship of Greek alumni with deep pockets could change the way the administration views Greek life, Boyer was quick to rebuke any such causation. “Anyone with any special interest money can take a hike,” he said.
Of course, most fraternities are not just pre-professional organizations. Real frats throw parties. They supply much of the student body with alcohol, as well as a social space to consume it.
Some are parties like the one that third-year Lucas Mathieu—a student from France, where Greek life does not exist—attended on Halloween this past fall. Lucas and his friend stepped outside of a fraternity party to get some air. They lit a cigarette and struck up a conversation with a fraternity brother dressed as Superman. The friends reflected on a party they had attended earlier that year, consulting the fraternity brother’s opinion.
“A friend of mine repeatedly mentioned this episode where a frat had blocked its second floor for ‘brothers and girls that are hot,’’ Mathieu recalled. “I was with a friend, and we asked, you know, ‘what is this about?’ He said, ‘yeah, we’re not really progressive, but that’s just the way things are.’ That is the one and only time I heard a frat boy being so direct about it. When I mention this incident with others, they say ‘this is ridiculous. This should not have happened. We need to change things.’”
Responses to the fall survey reflect a similar sentiment: there were problems in the system and change was needed.
In general, those who responded to the fall survey did not feel that Greek life promotes positive values on campus. The discrepancies were clearest, however, when Greeks versus non-Greeks were compared. Here, there was a clear split: non-Greek students felt considerably more negative towards Greek institutions and reported feeling less safe at Greek events, while Greek students—both male and female—didn’t feel that way.
Of course, it’s frat-party environments like the one described above that are most associated with issues like sexual assault. The survey polled both Greek men and women on their opinions of sexual assault prevention in the Greek community and found, almost unanimously, that they are unsatisfied. Although fraternities ranked their own sexual assault policies an 8.5 out of 10, they ranked the approach of Greek life in general as a mere 5.2. Respondents to the sorority survey were equally critical, evaluating fraternity sexual assault policies as a 4.2 out of 10 overall, with Greek life in general only marginally better at 4.8.
Clearly, there’s a discrepancy in fraternity opinions on what constitutes an effective sexual assault policy: each group likes its own policy, but isn’t satisfied with the Greek community’s approach in general. This could be the result of in-group bias, or maybe a disconnect between fraternities.
Given the data, Greek life at UChicago is generally racially, sexually, and socioeconomically diverse. However, lack of diversity, while a frequent concern of the student body, is not the most common critique levied against Greek life. Accusations that fraternities perpetuate sexual violence have dominated the discourse on Greek life this past year. This issue, combined with racial insensitivity, underage drinking, and general debauchery have led Greek and non-Greek students alike to call for substantive and immediate changes in fraternity regulation.
According to the spring survey, fraternity members ranked the administration’s perception of fraternities as a 4.1 out of 10. Respondents to the sorority survey ranked this perception even lower: 2.6 out of 10.
Boyer, however, wasn’t as critical.
“I’m not an enemy of the Greeks. I’m not any enemy of any student organizations. My view has always been that of Hutchins: as long as people don’t violate the criminal laws of the state of Illinois, I don’t care what they do. It’s a free country and a free university,” Boyer said.
Given the administration’s hands-off attitude toward regulation, some feel that the University is trying to have its cake and eat it too—using Greek life as a recruiting tool without assuming the risks.
“Dean Boyer’s comment is interesting because the impression that I’ve gotten is that the University has really encouraged fraternities and sororities to grow over the past few years to get rid of the ‘where fun goes to die’ reputation,” said Meg Dowd, co-leader of PSA.
Second-year Eric Holmberg, Student Government (SG) President-elect, has heard this theory from sorority members themselves.
“I’ve talked to Panhellenic about this several times, and [the administration] produces pictures as references to talk about how many women are in it and how great an opportunity this is, and promote it as a vibrant part of student life. They’re not willing to provide institutional support for sororities, but they’re willing to show it off as a beneficial part of student life,” Holmberg said.
Consider the prospie experience: sitting through a couple of stimulating lectures, eating an average meal in Bartlett, and seeing UChicago stereotypes broken at Bar Night.
“As someone who works in the Admissions Office and sees a lot of prospective students, it is a big deal to a lot of prospective students because we have a reputation, still, as ‘where fun goes to die.’ This year, if you hosted prospies, you saw that there weren’t any social events outside the planned Admissions events. There were no frat parties on the prospie weekends, and it really affected people’s opinions on whether or not this is where fun goes to die. I saw it warp people’s perspectives of the school,” said class representative and first-year tour guide employee Zander Cowan.
While sororities and multicultural groups heed the guidance of campus councils, University advisors, and national headquarters, fraternities are not beholden to any regulatory body on campus. The administration may favor a laissez-faire approach, but Holmberg sees a greater need for regulation.
“The University can’t continue to pretend that they’re not responsible or liable for what goes on in Greek life. They are. They’re responsible for making this an inclusive campus wherever students choose to spend their time. When we’re talking about questions of that gravity—not minutia—we’re talking physical safety, the University owes it to students to ensure their safety,” he said.
Fourth-year Tyler Kissinger, current president of SG, felt similarly.
“The University is—or at least was—at a crossroads. It had given resources to Greek organizations that opened itself up for a liability concern, but it also wasn’t comfortable taking on the actual liability associated,” Kissinger said.
That regulation could take shape on three levels: from the administration, from within Greek life itself, and from student organizations outside of Greek life.
On the morning of Friday, May 6, every undergraduate student at Harvard University received an e-mail. It informed students that there were going to be some changes regarding unrecognized, single-gender social organizations. According to the e-mail, starting with the class of 2021, all men and women participating in these organizations—fraternities, sororities, and “final clubs”—would be banned from holding team captaincies and leadership roles in any registered clubs. They would also become ineligible for scholarships that require a college nomination, like Fulbright or Rhodes grants.
The rationale? Reasons you’re all familiar with: privilege, power imbalances, gender discrimination, and structural barriers.
“I think for the institution that is the pinnacle of exclusivity and elitism—and sometimes even bullying—it is a staggering act of self-criticism by Harvard, and I think it’s something that should be admired by being emulated by other universities,” said graduate student Cody Jones, SG Vice President-elect of Student Affairs.
According to spring survey participants, the average Greek student participates in around 2.6 other RSOs on campus, and half of respondents reported a leadership role in at least one. Given the rate that Greek members participate in and lead RSOs, a similar decision at UChicago could seriously disrupt the extracurricular sphere on campus. Both Boyer and Dean of Students in the College John “Jay” Ellison, however, dismissed the possibility of such an outcome, citing differences in student culture that the spring survey results appear to support.
“The fundamental difference between us and one of the venerable Ivies—Harvard or Yale or Princeton—we were founded on very different premises. We were not a socially elite school, and we were also co-ed from the very beginning, as opposed to being bastions of male collegiate whatever,” Boyer said.
“I was at Harvard for 25 years, and I understand the final club situation very well,” Ellison added. “What’s happening at Harvard is a reaction to years and years and years of struggle with these things. And they’re quite old—some of them are 200 years old. The first was in the 1700s—Porcellian. That’s the one that was featured in the movie about Zuckerberg, that he doesn’t get into. Bill Gates is in the Fox. The Kennedys were all in the Fly. They’re these long-standing, elite clubs. But that’s very different than here. Very different.”
According to the fall survey, 72 percent of respondents speculated that Greek life here is different than at other universities, with that percentage even higher for affiliated students. Whether or not UChicago is its own special case, there’s no Harvardian administrative crackdown looming on the horizon.
So what role can the administration play in bettering UChicago Greek life? Ellison was realistic about the situation.
“If we walked in there, we wouldn’t find anything wrong. First, they’d keep us outside until they cleaned up, and once we went inside everybody’d be in suit and tie drinking tea,” he said.
He did comment, however, on the basic modes of accountability already in place.
“With an RSO, there are two ways: one, as a group, you pull their recognition or you take action against the group. For non-recognized, we don’t have that ability because they don’t have it in the first place. We can hold individual students accountable, but our rules also allow us to hold leaders responsible for the actions of the group, even if it’s a non-recognized group—whether or not they were there or involved. That power has been used,” Ellison said.
However, some felt that the administration was moving toward more formal regulation when, this past March, the Center for Leadership and Involvement launched its newest initiative, the Student Engagement Fund. This fund prevents non-RSO groups, including Greek organizations, from using campus spaces at no cost. Instead, it requires them to apply for funding each quarter to book campus spaces—a decision that disproportionately affected sororities over fraternities. Since sororities do not own houses, they rely on access to University spaces for chapter and philanthropy events.
“This idea that the Student Engagement Fund was some way of cutting off or punishing Greek letter organizations is not accurate. If you look at the benefits of it, they’re getting the same access if they apply and qualify for it—just now there’s a process for it. You need to have some accountability: if they go in and trash the space, we need to know who they were and what they were doing in there,” Rasmussen said.
In this sense, the Student Engagement Fund simply tracks participation. The biggest issue, of course, isn’t what happens in University spaces: it’s what happens on campus in fraternity spaces. Sexual assault isn’t limited to Greek life, but fraternities are often ground zero.
The University has continued to address the threat of sexual violence within campus life as a whole. The main approach to sexual violence prevention is the bystander intervention training conducted during O-Week, along with online modules completed over the summer. Rasmussen was careful to clarify that greater community attention to sexual assault was likely to cause an increase in reports.
“We have only really begun systematically tracking reports based on some new and better tracking systems we have in the last couple of years. The University is also making this much more a topic of conversation and awareness. It doesn’t necessarily mean that more sexual assaults are happening; it just means people are more likely to report it,” she said.
With little immediate University intervention addressing the role of fraternities on campus, Panhel took matters into its own hands this quarter.
“I think some groups are already taking steps. For example, I know Panhel is no longer mixing with fraternities,” Dowd said.
According to Dowd, this was a move meant to encourage more active self-regulation on the part of fraternities, who turned to a glaring alternative: make a fraternity version of Panhel.
An Inter-Fraternity Council (IFC) would parallel the structure of Panhel. Representatives from each fraternity—likely the presidents—would meet regularly to discuss fraternity policies.
“We had one in the past, but it wasn’t taken seriously—it was the mid-2000s. But it was more of a shell organization than anything, which is what we’re trying to avoid with this one. There are people for an IFC if we’re regulating ourselves—judging ourselves. But I feel that’s not the move we need to take. We need to include the rest of the student population. Or at least increase transparency when it comes to sexual sensitivity and awareness to show them that we’re actually making the moves that they want and are necessary to make our spaces a safer place,” said third-year JP Dorval, president of DKE.
Personally, Dorval is indifferent toward an IFC. According to Dorval, IFCs exist at other schools, and they work. Second-year Lambda President Michael Meng explained, however, that the regulatory structure of Panhel or MGC doesn’t appeal to fraternities, who would “lose more than they would gain.” The structure of the fraternity rush process was of particular concern. According to Meng, at this point in the discussions amongst fraternity presidents, the potential for an IFC is almost officially out.
“Official in the sense that we aren’t talking about it anymore. So pretty official,” Meng said. “Part of the reason why we can’t agree to an IFC is because nobody can agree to repercussions.”
“Fraternities don’t want other fraternities judging each other. For example, Fijis don’t want DKE judging Fiji. AEPi doesn’t want Phi Delt judging them,” Dorval said.
An alternative approach, Meng explained, is a streamlined sexual assault policy called Fraternities Against Sexual Violence—the united front without the governing body. This document would set an exhaustive list of standards, open to the public, that each fraternity would be required to sign.
Class representative Zander Cowan fleshed out his vision for an alternative council—one that would integrate elements of an IFC and Fraternities Against Sexual Violence while opening it up to non-Greek representatives.
“I think a majority of the elected body should be people in Greek life. Whether that’s eleven members—one for each fraternity—plus one non-Greek affiliated member or two, I think that’s great. We need to bring in other perspectives because the actions of Greeks obviously affect much more than just themselves,” Cowan said.
The fraternity presidents are still deliberating, but Dorval and Meng promised official change by the start of next year. For the time being, the matter of regulation has fallen to grassroots student groups: non-Greek affiliated campus RSOs and individual student initiatives.
On March 11, fourth-year Rebecca Abrams, a sorority sister in AOII, published a letter in The Maroon calling for support of a new formal mechanism of accountability. She proposed a project called “Greek Life in Front,” which would formalize a transparent and easily accessible set of expectations for behavior at fraternity parties. The project officially launched on May 2.
The initial idea for the project took root at the end of last year, when then-second-year AEPi Jake Mansoor approached Abrams to talk about improving sexual assault prevention in Greek life.
“We came up with this idea of creating a policy that fraternities would post outlining the behavior that was expected of guests to the fraternity house and the behavior that was expected of brothers in regards to consensual conduct—like internal accountability,” Abrams said.
Co-founders Abrams and Mansoor first developed a policy prototype for AEPi. It featured some simple measures: require sober brothers to be present, and make their phone numbers public. One policy item required “formal and clear disciplinary measures for brothers who are found to engage in sexual misconduct, ranging from harassment to sexual violence.” As of yet, the policy has not made clear, or formal, those disciplinary measures—perhaps due to varying chapter bylaws or the relative nascence of the organization.
After deeming the AEPi policy successful, Abrams and Mansoor quickly partnered with Panhel and MGC to incorporate more fraternities into the project. Now, nine fraternity policies are currently posted on GreekLifeinFront.org. That sums to all active fraternities with the exception of Alpha Delt, which is still crafting its policy and plans to soon join the group.
Each policy differs slightly given the specific requirements of each fraternity’s national headquarters. Despite each fraternity’s efforts to draft these policies, most focus on preventative measures while very few explicitly detail the procedures of internal accountability. The policies of DU, Fiji, and Psi U stand out as exceptions, laboring to outline specific cases, as well as the grounds for social probation and expulsion.
The Psi U policy states: If a Psi Upsilon affiliate is found guilty of sexual assault, he will be expelled from our fraternity. If a Psi Upsilon affiliate is accused of non-consensual activity of any sort, he will be put on social probation indefinitely.
The DU policy is more extensive: Any individual suspected or accused of sexual misconduct will be immediately placed on indefinite suspension while the incident is investigated. In such an instance, all rights accorded to a brother of the Delta Upsilon Chicago Chapter will be removed, including, but not limited to, involvement in our own events, and the events of any other Greek organization. Should the individual live in the chapter house, the chapter will request that he vacate the premises until a verdict is reached. If the request is refused, the chapter will pursue any legal action within our rights to pursue eviction.
The Fiji policy is similar: Firstly, any individual(s) suspected or accused of sexual misconduct will be placed on temporary suspension while the incident is investigated. Suspension entails a revocation of all privileges including: all FIJI events & meetings, all other Greek events & meetings, and all other privileges. In the most severe cases, should the individual(s) live in the chapter house, the chapter may request that he move out of the house for the duration of all investigations. If the individual(s) refuses the request, the chapter may also take the legal steps necessary to pursue eviction.
In addition to posting policies, Greek Life in Front has united with RSVP to develop bystander awareness training for all incoming brothers. Psi U’s policy even stipulates that all new members must meet with RSVP before initiation.
PSA and RSVP have increasingly partnered with Greek organizations over the past two quarters to foster dialogue around these issues. On Friday, May 20, Panhel collaborated with the two groups to host a discussion on sexual assault within Greek life and on campus as part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month. The following Tuesday, May 24, Alpha Delt partnered with RSVP to host a presentation and discussion on sexual violence prevention within Greek life. Even groups outside of PSA and RSVP, such as the Chicago Debate Society (CDS) and the University of Chicago Political Union (UCPU), have contributed to the campus conversation by hosting open debates on the value of Greek life.
Of the 15 regular members of PSA, five serve on the Greek life committee, which formed at the beginning of this quarter. However, not one of PSA’s members is a Greek student.
After embarking on the Greek Life in Front project, Abrams and Mansoor were asked to serve on the Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Committee, a subset of SG now totaling eight students and chaired by second-year Cosmo Albrecht. Abrams and Mansoor now act as informal liaisons between Greek life and the SG committee.
“Our goal is to expand to RSOs that are more at risk for sexual assault—things like traveling teams, things that have social events. I had a really productive meeting with Model UN (MUN) a few weeks ago, and we’re working to implement policies there,” Abrams said.
The Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Committee emerged this past fall as a preliminary committee housed within College Council (CC). According to Holmberg, the committee works closely with the Clothesline Project, PSA, and Greek Life in Front to allocate its $10,000, much of which funds Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
“These grassroots student groups that are doing work around sexual violence on campus—that needs to be mirrored by additional staff for offices like RSVP, for additional staff to work with Sarah Wake, our Title IX Coordinator, and then ultimately Dean Ellison or Dean Boyer would convene a council to look at something like this,” Holmberg said.
This year’s slate elect clearly plans to increase SG’s role in regulating and improving Greek life. But where was SG this year?
“This past year, on the record, I think SG handled it poorly. They didn’t need to create an IFC-like entity, but they didn’t really do anything besides issue statements of condemnation, which is just the first baby step. It all starts with conversations. I think that’s why you saw an uptick of Greek-affiliated officials who are now in Student Government,” Cowan said.
Last year, there was one Greek-affiliated CC representative. Of the 13 class representatives-elect for next year, four are in Greek life. This jump in Greek member participation could improve relations between SG and the Greek community.
“At the end of the day, this is not an SG issue; this is a University issue,” Kissinger said. “The extent of our purview is advocacy, and I think current and incoming members of SG have been relatively critical of the University’s role in this. The way the University is currently handling this is to neither support members of Greek life nor invest in the resources necessary to handle the issues associated with Greek life.”
At the very bottom of the spring survey, there was an open comment box. Responses ran the gamut, but two particular sentiments stood out. Genuine or not, each represents a very real outlook on Greek life. Both of these were written by fraternity members.
One wrote, “If you went to a bar where the employees of the bar had bedrooms upstairs and were actively trying to engage in sexual behavior with their patrons, I would imagine you would find issue with that."
Another said, “My fraternity is the most important thing in my life, and joining it is my proudest achievement. As someone who suffered from depression my first year, the significance of a close community of friends on this campus, and the resulting natural support system, cannot be overstated. My fraternity completely reversed my college experience, and has made it the most enjoyable time of my life. Those who would vilify all fraternities would do well to understand that perspective and the value that Greek life has to offer.”
The first comment was written by a third-year chemistry major, the second by a fourth-year econ major. The views, however, are not mutually exclusive.
They could have been written by the same person.
Grace Hauck is the Co-Social Chair of the Illinois Kappa Chapter of Pi Beta Phi.
Data visualizations by Juliette Hainline.
Gabe Davis drafted the questions for and helped distribute the Grey City fall survey.