For first-years, the transition to college is full of choices, one of which being the decision whether or not to rush. But this year, that decision is impacted by a combination of the existing perceptions of what Greek life is like and the current movement to abolish Greek life at Northwestern.
Although first-years have to wait until Winter Quarter to consider rushing, concerns about the racist and sexist tendencies of Greek life have already begun impacting their decisions on whether to rush.
On July 22, @abolishnugreeklife began posting anonymous stories on Instagram from students and alumni recounting their experiences with Northwestern fraternities and sororities. These stories highlighted lots of issues within Greek life, including the lack of racial diversity, obstacles for lower-income and LGBTQ+ students and the high amount of sexual assault allegations. These calls for change are reflective of the current Black Lives Matter movement and growing social pressure to abolish oppressive systems and promote equality.
“The sororities and fraternities housed under PHA and IFC were created with the explicit purpose to exclude,” a statement on the Instagram account said. “They were founded with the white supremacist, misogynistic, classist, homophobic, transphobic intent, and this systemic oppression permeates them to this day. We cannot reform institutions that were designed to segregate and divide our peers.”
The current Greek life climate on campus is part of a national movement towards reformation, with colleges including Mississippi State University, Vanderbilt, and Lafayette all reckoning with injustices within their own Greek communities. The conversations that have arisen in the past few months are impacting first-year students' perception of the status of these organizations.
“I feel like if students are calling for the Greek organizations to be disbanded, then they should be disbanded,” Bienen first-year Colin Akers said. “There are obvious issues with Greek life, and if that’s what the students want, then organizations should listen to that.”
In early September, Northwestern’s Panhellenic Association released a statement acknowledging its continued failure to promote inclusivity throughout the 11 fraternity and sorority chapters it oversees and called on them to consider disbanding. By disbanding, Greek chapters relinquish their charter with the national/international Greek organization they are affiliated with, ceasing to exist as an organization on campus.
The Panhellenic Association’s statement read, “PHA has failed its purpose of serving as an inclusive space meant to empower all women and non-binary people, and has continuously reaffirmed the patriarchy, binary gender roles, and heteronormativity.”
On Aug. 3, Gamma Phi Beta became the first sorority to disband after voting to relinquish its charter. Many other NU Greek organizations attempted to follow suit, with Delta Gamma and Kappa Alpha Theta both holding votes, although unsuccessful, in attempts to disband. Chi Omega Xi Chapter also penned an open letter to their corresponding Supreme Governing Council urging reform after the national organization expressed that it would not approve a request to disband the Xi Chapter.
Alex Bentele, a Weinberg first-year, originally considered rushing, saying that there seemed to be a large Greek life community on campus.
However, after reading some of the posts from the @abolishgreeklife Instagram account, combined with his reservations of the cost of Greek life and some of the commitments of being in a fraternity, Bentele decided against rushing.
“When I saw the Instagram, and I saw the stories — it’s obvious that there’s a bit of a problem,” Bentele said. “I decided that I think I’m not going to rush because I’m going to be able to have an active social life without a fraternity, and I don’t really need to be giving my money to an organization that might be perpetuating those injustices.”
With a virtual Wildcat Welcome and the majority of first-year students not being offered on-campus housing this fall, making friendships and social connections has been more difficult for freshmen.
“It’s difficult to meet people,” said Weinberg first-year Isabel Podolsky. “Because classes and everything are online and everyone is far apart, it’s harder to find people to be a part of a community with.”
Due to this uncertainty, incoming freshmen are both unsure of which chapters will still be active when they are given the opportunity to rush, as well as the extent to which recently uncovered issues will be addressed.
“Regardless of if they get disbanded or not, we need to, at least, revise the system by which people rush,” McCormick first-year Elizabeth Campisi said. “We may want to do a little more research around what exactly happens behind the scenes of the Greek life system, so we can fully understand the big picture of what’s going on beneath the surface.”
*Thumbnail courtesy of Northwestern Fraternity and Sorority Life's website.