Abolish Greek Life is a national movement sweeping college campuses, and Lawrence is no exception.
Greg Griffin, director of Student Activities and Greek life, states that since the beginning of the term, about 15 to 20 women have formally deactivated from their sororities. Additionally, some members have indicated that they plan to deactivate but have not yet formally done so.
Junior Morgan Fisher, former member of Kappa Alpha Theta, is a leader in Lawrence’s Abolish Greek Life movement. The movement’s basic premise, Fisher said, is that sororities and fraternities are inherently discriminatory in their practices. Over the summer, Fisher and six other members of Kappa Alpha Theta wrote a letter to the cabinet, explaining their reasonings for deactivating. They stated that lower-income, non-white and non-cisgender individuals often feel uncomfortable in the Greek system.
“We can no longer justify our participation in the classist, racist, misogynistic, trans-exclusionary, ableist [and] homophobic system that is Greek life,” the deactivating members said in the letter.
According to Griffin, in order to successfully abolish Greek life at Lawrence, one of two things would need to happen. First, the Board of Trustees could vote to no longer permit Greek life on campus. The other way for Greek life to be abolished on campus would require the students to give up their chapters.
When Fisher arrived on campus, she felt a real connection to Kappa Alpha Theta because her grandmother was a member of the sorority when she attended Lawrence. However, after researching the movement at other schools, she knew that she had to take a stand. Fisher contends that even if the chapters at Lawrence are progressive, it does not matter because they are still connected to the national organization.
Another former member of a sorority at Lawrence who wishes to remain anonymous recently deactivated from her chapter for similar reasons. Initially, she joined a sorority because she was curious and had several friends who were members. She explained that, although she enjoyed her time with her chapter at Lawrence and felt they were inclusive and accepting, this is a national issue that is deeply rooted in an exclusionary, elitist tradition and cannot be reformed.
On the other hand, senior Amanda Marsh, president of Kappa Alpha Theta, feels differently about Greek life. Before coming to Lawrence, Marsh never intended to join a sorority. She felt uncomfortable with the portrayal of sororities in pop culture and assumed that was an accurate representation. However, once she got to Lawrence, she found that she enjoyed talking to some of the women at recruitment and decided to give Greek life a try. Marsh believes that sororities provide a variety of benefits: empowering women, providing a support system and fostering academic success and service.
However, Marsh also acknowledges the validity in the arguments for abolishing Greek life. To that end, her chapter plans to address the issues brought up by the Abolish Greek Life movement without fully disbanding. First, they plan to increase their scholarship fund to help those deterred from joining for financial reasons. Second, they plan to have more conversations about these issues and to re-examine their recruitment policies, through which they have already eliminated the practice of legacy preference. Finally, they plan to utilize more inclusive language in an effort to make non-cisgender individuals more comfortable.
“I think it’s important that people know it isn’t an us versus them thing. That’s the opposite of what we want,” Marsh said. “In fact, of the women who deactivated, I admire their passion. We’re all trying to tackle the same issues, just in different ways.”
Griffin feels that the benefits of Greek life include a sense of belonging, encouraging students to do good works and giving students an opportunity to value academics and promote balance. Despite these benefits, Griffin believes that both nationally and at Lawrence, Greek life has a flawed past, often fails to promote equity and has inherent structural problems. He says it is important to him to be supportive of both the Greek organizations and the individuals that are choosing to deactivate. He further states that the Greek community at Lawrence is working to address the Abolish Greek Life movement’s concerns.
“We have been working on becoming more diverse, inclusive and equitable,” Griffin said.