As many of you know, the national Abolish Greek Life Movement has been gradually surging on Lawrence’s campus. We, the Lawrence University Panhellenic Council (the governing body of our three social sororities), have become acutely aware of the movement’s goals and its overall purpose, and many former members of sororities have deactivated from their chapter to join the movement. While it has been sad to see our former sisters decide to move on from their sororities, we recognize the problems that they are working to fight, as they are justified and inexcusable. These issues include, but are not limited to, racism, classism, aggressions against the LGBTQ+ community and a lack of accessibility across Greek life that our organizations have perpetuated in the past and present.
Members of the Abolish Greek Life Movement believe that the best, and only, way to solve the issues that plague Greek life across the country is by getting rid of the system entirely. In other words, reform is believed to be impossible; however, the Lawrence University Panhellenic Council (Panhel) believes that its members, who are educated and driven individuals eager to learn, are extremely capable of making radical and necessary reform. Sorority membership has an immense amount of benefits, including providing a safe space for women in a world of violence and sexism, philanthropic involvement, women’s empowerment, global connections and dedication to scholarship; despite these benefits, there is much room for change in order to make our organizations less exclusive and more welcoming.
We recognize that Greek life does not represent the diversity of Lawrence’s campus and that the Greek system is not inclusive to many. The Greek system has a history of harming and silencing members of marginalized groups. It would be wrong for us to absolve ourselves of the guilt from [the] pain our organizations have caused and continue to cause. Conversations about our role in [perpetuating] oppression should have happened long ago. We acknowledge that we all experience privilege to some extent in forms such as white privilege, socioeconomic privilege, cisgender privilege and straight privilege. We are dedicating ourselves to changing the systems and practices that have benefitted women of these privileges, particularly wealthy women and white women. We are committing ourselves to unpacking these unearned privileges and actively using our own, creating and supporting platforms to uplift BIPOC, members of the LGBTQ+ community and members of the countless other marginalized communities that our organizations have harmed. This will involve opening the floor to discussions regarding injustices against these groups as well as uplifting their voices. Change will not happen overnight, but each sorority is working to address these issues at a local and national level, and as a council, we will enforce the policies and changes that we are enacting. Many of these changes are occurring as we write this.
The Panhellenic Council will take action on multiple levels. This includes addressing financial transparency and affordability, integration of discussions and trainings to create a more inclusive environment and reexamining our recruitment process to promote a more equitable and inclusive environment that will support the entire campus population.
The following steps are intended to be implemented within this academic year:
First, we will begin recruitment training for all sorority members. This will take the form of implicit bias training, including education on implicit bias and its perpetuation of systemic racism, social inequality and organizational policies. We will analyze the relationship between power, normativity and marginalization. Additional rigorous training will be implemented for all recruitment counselors and the “Top Four” (President, VP External, VP Internal, and VP Judicial) to ensure they are welcoming and inclusive in everything they do to prepare members of sororities for recruitment and assist potential new members during the recruitment process.
Second, we will install a standing Diversity Initiative Committee. This committee will be comprised of two members from each social sorority on campus with a minimum of four applicants from each sorority. The committee will be responsible for holding one campus-wide town hall meeting per term and three panhellenic-wide meetings per term. Each sorority member will be required to attend one of these meeting per term. The committee will bring in one compensated BIPOC speaker per term.
Third, we will mandate education on topics such as privilege, systemic barriers, microaggressions, inclusivity and the formation of racial hegemony. We will emphasize the importance of denouncing and fighting both individual behaviors and larger systems that harm minoritized communities. We will move away from dwelling on white guilt and instead use it to change individual actions and fight systemic problems. We will hold ourselves and others accountable for aggressions in a constructive manner and focus attention on victims of discrimination. We will educate on the white racial frame and the normalization of whiteness.
Fourth, we will work to raise funds to provide financial support for those who wish to join sororities, particularly low-income people of color.
We have started to institute these and other measures to make our organizations more inclusive to members of the minoritized communities that we have harmed in the past. We do not expect anyone belonging to such groups to provide us with the emotional labor or to share their traumas with us, but we would love to hear about any experiences, ideas, questions or ideas that you may have to aid our growth and reformation of the Greek community. Please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like your voice to be heard.
Lawrence University Panhellenic Council
Anna Kallay – Interim President of Lawrence University Panhellenic Council