Disclaimer: The writer of this story is a member of a Greek-affiliated camous organization. This story has been vetted for fairness and accuracy by multiple external editors.
The summer going into the 2020-21 school year, the Abolish Greek Life movement grew nationally and at Lawrence. Members of sororities and fraternities across the nation revoked their letters and their membership.
The “Abolish Greek Life” movement at Lawrence has become more prominent since summer 2020 when online infographics started spreading about the movement. Traction grew at the arrival of Fall Term, with nearly half of Lawrence’s sorority members disaffiliating. Around this time, some students involved in the movement at Lawrence created an Instagram page, @abolish.lu.greeklife, ran by multiple administrators, which has grown to 275 followers.
The account posts perspectives of students and alumni that are or were involved in Greek Life and raises several concerns about Greek Life, such as exclusivity, a toxic environment, inaccessibility regarding dues, where dues go to and more. The account’s goal is to bring awareness to the issues people see in Greek Life and give a voice to people who felt like Greek Life silenced them.
“Some of the issues, advisors told us not to talk about them, or we had been told to stay silent,” junior Claire Peters, one of the account’s administrators said. “… It gave a space for people who may have been harmed by Greek Life to give their account of what happened.”
Peters emphasized the account’s goal of challenging reform. She said the issues in Greek Life, such as racism and classism, are systemic, and although reform is admirable, Greek Life must be abolished.
Peters continued, saying the account’s mission has changed in perspective since they started the account. While she maintains that Greek organizations should be abolished, she also thinks it’s important to recognize efforts within the organizations.
“… With these conversations of inclusivity, we don’t want to silence other people’s voices, especially voices of women of color or people who already are a little bit silenced by the idea of Greek Life,” Peters said. “If they are [suggesting] reform, and they have ideas for reform, it’s our job to listen to those as well … I loved my time in Greek life; I just thought that it came to an end.”
In response to calls for reform, three women of color in sororities at Lawrence created a group called the Diversity Initiative, comprised of junior Anna Kallay, member of Kappa Kappa Gamma, junior Amellalli Herrera Alvarez, member of Kappa Alpha Theta, and senior Samara Morris, member of Delta Gamma.
These sorority members created the group because they wanted to see a change in their organizations and lead as women of color. The Diversity Initiative’s Instagram, @lu_diversityinitiative, posts information about Greek Life’s history, diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts as well as events planned by the group, such as an open forum for all students to discuss Greek Life at Lawrence and beyond. According to Kallay, before the creation of the Initiative, when they would try to have conversations about DEI in their sororities, very few people showed up.
“I was really frustrated with that,” Kallay said. “I wanted to make sure there was reform in Greek Life, I wanted to make sure women of color, women in the LGBTQ+ community, people with disabilities feel more included in those organizations … There are times when I felt alienated, and I wanted to provide a support system for people as well as make these changes on our campus and with national organizations.”
The group has been working to hold conversations with all students, whether involved in Greek Life or not. To do so, they are working towards getting recognition by Lawrence University Community Council (LUCC). They believe this will help them have more campus-wide discussions and spark interest in people who might want to join.
The Initiative says they want to work with other Greek Life leaders but haven’t seen as great a response as they’d hoped. They said this is frustrating in the context of the Abolish Greek Life movement because they feel like the Initiative’s been left with the hard work to do.
“A lot of people who were well-intentioned [and] who did have similar beliefs deactivated, leaving more people who held those beliefs that we’re trying to fight in our organizations,” Kallay said.
Additionally, they say they feel like some of their efforts are not acknowledged as much as the abolition movement’s actions. They said they have been working on education for the campus community and feeling as if their work is seen less than the abolition movement’s work, such as on social media, which they find frustrating.
“This year, I have gone to a lot of student organization events run by [the Black Student Union], [the Commitee on Diversity Affairs] and [the Pan-Asian Organization], but I haven’t seen anyone from Abolish Greek Life or former members at those events,” Morris said. “… As someone who has heard we don’t do enough outreach with those organizations, specifically from resigned members, I find it very hypocritical to not be seeing them at more of these events. I feel like the three of us, at least, are putting in 200 percent more of what we’ve been doing while many have left and seem to be carrying on with their regular campus life,” said Morris.
The fraternities, however, appear not to be putting forth the same efforts as the Diversity Initiative and sororities. The Diversity Initiative feels that the sororities are being held to a higher standard than the fraternities, considering the sororities lost around half of their members Fall Term, and fraternities at Lawrence lost no members, according to the Initiative.
Beta Theta Pi president, junior Tristan Dock, said he thinks the fraternities didn’t lose members because there’s no real incentive to leave.
“We don’t really view ourselves primarily as a fraternity, in the sense that it’s just a ‘guys’ club’ kind of thing. The reason why all our members have joined is because of the fact of brotherhood that we have here,” said Dock.
Still, Kallay feels there’s been a lack of clear public response to the abolition movement in the fraternities.
“They say they’re making changes within their organizations, but I don’t really see it from that many of them,” Kallay said. “When I was Panhel president, I tried to reach out and really didn’t get responses back.”
The Abolish Lawrence Greek Life Instagram also said they reached out to fraternities to no response.
Based on interviews with Dock and junior Jacob Rosenberg, president of Delta Tau Delta, the fraternities’ plans on changes regarding the Abolish Greek Life movement are “following all protocol,” having conversations and potentially attending events planned by the Diversity Initiative.
Greek Life advisor, Greg Griffin, said that he believes their organizations’ structure should be changed for more change to occur in the fraternities. He said the i\Interfraternity Council (IFC) this year doesn’t have an active, functioning president and that the organization hasn’t met a single time this year. He said that his goal for the fraternities is to get the IFC leadership figured out to start making uniform changes across the fraternities.
“More of the conversation has been on the women’s side, and the men aren’t probably as concerned about the Abolish Greek Life movement, but they are concerned about being more inclusive,” Griffin said. “Some have made great strides, some have a ways to go, but they all want to get better.”
Despite the Abolish Greek Life movement’s rise, there are currently no plans to eliminate Greek Life at Lawrence. As long as students are interested in discussing Greek Life and its responsibilities, its future lies in their hands.