The Collegian
Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Former POC sorority members disaffiliate, ask current members to join in solidarity

<p>The&nbsp;cottages are non-residential meeting areas for sororities on campus.</p>

The cottages are non-residential meeting areas for sororities on campus.

Editor's Note: The current president of Kappa Kappa Gamma is a member of The Collegian’s staff. 

More than a dozen women of color who recently disaffiliated from their Panhellenic sororities released a statement on Instagram Tuesday detailing their shared views on why Panhel sororities and Interfraternity Council fraternities should be abolished at the University of Richmond. 

The statement, titled "The Open Letter of Group Disaffiliation," was written by nine former Pi Beta Phi members, four former Delta Gamma members, three former Tri Delta members and two former Kappa Delta members who are all women of color and have recently disaffiliated from their respective sororities, according to the statement. It was posted on the recently created Abolish Richmond Greek Life Instagram account.


“We, a group of University of Richmond BIPOC [Black, Indigenous and people of color] womxn, are severing our membership status with our National Panhellenic chapters,” the Instagram post stated, “and are calling for the abolishment of Panhellenic and IFC Greek life at UR due to its misogynistic, racist, classist, ableist, heteronormative, and myriad of other damaging characteristics that are intertwined in its history and existence. Many of us were inspired to move towards disaffiliation as a result of the exposure of hundreds of tragic stories shared through the Instagram page @abolishrichmondgreeklife.”

The statement criticized degrading recruitment practices, tokenism of people of color within Panhel and IFC and recent responses from Panhel leadership regarding the Greek Life abolition movement.

“The concept of tokenism allows non-BIPOC individuals to perpetuate racist generalizations and stereotypes, putting unfair expectations on BIPOCs,” the post stated.

The statement recommended action items, such as a one-year suspension and phase-out plan for all Panhel sororities and IFC fraternities. It also called for both Greek Life-affiliated and non-affiliated women at UR to abstain from IFC fraternity events and for current Panhel sorority and IFC fraternity members to disaffiliate.

The statement co-authors sent a copy of the statement to their respective sorority chapter group chats Monday around 4 p.m., approximately 24 hours before posting the statement on Instagram, said one of the statement’s co-authors, a rising sophomore, who agreed to speak to The Collegian under the condition of anonymity. 

The co-authors also sent the statement to members of Kappa Kappa Gamma and Kappa Alpha Theta — including members in leadership positions — but did not have direct access to their group messages, the co-author said. None of the 18 co-authors were members of Kappa nor Theta.

The shared statement included a link to a form where current sorority members could indicate they were about to start the process of disaffiliation or were already disaffiliating from their sororities.

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When the statement and numbers were first made public on the afternoon of July 28, 73 sorority members had signed the form in solidarity with the statement's authors, according to the Tuesday Instagram post. But the post noted that no members from Kappa nor Theta had signed at the time of publication. 

“The Open Letter of Group Disaffiliation was shared with all [Kappa] chapter members,” wrote rising senior and president of Kappa Kappa Gamma Ellie Watson, “and has sparked internal chapter discussion and reflection about ways that we can change and reform both individually, as a chapter, and as a community. The Zeta Omicron Chapter is actively engaged in moving forward in cultivating a more inclusive experience within the chapter and on campus.”

Lauren Halloran, a rising senior and president of Kappa Alpha Theta, wrote in a statement to The Collegian that she was grateful for the work the Abolish Richmond Greek Life account has done in bringing important issues to light. 

“I empathize with those who are hurting and I am saddened by the role the Greek community and Theta has played,” Halloran wrote. “We have been evaluating ourselves internally and our role in the UR community. Our leadership is trying to determine sustainable long term action points to cultivate a more inclusive campus culture.”

The statement and the form attached to it were sent to the entire Theta chapter after it was shared with her on Monday, she wrote. The Collegian could not verify who sent the statement and the form to the chapter. 

“Each member was provided with the autonomy to choose whether to remain affiliated or not — an individual choice our leadership pledged to honor and respect.” Halloran wrote. “Whether our members remain affiliated or not, we are all driven and determined to foster change.”

As of the evening of July 29, 111 sorority members had signed the form in solidarity, the co-author said. Members from Kappa and Theta had signed as of Wednesday evening, meaning there is now support from every Panhel chapter, she said. An updated numerical breakdown of respondents by Panhel sorority won’t be shared again publicly until next week, the co-author said.

The form also includes a space for fraternity members to sign but none have as of the evening of July 29, the co-author said. Co-authors did not send the statement to IFC fraternity chapters on Monday, the co-author said.

Panhellenic Council president Maggie Castelli, a rising senior, wrote the following statement to The Collegian: “Every woman has the right to make her own decisions, and I cannot comment on the individual choices of members in our community.”

The co-author said she heard a few repeating themes from people who were hesitant to disaffiliate from their sororities. Attachment to the social comfort sororities provide was one theme, but another was the idea that members could still change their sororities from the inside, the co-author said. She cautioned that people should not judge those who remain in Greek Life too harshly. 

“People can change; opinions can change,” she said. “If you learn something new, it can influence you to think differently. I wasn’t 100% for abolishment at first. And then after numerous conversations, I realized that it wasn’t going to work — at least, maintaining the system wasn’t going to work.”

Contact opinions and columns editor Conner Evans at conner.evans@richmond.edu.

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