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Sunday, September 26, 2021

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Greek life review continues, report expected in mid or late May

<p>UR students gather to eat and socialize on the THC bridge which has become a popular hangout spot during the COVID pandemic.</p>

UR students gather to eat and socialize on the THC bridge which has become a popular hangout spot during the COVID pandemic.

Editor’s Note: This article contains the perspectives of current Greek life members and CSI staff. The Collegian was unable to contact members of the review committee who are not affiliated with Greek organizations.

The Center for Student Involvement will release a report summarizing the findings of an internal review of campus Greek life in mid or late May, Director of CSI Alison Keller said. The internal review board, which is partially staffed by students, has spent the past eight months investigating and evaluating University of Richmond Greek life after the rise of a campaign to abolish Interfraternity Council and Panhellenic Council fraternities at UR last summer.

Keller sent an email on behalf of CSI to The Collegian on March 9 regarding the final report release date. CSI oversees Greek life on campus and has overseen the internal review process this academic year.

No announcements about the report’s progress or content will be made until the report has been received and reviewed by CSI, Keller wrote.

Calls to abolish UR Greek life began with the Instagram account Abolish Richmond Greek Life that started on July 6, which posted quotes from students recounting discrimination, harassment and sexual assault they faced while going through IFC and Panhellenic Council recruitment and while in Greek life. Other posts were sent in by unaffiliated students who encountered harassment during fraternity parties and other Greek life events. Posts claimed that these fraternities and sororities perpetuate white supremacy, classism, misogyny and sexual violence at UR.

In response to the account and calls of disaffiliation for Greek life reform or abolition, CSI established a board of UR community members to conduct an internal review of IFC fraternities and Panhellenic Council sororities that has been underway during the 2020-21 academic year, according to an article in The Collegian.

The Internal Review Committee’s 21 members include Greek life-affiliated students, unaffiliated students, affiliated and unaffiliated alumni and UR administrators, IFC president William Bartnett said. The internal review committee is split into different sections, he said.

“There is a steering committee that oversees the reform process as a whole [that] will ultimately be responsible for making some of the final recommendations,” Bartnett said. 

Below the steering committee, there are six working groups: Diversity, Equity and Inclusion; Greek Life Recruitment; Harm Reduction Related to Alcohol and Other Drugs; Harm Reduction Related to Interpersonal Violence and Healthy Relationships; Financial Inclusivity; and Number of Programming and Community Values, he said.

Bartnett is one of 13 students in the steering committee. The other eight committee members are six “resource experts” and two lead facilitators, Bartnett said. The students are divided into the six working groups, with each group led by a resource expert, who is either affiliated or unaffiliated with UR, and lead facilitator.

The steering committee meets weekly, and the working groups meet biweekly, Bartnett said. 

“The review board is working to address those problems [brought up by the Abolish Richmond Greek Life account] from an administrative perspective,” Bartnett said. “But from a student’s perspective, I am also looking to solve those problems because I am a leader of that community.”

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Junior Maria Perry, a member of Kappa Delta, is involved with the Financial Inclusivity working group and the steering committee. 

Perry said she had been very critical of the internal review process, but joined the committee as a KD representative due to her passion for social justice on campus outside of Greek life. 

“I think the results and discussions within the internal review should be more accessible,” Perry said. “Instead, it has become a bit more secretive and not everyone knows what is going on with it.”

Perry said the Financial Inclusivity working group had met three times and had not gotten into anything of "real substance." These meetings are led by experts who have been brought in to help reform UR Greek life, however; they don’t know the campus culture, she said.  

If the Internal Review Committee wants real reform, they are going to need to be more radical, Perry said.

“I think the information and results from the internal review should be more accessible,” Perry said. “Instead, it’s more secretive and not everyone knows what is going on.”   

Junior Mackenzie Brabham, president of Kappa Kappa Gamma, had not heard any updates from the UR administration regarding the current internal review process, she said. Brabham is not on the Internal Review Committee, but receives information because of her leadership role in Kappa, she said. 

Changes have been made to Kappa’s recruitment process by its national organization, she said. Some changes were implemented to sorority recruitment this semester, which began Feb. 27. For example, the legacy policy by which potential new members were automatically invited back to a certain number of rounds of recruitment if they had a relative who was a member of the national sorority was changed nationally, Brabham said.

“We didn’t want people who were in Kappa 50 years ago shaping the face of Kappa now,” Brabham said. “We want to push for more diversity and inclusion.”

Brabham was unable to disclose details on what specifically changed regarding the legacy policy.

Kappa also changed its national voting system to be more inclusive, Brabham added. She was not permitted to give further details about how the voting system works. 

“Everything that is going on has opened our eyes to a lot of things that I think we were not paying attention to. A lot of good has come out of this,” Brabham said. 

As of March 8, Brabham had not heard any updates from the UR administration regarding the current internal review process, she said. 

Keller did not specify what that final reform announcement will look like.

The calls for abolition of UR Greek life came as part of a national wave of “abolish Greek life” movements, which have reached universities across the nation. Students at institutions such as American University, Duke University, Northeastern University, Tufts University, Vanderbilt University and Washington University have called for abolition of Greek life at their schools through social media accounts and campus newspapers. 

Some suggestions for reform on a national level have included requiring fraternities and sororities to publish demographic data in an effort to increase transparency and diversity within the Greek system, according to an article from The Century Foundation, a think tank, titled “Separate but Unequal in College Greek Life.” Clio Chang, the contributor to the article, wrote that Princeton University has been one of the few institutions to collect this demographic data on its own Greek system.

The defined purpose of UR’s Internal Review expects to provide recommendations to make substantive changes to the Greek community that will significantly enhance the experience of students involved in fraternity and sorority life, and will also have a positive impact on the campus as a whole, Keller wrote. 

Contact contributor Caroline Lydecker at caroline.lydecker@richmond.edu.

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