The Collegian
Friday, May 24, 2024

Ask Maddy: Here it is – my thoughts on Greek Life

Ask Maddy: Here it is – my argument against all forms of Greek Life at UR

Dear Maddy,

How do you feel about Greek life on campus?

Dear reader,

I hope you had an amazing spring break! Before getting into the question, I’d like to apologize for my absence. Not only have I had a lot going on (both here and at home), but apparently senioritis is a real thing – I don’t feel like doing anything.

Still, I am glad to be back to answer all your pressing questions about life at the University of Richmond. And this one in particular is a perfect place to get back into my groove.

For those attending UR, Greek life is one aspect of campus life that permeates every portion of our culture. To begin, I’ll go back to my first year: August 2019.

I’ll start with freshman orientation.

I came to campus early for the Roadmap transition program, as did my roommate. Days later, we joined the rest of the Class of 2023 in New Spider Orientation. My group met in the Gottwald Center for the Sciences, in a room filled with about 20 to 30 sweaty first-years. 

While I will say I don’t remember every single thing our orientation advisors told us, I can tell you one thing – one of the first warnings I received was to avoid any and all fraternity parties taking place that week. It was a dry week, meaning no alcohol and no parties – especially for those under 21 like myself at the time.

Many of the upperclassmen I met that week also identified which fraternities were “better” than the others. Which ones to avoid. Which ones more Black people would go to. Which ones nobody really cared for.

That was my first time encountering Greek life at UR. People in my hall at Lora Robins Court whispered of parties happening at lodges that I didn’t even know existed. Students in my orientation group talked of shuttles that would pick students up and cart them off campus to house parties.

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To me, it was all foreign. In high school, I attended a few birthday parties here and there. But the students here were hungry for parties, and fraternities were ready to serve.

Following orientation, I definitely went to my fair share of frat parties. It seemed like the thing to do, and as an outgoing person, I enjoyed myself most of the time. But soon after, I began to note some of the more sinister aspects of what seemed like “the thing to do.”

It was then that the lore of UR’s white fraternities and sororities began to bubble over.

In 2019, the student government presidents on campus formed a committee to discuss allowing non-Greek-life student clubs and organizations to use a vacant lodge as a social space to create “opportunities to participate in the campus social scene.”

Soon after, following multiple incidents of racist names written on students' door tags, students shared negative feelings toward white Greek life on campus at a town hall with former president Ronald Crutcher. 

That next week, The Collegian reported that Theta Chi and Kappa Kappa Gamma had both been suspended. Members of Theta Chi had been involved in a video featuring “several clips spliced together of men drinking, dancing and talking to women” that one student called “creepy.” Kappa Kappa Gamma was suspended for a hazing investigation.

Here’s the kicker: a number of suspensions took place in just four years, according to The Collegian. During my time at UR, Kappa Kappa Gamma has been suspended twice. Theta Chi was suspended again the following semester and Kappa Sigma ceased operations twice during 2021, among other whispered allegations most of us may have missed.

At the same time, the Abolish Richmond Greek Life movement began to gain traction on Instagram starting shortly after the COVID-19 pandemic began. While in-person learning transformed to remote instruction, students connected – and seemingly mobilized – through social media.

The account advocated “for the abolition of Interfraternity Council fraternities and Panhellenic Council sororities.” It features a number of posts from campus community members with their stories of Greek life at UR, revealing an ominous pattern of inappropriate behaviors.

By late 2020, each member of the Panhellenic Executive Board, which governs the campus sororities, had resigned.

And by 2021, the Center for Student Involvement would release their findings following a months-long internal review of Greek life on campus. Over the course of the review, numerous members of Greek life organizations began to disaffiliate, a student-authored statement was released advocating for the abolition of Greek life and the revelations continued to flow through the Abolish Richmond Greek Life Instagram page.

The point of the internal review was to “address the current shortcomings in the system.” And the recommendations as a result of the review were released semesters ago.

So, why did I still feel the need to share the same warning my OAs had shared with me when I became an OA?

I don’t draw on this brief history to belabor the point. I do so to illustrate the changes that have not taken place within the culture that is Greek life at UR. It’s consistent and it’s pervasive.

I’ll also add that it seems fairly inaccessible – and I’m talking about the cost. And yes, I know there’s financial aid. But as a student from a lower socioeconomic background than most here, the process of “getting by” – exhausting every source possible – is not fun. I believe students should take advantage of the money that’s available to them, but asking for help – semester after semester – is mentally tiring. 

Lastly: I do not believe UR is fit for Black Greek Letter Organizations. 

I’m not using this platform to tear down the community. But I am simply asking us to consider its future.

It’s not an issue of the Black students who attend the school — it’s the nature of the school itself. As a small, predominately white institution, there is not that large of a Black population to begin with. Only 6% of the students at UR identify as Black, according to numbers from fall 2022. 

It is very challenging to attend a PWI as a Black student. Connecting with other Black students is one way to foster that sense of belonging we all look for. With that in mind, what is the point of exclusifying part of the Black student population any further? Is there a possibility that these organizations unintentionally foster out-group dynamics simply because there are so few Black students here – and membership is only attainable for a select few who are interested?

I don’t think these organizations should be eradicated. But with recent low membership and an overall shift in interest to other Black and/or multicultural organizations, I do wonder about their role. And I know — without a doubt — I’m not alone.

Overall, I do believe there are good people doing good things in each and every one of these fraternities and sororities. I don’t think that joining Greek life makes you evil. I do believe, however, there is more than enough room for improvement.

So, those are my thoughts. And I certainly hope you all will see them as just that — my opinions alone. Thanks for asking!

Warmly,

Maddy

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