Disaffiliation: Benefit to Greek Life?
By Russell Schmidt
The tragic accident that occurred in the early morning of December 3, 2013 forced our community to reevaluate the party environment that exists on campus and caused us to reflect on the potential dangers that it fosters for all those involved. In response, the student body entered into conversation with the administration and prompted dialogue on how to solve the issue of drunk driving in a social culture dominated by fraternity parties held at remote, off-campus houses. Fifteen months have passed since the accident, and we have collectively taken significant steps towards reducing the threat posed by drunk driving within our community:
- The Promise Committee was formed by students to spread awareness and help combat the existing threat of drunk driving in our community
- With financial support and legal counsel from the Student Affairs office, the Promise Committee has developed a safe ride program that provides fraternity drivers with yellow flags to place on their cars, indicating that they are a sober and reliable means of getting home
- Fraternities have begun to publish “driver lists,” often in conjunction with the Promise Committee, in email invitations to parties, providing the names and phone numbers of sober drivers for the night
- The IFC released a new “Social Event Policy” last spring designed to accommodate fraternities in the process of registering and hosting parties at their on-campus chapter houses
The student body has demonstrated a remarkable level of commitment to eradicating drunk driving on campus, and the importance of the progress that has been made thus far cannot be understated. However, these successful initiatives have exposed a deep-seeded flaw in our current social structure.
While fraternities have been able to work with the administration to provide safer, more reliable transportation for their parties, sororities have been unable to follow suit as a result of the overbearingly restrictive rules placed on their chapters by national Greek organizations. There is a serious gender imbalance embedded in the social culture of our school, and the discussion on this topic needs to begin now.
Below is a statement from former Panhell President Margaret McClintock ‘15 expressing her thoughts on sorority nationals and their relationship with W&L sorority members:
Sorority Nationals can be a blessing, but they also have their curse-worthy moments. They do create an environment that fosters wonderful friendships, yet also limit our ability to be women of the twenty-first century. Nationals enforce strict rules like no drinking or men in the sorority houses. They limit our budget, making it difficult to have parties and take significant social responsibility. Even sober driving becomes a complication for sorority women because of the liabilities it places on the national groups.
Concerns over this liability and larger sorority image constrain our entire social structure, but how many women actually buy into prim 1950s expectations of our national chapters? Sorority women are in a catch-twenty-two – our respective university administrations encourage us to participate in meaningful discussion about gender relations and equality while our national chapters expect us to act like a perversion of virgins and old maids. Is it not hypocritical for us to demand equal pay from male bosses yet let our fraternity friends take on all the responsibility and liability of the college social life?
At the beginning of this semester, the National Panhellenic Council (NPC) sent a letter to all W&L sorority members explicitly forbidding them from attending any fraternity-related events on Tear Night. According to the NPC, Tear Night is such a dangerous event that it would be simply unacceptable to trust the ability of W&L Greek women to make their own decisions.
The NPC’s concerns regarding the “high-risk” nature of Tear Night are not baseless, as the number of alcohol-related visits to the student health center is typically higher on Tear Night when compared to other Saturday nights. However, the NPC failed to recognize that our community had already taken significant steps towards addressing the risks associated with this night.
Despite the NPC’s mandate, all members of the W&L community were able to attend the Tear Night festivities, due in large part to the efforts of the Student Affairs office. The collective measures we implemented to help mitigate the risks associated with this night were successful, as alcohol-related visits to the health center were significantly lower than in years past.
The actions of the NPC were clearly proven to be out of touch and uninformed, indicating an alarming level of ignorance and arrogance in their attempt to subvert our community’s right to self-govern. However, what is more concerning is the NPC’s complete lack of trust in our own female Greek members. This degrading and discriminatory lack of trust in fellow members of our community should not be taken lightly by our Community.
The administration has been able to successfully work with fraternities in encouraging more parties being hosted on-campus. While sometimes these parties conflict with the policies of a fraternity’s national organization, Students and administrators have been willing to take on this risk in order to improve the well-being and safety of W&L students. Additionally, the administration was able to successfully overrule the NPC’s mandate that W&L women not attend any fraternity events on Tear Night. As our community continues to combat the issues of drunk driving, social gender inequality and sexual misconduct, it is essential that we begin to question the outdated policies of the NPC and sorority nationals. These external bodies are restricting our ability to effectively govern and perpetuating systematic inequality against the female members of our community.
It is imperative that our community is able to address these issues using our internal structures of governance and cooperation that have proven successful in the past. If the national organizations refuse to allow us to implement changes that we deem necessary for the well-being of the School, then Greek members should discuss possible disaffiliation from these national organizations.
To think that we need an additional, removed entity such as the Greek national organizations to effectively govern ourselves is unreasonable. To think that we should allow these national organizations to supersede our right to govern ourselves and shape the future of our school is unacceptable.
For a link to the results of a survey The Spectator took on this topic, click here
For a link to the answers of female respondents, click here
For a link to the answers of male respondents, click here