Letter to the Community: It’s time to end Greek life at Stanford

Aug. 6, 2020, 10:27 a.m.

Abolish Stanford Greek is a growing coalition of Stanford students and alumni committed to ending the presence of Interfraternity and Inter-Sorority Council Greek chapters on Stanford’s campus. We believe these Greek chapters perpetuate white supremacy in addition to furthering a culture of misogyny, ableism, classism, homophobia, heteronormativity and elitism on campus that goes against the values Stanford claims to support.

After years of inadequate reforms and burdensome efforts, predominantly led by Greek members who are first generation, low income, LGBTQ+, and/or people of color, we are organizing to abolish this system, which was designed to institutionalize privilege and divide us. To be clear, we draw a distinction between organizations in the Interfraternity and Inter-Sorority Councils (IFC/ISC) and those of Multicultural Greek Council (MGC) and African American Fraternal and Sororal Association (AAFSA) governing councils. MGC and AAFSA organizations provide an incredible community for BIPOC students, and should not be considered in our call to action. All further references to “Greek life” describe IFC and ISC organizations.

We are following the lead of folks who have been calling to abolish Greek life for years, even decades. As much as Greek life has been harmful to some members within the system, it ultimately has been a sore that has harmed communities across Stanford. We acknowledge that we are joining this movement late, but we are now calling to abolish Stanford Greek life in the hopes of contributing to positive change. 

Amongst Stanford students, and especially those in Greek life, there is a mentality that Greek life is somehow “different” at Stanford — that we don’t condone the overt racism of Southern chapters or don’t associate with the racist origins of the national organizations. This is not true. Stanford is not exceptional. From the personal stories published on the @DearStanford Instagram account to the numerous op-eds in The Daily over the years, it is abundantly clear that Greek life has caused irreparable harm to the Stanford community. Earlier this year, Lizzie Ford ’20 detailed her own racist and classist experiences within her ISC chapter. Today, we echo her call for the end of Greek life at Stanford. Given everything from the repeated instances of non-Black Greek affiliated students using the n-word in social settings to the Greek system’s protection of sexual assault perpetrators, it’s time to stop making excuses and organize to abolish a violent and antiquated system. Only then will we realize institutional change. 

Stanford Greek life is inseparable from its roots, its national affiliations and its history of harm on this campus. As colleges became more diverse after the Civil War, fraternities required members to be white, Protestant, and even “Aryan” to prevent Black, Jewish, and other marginalized students from joining their ranks. These racist chapters still exist and thrive today. Earlier this summer, alumnus Rep. Joe Kennedy disaffiliated from Stanford’s Kappa Alpha Order, a chapter founded by members of the Confederacy. 

While these organizations no longer limit membership to white Christian students, they still uphold white supremacy. For example, many continue giving preference in recruitment and leadership to students who are “legacies” and have family members with prior ties to the organization, thereby perpetuating white privilege even to this day. An organization founded on white supremacy, toxic masculinity and heteronormativity cannot be reformed, as we’ve learned through personal experience. 

Many of us in Abolish Greek Stanford were not only a part of Greek life during our time at Stanford but also worked to make our chapters and the community as a whole more equitable and inclusive, only to be met with apathy and resistance. Reform efforts over the years have been consistently dismissed or failed to take hold. ISC and IFC Greek life must be abolished. Of course, the burden for initiating these has also fallen on the few FLI, LGBTQ+, and BIPOC students in the organizations. Five years ago, California State Senate candidate Jackie Fielder ’16 published an op-ed explaining why she deactivated while she was ISC President, after encountering institutional efforts against her proposed changes to make ISC recruiting more accessible to low-income students like herself.

After little change, enough is enough. We are frustrated that members of color are often treated as indistinguishable tokens of diversity within their own organizations. Frustrated that sororities are forced by their leadership to continue relationships with fraternities whose members have harmed so many students in order to uphold social standing. Frustrated that the same few people have to not only call out but fight leadership when a bigoted theme for an event is suggested. Frustrated that we have to beg our national organizations to state they will accept trans students as members. Frustrated that the same few people have to call out chapter leadership for appropriating Native culture. Frustrated that every year, leadership and membership is predominantly white. Frustrated that our fellow members cannot be bothered to pronounce the names of members correctly, even after years of our membership. Frustrated that frat parties are filled with non-Black members saying the n-word and justifying its acceptability as part of a song lyric. 

As white America belatedly reckons with the systems of white supremacy that undergird police brutality and perpetuate racism at every level of government and American society, Stanford’s IFC and ISC organizations choose to look the other way. For those organizations that have acknowledged their racist histories and promised to use their privilege for progress, we ask you to heed your own words and disband your chapters. Consider this op-ed a public response to the statements that many chapters released pledging to be “better allies” and asking for “accountability.” Now is the time to not just reflect on these organizations’ roots and problematic positions on campus, but also to actualize real change and not merely reforms. In addition to the countless instances in which ISC/IFC organizations have caused harm on campus, their existence alone as chapters of national Greek organizations is tacit consent to white supremacy. 

In addition to its social harm, Stanford Greek life perpetuates material inequality on campus by allocating preferable housing options to members of ISC/IFC via frat and sorority houses. Sigma Nu and Phi Psi enjoy prime real estate on the lower row, TDX and Kappa Sigma are conveniently nestled behind Tressider. Sororities are slightly less centrally located, but still benefit from the general advantages that come from living in a self-op – a private chef, endless snacks, and two-room doubles. As a result, non-Greek students are more likely to be relegated to the margins of campus.  Given the demographics of these Greek organizations, and the fact that students have to pay expensive dues to join, these advantages are funneled towards the white and wealthy. 

None of this is acceptable and we can’t keep pretending that it is. The internal changes we’ve been trying to implement for years have not led to meaningful improvements in the inclusivity of our organizations or in our individual experiences as marginalized students. We also can’t keep pretending that the system will magically or naturally fix itself. Nor can we pretend that a system built on the premise of elitist exclusion will ever be inclusive.

We do want to acknowledge that some Stanford ISC/IFC chapters have also provided important community spaces for folks from marginalized communities. We do not wish to discount those experiences. Moving forward, we want to reimagine what types of community spaces we can create that still support students from marginalized communities but are not entrenched in the intolerant structure of Greek life. 

While we do not and cannot speak for all historically marginalized communities, based on our experiences, IFC and ISC organizations are incongruent with Stanford’s community goals and values of diversity and inclusion. As the Black Lives Matter movement grows in strength and Stanford’s own recruitment and residential life plans are disrupted due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, now is the time for Stanford to abolish Greek life for good. 

As Stanford alumni, today we are launching the @abolishstanfordgreek Instagram account and petition to call for an end to Greek life at Stanford. If you have a Greek life experience that you would like to anonymously share with @abolishstanfordgreek, please fill out this form

To each chapter and individual who posted a statement claiming allyship, we challenge you to demonstrate your allyship by joining our call to action and signing on to this open letter to the administration calling on Stanford to abolish Greek life, voting within your chapter to disband yourselves, and deactivating. The current list of signatories is by no means all encompassing as it is a live list. This open letter to the community is merely a starting point, and we welcome you to join our list of signatories here. You can view the most up to date list of signatories here.


Abolish Stanford Greek

Contact the writers of the letter at abolishstanfordgreek ‘at’ gmail.com.

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