Undergraduate Senate unanimously passes resolution in support of unhousing Greek organizations

Oct. 30, 2020, 12:18 a.m.

The Undergraduate Senate voted unanimously to pass a resolution that encourages Stanford to unhouse Greek organizations following a discussion that lasted nearly two hours. Members of Abolish Stanford Greek, who authored the resolution, and multiple fraternity and sorority members attended the meeting to lobby the senators to support or oppose the proposal.

Because the Undergraduate Senate does not have the ability to actually unhouse Greek organizations, the resolution is largely symbolic. If the Graduate Student Council (GSC) also adopts the resolution next Wednesday, the Faculty Senate may have to add the resolution to their agenda, according to Undergraduate Senators. On Wednesday, the GSC indicated they were likely to support the actions of the Undergraduate Senate.

The resolution’s passage comes amid increasing calls from student organizations to abolish Greek life at Stanford and heightened scrutiny of Greek organizations on campus. Last spring, the University committed to maintaining the presence of the organizations on campus, but capped Greek life access to Row and Cowell Cluster housing at 10 out of the 30 Greek organizations on campus.

Terrell Edwards ’21 stepped down from his position as President of the IFC on Wednesday. Edwards voiced his support of the resolution, noting that, while there are members of Greek organizations committed to reforming, “right now I do not have confidence in the ability of Greek life to move forward on the issues presented in the proposal, as it is right now.”

“I think, Greek life needs university to help it move forward, and I think unhousing is a great first step towards that,” Edwards said. “I think unhousing presents the University with the opportunity to acknowledge underrepresented people on the row.”

“Housed Greek organizations are fundamentally harmful and fundamentally inequitable,” said Sylvie Ashford ’21 M.A. ’22, a member of Abolish Stanford Greek. “A ‘yes’ vote will not automatically unhouse these organizations, it will only ensure that the administration is thoroughly considering unhousing as an option. A ‘no’ vote is an active endorsement of the status quo and a vote against a meaningful path of reform.”

Besides outlining a process for the potential unhousing, the resolution alleges a plethora of issues with the Greek system, arguing that its recruitment process excludes marginalized communities through “implicit bias, nepotism, and rejection of non-binary individuals” and that the system perpetuates “white supremacy … misogyny, classism, homophobia, heteronormativity, and elitism.”

“Even if you see Greek organizations as an extremely positive source of community, why are they more deserving of houses than any other sources of community; more deserving than cultural groups or any activity or interest VSOs, for example?” Ashford asked.

Of the 14 senators in attendance at the meeting, 11 voted in favor of the resolution. Tim Vrakas ’22, Jonathan Lipman ’21, and Lenny DeFoe ’21 abstained, indicating they agreed with the problems identified in the resolution but had some concerns.

“I support the concept of the bill but not necessarily how it was written,” Vrakas said. Both Lipman and Vrakas suggested they had concerns about the timing of the bill. DeFoe said he agreed with the problems outlined in the resolution, but was concerned that the resolution did not adequately take into account the voices of everyone impacted by the demands. 

Senior Director of Student Engagement Snehal Naik also attended the meeting, encouraging the Senators to “do due diligence” with their decision making. Naik said he previously met with representatives from the Interfraternity Council (IFC) and the Inter-Sorority Council (ISC) and asked how many of the representatives had met with members of the GSC or Undergraduate Senate. “Only one or two raised their hand,” he said.

Naik went on to say he would support “whichever decision” the Senate made.

Matthew Frank ’22, a member of Greek life, said that he was concerned that the resolution does not present potential criticisms to the proposal, and that it does not sufficiently “consider the voices of Greek members.” Frank also noted that, without Greek houses, there may be fewer opportunities for meaningful social opportunities, and that students would likely have to resort to going to bars or using unregulated off-campus spaces.

“There is no reason for this resolution to be decided today,” Frank said. “There should be conversation between the two groups about moving forward in a place that allows hundreds of Stanford students who are in Greek houses to feel like their voices are heard and to feel like the solution validates their communities, which we do believe can be good and are meaningful.”

Frank added that he agreed with many of the concerns brought up in the resolution, but that he didn’t think “unhousing Greek Life is a pragmatic or comprehensive or fully thought through solution to this issue.”

Leah Harris ’22, a former member of a Greek organization, said that she thought Greek organizations had already been given enough opportunities to weigh in on the resolution, noting that many Greek leaders decided not to show up to the Senate meeting, which is public.

“We’ve been hearing reform has been attempted for many decades, and I would love to see reforms in Greek organizations,” Harris said. “Greek organizations can also take a lot of time to reform, and they should do that. But I’m not sure why they need to be housed to do so.”

Senator Micheal Brown ’22, who voted to pass the resolution, said that he had experienced firsthand the issues of racial inequity while attending a party at a fraternity house. Brown said that while rushing, several of his friends were frequently called the n-word.

“That’s not the experience that our Senate should be trying to uphold,” Brown said. “And I think there’s a variety of different issues that are coming from the fraternities and sororities and a variety of benefits that come from our community so I’m not personally in favor of abolishing fraternities and sororities but I do believe that the right step… is to unhouse the fraternities and sororities.”

Resolution author and Abolish Stanford Greek member Alex Young ’20 noted that by unhousing Greek organizations, the University would also create opportunities for more diverse demographics and types of experiences to be represented in those houses. She said that, while reform efforts are important, much of what is being suggested by Greek organizations has not substantially progressed for years.

“I was a member of a sorority and I have been working on reform for a long time, a lot of us have,” Young said. “It is really difficult and the question of ‘is this the right way to go about it’ comes up over and over and over again to the point that it seems that things get blocked simply because there is no perfect way to go about it… So will unhousing solve everything? No. But is it an amazing first step? Yes.”

Isaac Roland Harris ’21, a current member of Kappa Sigma, said that because the pandemic has postponed Greek recruitment, organizations have a unique opportunity to make substantial progress through reform efforts. 

“To act like Greek life is this fixed thing that existed in the past in one way, shape or form and can never be reformed, I think at this particular moment is not true,” Harris said. “This is a critical juncture by virtue of the fact that recruitment has been paused, in which we can actually make much more meaningful reforms. And I think that our organization is poised to do that.”

Vrakas brought up the possibility that Greek organizations may be able to facilitate productive reform efforts if they were to disaffiliate from national Greek chapters. However Senator Sarah Saboorian ’22 noted that the University may not support disaffiliation, given that national chapters often cover insurance costs for Greek houses.

The Senate also unanimously passed a resolution in support of #EndSARS, a movement protesting the actions of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) in Nigeria. The resolution urges the University to release a statement of solidarity with the “Nigerian community and more broadly the African community” that includes health resources and facilitates conversation around the movement

“We want to ensure that students have a space to grieve, advocate and process everything that is going on without having to worry about school and immediate pressures that Stanford brings,” Senator and resolution co-author Emily Nichols ’23 said.

This article has been updated to clarify that Emily Nichols is a co-author of the resolution in support of #EndSSARS and that the resolution urges the University to release a statement of solidarity with the Nigerian community and more broadly the African community. This article has also been updated to clarify that Micheal Brown said he experienced racial inequity while attending a party at a fraternity house.

Contact Sam Catania at samcat ‘at’ stanford.edu and Tammer Bagdasarian at tbag ‘at’ stanford.edu.

Sam Catania ’24 is the Volume 262 Editor in Chief of The Daily. Previously, he was Chief Technology Officer, the producer of the weekly video roundup, a news beat reporter covering COVID-19 on Stanford's campus and the assessment team leader of The Daily's Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) team. Sam hails from Philadelphia and is studying Symbolic Systems. You can follow him on Twitter @sbcatania. Contact him at scatania 'at' stanforddaily.comTammer Bagdasarian '24 is an Executive Editor for The Daily, and is planning to major in Communication and Political Science. He previously served as a News Managing Editor. Contact him at tbagdasarian 'at' stanforddaily.com

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