From the Community | No new chapters, no new housing (for now)

Opinion by Haley Stafford
June 6, 2021, 1:14 p.m.

On January 12, 2018, seven Stanford students were suspected of being drugged at a Sigma Chi fraternity house party by a non-Stanford student. Two of the victims were members of the men’s rowing team, while the other five were members of the Pi Beta Phi sorority. 

On the night of the party, one of the male rowers developed symptoms resembling alcohol poisoning and was taken to the hospital. However, his blood alcohol content level was much lower than typical transport levels, suggesting he was drugged. The other victims also reported being unable to remember what happened the night of the attack.

Both of the men (one of whom was a member of Sigma Chi) tested positive for benzodiazepine. Rohypnol, commonly known as “roofies,” is a type of benzodiazepine that functions as a minor tranquilizer and is often used as a date rape drug. One of the Pi Beta Phi victims also had Benzodiazepine in her system (the other sorority members chose not to be tested).

Sigma Chi had just been relieved of yet another university-issued probation at the time. That May, Sigma Chi’s International Fraternity’s Executive Committee — a board of directors that makes recommendations concerning chapter problems amongst other administrative tasks — suspended Stanford’s chapter for its history of mismanagement and lack of accountability stretching back multiple years before the drugging incident. In an official statement regarding the suspension, the Executive Committee cited “risk management concerns and accountability issues within the chapter” for its decision and barred all initiated members from engaging in any Sigma Chi activity until 2021. 

Now, three years later, Sigma Chi alums are vying for the fraternity’s reinstatement on campus. The former Sigma Chi residence located at 550 Lasuen Street is currently reserved for co-ed housing as part of ResX Neighborhood D this fall. However, the fraternity’s suspension expires on June 6, and former Sigma Chi members are already pushing for reinstatement.

Given the results of April’s Associated Students of Stanford University Greek Life Survey, which found that about 60% of Stanford undergrads favor abolishing or unhousing historically white Greek organizations, now is not the time to reintroduce or rehouse suspended chapters on campus.

Proponents of Sigma Chi’s reactivation cite the fraternity’s legacy of desegregation as what sets it apart from other Greek organizations on campus. However, the alumni pushing this “we’re not like other frats” narrative conveniently ignore Sigma Chi’s recent patterns of systemic abuse of power, intimidation and lack of respect for themselves or others. In 2017, for example, a Stanford administration official suggested taking down a potentially alienating and intimidating flag from the front of the frat house to help Sigma Chi improve its image while on probation. Instead, Sigma Chi did the opposite: purchasing an even larger version of the flag to fly outside of the house and framing the original to display inside. 

During its time on campus, Sigma Chi existed on the fringes of active status — so much so that it invited University officials over for dinner in an attempt to improve its image and up its chances of survival after the eventual lifting of one of its many probations. 

If Sigma Chi wants to leverage its history with the civil rights movement to warrant its reinstatement now, it can not gloss over its more recent troubled past — especially the events prompting its suspensions in the first place. In addition to the deployment of date rape drugs on men and women in 2018, Sigma Chi was put on social probation for serving alcohol to minors in 2015. 

As a freshman whose college experience has yet to be distorted by the power structures of Greek Life, I do not want to live on a campus where date rape drugs are a risk at parties. By reactivating the Sigma Chi chapter, the University invites this environment back to campus and increases the possibility of another attack. Stanford Inter-Sorority Council/Inter-Fraternity CounciI (ISC/IFC)—historically white Greek Life—is not exceptional. Sigma Chi is not exceptional.

We deserve to live on campus without the fear of being drugged at a party. We also deserve the opportunity to form close in-person friendships that won’t be torn apart by sororities and fraternities every spring during rush season. I want to experience what college is like without the looming influence of Greek organizations and build relationships based on common interests. Stanford can’t fully celebrate the diversity of its student body as long as ISC/IFC organizations are allowed to require payment for membership and administer a recruitment process that self-segregates students by class, race, size, appearance, sexuality, and gender identity. 

Reinstating chapters now confuses the University’s decision-making process on abolition or dehousing by implying that these organizations are welcome on campus. The Associated Students of Stanford University survey shows that this is not the case. 

In the midst of analyzing student feedback to determine what the future of ISC/IFC Greek Life at Stanford will be, it’s inappropriate to bring back deactivated chapters. Sigma Chi’s return to campus would put the potential benefits of a gendered and discriminatory social life above real threats to students’ physical safety. Now is not the time for reinstatement of the chapter on campus.

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