An Open Letter to the Administrators, Faculty & Board of Trustees at Colgate University
We understand that in recent years sororities and fraternities have been controversial at Colgate. Our agenda now is not to resolve this conflict, or expand the percentage of women in sororities at Colgate. We are only asking for one thing, equality for women on campus.
The Current Inequality
Currently the Inter-Fraternal Council and the Panhellenic Council represent roughly equal numbers of male and female students, but there are half the number of sororities. The six fraternities each pledge 17-25 members every year, while the three sororities must meet the 65-72 member quota enforced by Panhellenic (based on historical data and the number of women choosing to participate in recruitment each year). This leads to organization sizes far above the 105 members National Panhellenic Council cites as the healthy sorority size. We believe that the inequality in the number of fraternities and sororities creates a different experience for males and females at Colgate. The current policy goes against the ideals of the University in not allowing women and men to benefit equally from the Greek system. The current sorority size of nearly 200 detracts from the experiences and closeness that come from membership in appropriately sized chapters. By not expanding the number of sororities the University is allowing for this inequity to continue. These smaller chapter sizes are not meant to make any organization more exclusive, it is for the health of the chapter. We believe that women in sororities are denied leadership opportunities, as well as the ability to become a unified organization and that the inequality leads to a male-dominated culture on campus. To remedy this gross inequality we demand that there be a proportionate number of fraternities and sororities.
Leadership opportunities are one of the most valuable aspects of Greek organizations. Sorority women with positions gain valuable experience leading and working with their peers, the administration, and national headquarters. They have a chance to develop new skills and become empowered in their abilities. However, in a chapter of nearly 200 there are very few women who get a chance to hold executive positions. In the average sorority on campus, 16 women are the representative body of 200, while in fraternities the same 16 positions represent 65 men. Therefore, almost all men in fraternities have the opportunity to hold an executive position at some point in their three-year involvement, while only a small fraction of women have the same opportunity. In a time where Colgate is stressing entrepreneurship, leadership, and women in business it is appalling that this situation has continued to exist. We find this unacceptable.
A major component of sororities and fraternities is personal connection. Students join to make life-long friends and have access to a supportive alumni network. The fraternity men on campus are allowed this chance to bond, while women are not. Enormous chapter size weakens the ability to create a unified group. Every year women are turned down from living in their sorority because there is just not enough room. Some chapters cannot even hold weekly meetings in their own house, but instead must meet in a Colgate lecture hall. The large chapter size also weakens support from alumni. We find this unacceptable.
The discrepancy in membership numbers between fraternities and sororities has huge implications for social interactions between men and women at Colgate. When a sorority and fraternity plan an event together, there are three women to every man. This imbalance sets up a power dynamic that promotes competition between women and a pervasive attitude of male entitlement. Sorority women have been actively working to fight this anti-female social culture in other ways but we need more institutional help. More sororities would re-distribute membership numbers more equally. It is a reality that the health of social climate contributes to a person's physical safety and emotional well-being, all of which can be jeopardized by the current system. We find this unacceptable.
Living the Liberal Arts
In response to a recent plea for equal institutional representation we were told that the residential life plan was getting an overhaul, and organizations would have to show how they meet the vision of “Living the Liberal Arts.” The standards are: 1) Intellectual development; 2) Citizenship, leadership and service; 3) Diversity, access, and inclusion; 4) Personal growth, health and wellness; 5) Personal accountability; and 6) Lifelong connections. Sororities at Colgate perfectly fulfill these requirements. Scholarship is a main component, and sorority women consistently attain higher GPAs than non-Greek women. There is a major emphasis on philanthropy and leadership: one sorority raised over $40,000 for St. Judes in the past year. As for diversity, sororities have recently created an inclusion statement for recruitment and work has begun on creating more scholarships so that membership is not cost-restrictive. Additionally, some sororities have chosen to have their entire chapter Safe Zone trained. Personal growth and wellness are also major components of the three chapters. Each sorority has educational programming such as Yes Means Yes, self-defense and wellness workshops. All three organizations have safety nets for academic excellence, as well as a Standards Board that hold each member accountable to the chapter’s ideals. Last, lifelong connections are the defining principle of sororities. Women in the organizations are bonded to each other, and are part of a larger network of women with something important in common. Sororities are the ultimate representation of this vision, and would only better embody it by having more diversity in organizations and more manageable chapter sizes.
This year, in addition to the 195 bids that were extended, thirty women were not given bids. Additional sororities would allow us to be completely inclusive. SORT has already created a proposal to bring AKA to campus, complete with a list of women who would join should it succeed. There is a demand for expansion from outside the Greek system. We urge you to consider that in the past two years peer institutions such as Tufts, Brown, Columbia, U of Chicago, U of Denver and NYU have supported sorority expansion to meet the demands of female students. Sororities are also not permitted to host parties in their houses, by national charter, so three additional sororities would not add to the amount of noise or underage/binge drinking on campus. Sororities work hard to cooperate with the administration, and it should be noted that none of the sororities have been on probation for the past two academic years, nor have they had any conduct hearings.
We the undersigned urgently request that you reconsider sorority expansion. We are demanding that women have access to an equal Colgate experience that is currently restricted by the distribution of sororities and fraternities.