Dismantle Institutionalized Racism in Sororities & Fraternities on US College Campuses

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In the 19th Century, college fraternities and sororities were established as exclusive, elite groups of White Anglo-Saxons, when “separate but equal” was indoctrinated and Black students were prohibited from enrolling in college and from participating in student life. The foundation of these groups were established on exclusion, which has never been dismantled and is still evident today in countless reports of racism, prejudice, and oppression every year in active chapters. 

The student life on many American college campuses is centered around Greek organizations, and as a whole, these organizations are predominantly white. They have allowed their members to participate in racist behavior without repercussions. As a result, we have been covertly teaching white students in our higher education system across the country that this is how society works. White students then lack exposure to racial diversity, which normalizes segregation, encourages implicit biases, and promotes institutionalized racism. In addition to this, established white alumni networks carry these biases and further exclude BIPOC students from the career opportunities, networking, and philanthropy efforts that greek organizations hinge on. These white students then graduate and continue this cycle within their workplace, their families, their communities, and the next generation, while BIPOC students suffer from the same attitudes of segregation that for so long have plagued American society.

In order to be allowed on campus, we demand that all historically White Greek Life Organizations must follow these steps, which will be held accountable by the organizations’ national headquarters, the individual university officials, and a newly established student oversight committee, designed specifically to address violations and reports of racist, prejudiced, or exclusionary behavior.

  • Zero tolerance rule: immediate expulsion from campus if the organization is proven to engage in racist rhetoric, activity, or exclusion.
  • Mandatory anti-racist education to every member in greek life organizations.
  • Chapters must amend bylaws, establishing the organization as one of equality and inclusion.
  • Both a written short-term and long-term plan to increase diversity amongst members, with accountability measures if not followed through on.
  • An established oversight committee on campus for students to report violations and seek support, with a defined set of procedures on how to process violations.

We must not allow racism to occur in our higher education systems. We must hold white students accountable. We must make an actionable plan to promote racial diversity and to create spaces that are more conducive to the advancement of students of color. We must help create a sense of validation and cultural relevance in light of the oppression and marginalization students of color have historically experienced in our education systems. WE MUST END RACISM, IN ALL ITS FORMS, ON ALL COLLEGE CAMPUSES.

Reported Evidence:

  • 2020 Sigma Chi fraternity chapter at the University of Arkansas hazing video mocking George Floyd’s death
  • 2020 USC Phi Mu member posts a group selfie on MLK Day, “Happy N***** Day”
  • 2019 Tau Kappa Epsilon University chapter of Georgia member posts video on social media slapping members with a belt saying “pick my cotton” and using racial slurs
  • 2019 Kappa Kappa Gamma of University of Iowa comments on post of members dressed in all white “join the KKK… I mean join the KKG”
  • 2019 Delta Delta Delta of University of Oklahoma sorority member films a video of a student painting her face black and using racial slur
  • 2019 Syracuse University reports over 10 incidences of racial hate speech and harassment within one month
  • 2018 California Polytechnic State University release of photos showing members of a fraternity at wearing blackface and dressing as “Mexican gangsters”
  • 2015 Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter at the University of Oklahoma singing an overtly racist chant is filmed and posted on YouTube

Sources: 

Kelly, C. (2019). Gillon explores issues of race in the history of fraternity, sorority life - UMaine News - University of Maine. [online] UMaine News. https://umaine.edu/news/blog/2019/04/03/umaine-professor-explores-issues-of-race-in-the-history-of-fraternity-sorority-life/ [Accessed 2 Jun. 2020].

Salinas, C., Gillon, K.E. and Camacho, T. (2019). Reproduction of Oppression Through Fraternity and Sorority Recruitment and Socialization. New Directions for Student Services, 2019(165), pp.29–38.