Students leave social Greek life following allegations of racism, sexual assault
Entire fraternity chapter disaffiliates after students put pressure on Greek life
Correction: This article has been updated to say that Allie Rivera is a rising junior, not a rising sophomore.
A call to abolish social Greek life from several student social media accounts has led to mass member disaffiliations among Greek organizations across campus, including an entire fraternity chapter.
These accounts accused social Greek life at AU of perpetuating rape culture and racism on campus.
“I was still remaining complicit in the Greek life community, and I think it’s pretty impossible to deny that it creates a safe space for abusers and racists,” Graham Payne-Reichert, a rising junior and the former vice president of AU’s chapter of the Delta Tau Delta fraternity.
AU’s chapter of Delta Tau Delta currently has no active members, as they have all voluntarily disaffiliated.
The referenced social media pages are dedicated to amplifying allegations of sexual assault and racism. The Eagle has not independently investigated the claims on these social media accounts and has decided against naming the pages for this reason.
On July 1, AU’s chapter of Alpha Xi Delta, a women’s fraternity, posted to its Instagram account that all of its executive board members resigned from their positions and suspended their memberships.
Gabrielle Kalisz, a rising senior who left Alpha Xi Delta, said that the Instagram pages helped change the conversation surrounding Greek life.
Kalisz said that Greek life “created a power dynamic for people to be abused or taken advantage of” that she no longer wanted to take part in.
“I always left parties feeling uncomfortable and feeling like someone had crossed the line, but not knowing how to respond,” Kalisz said.
However, leaving these organizations does not come without pushback. Greek chapters on college campuses are overseen by national organizations that define the rules and standards that members of a fraternity or sorority must abide by.
On June 29, AU’s chapter of the Delta Tau Delta Fraternity announced, in a since-deleted Instagram post, that all of its members disaffiliated from the organization, “in hopes of sparking the process of disbandment and ending the cycle of abuse, misogyny, and racism perpetuated by Greek life organizations.”
The original post was deleted after the national organization gave the now-former brothers a cease and desist letter, which ordered them to immediately cease and desist “all activity in the name of the Fraternity.” They were also ordered to turn over all chapter social media accounts to a chapter advisor, according to an email obtained by The Eagle. After that, a similar post was circulated on the now-former brothers’ social media accounts.
In the case of Delta Tau Delta, even though it now has no active members, it still remains an active chapter as designated by its national organization. Thus, it maintains recruiting privileges on AU’s campus. In a Facebook post obtained by The Eagle, the national Chief Executive Officer of Delta Tau Delta Jack Kreman responded to campus pressure.
“Delta Tau Delta does not intend to close the chapter at this time,” Kreman wrote. “We have enjoyed a good relationship with you and the University for nearly 30 years. Our task will be to best position the rebuilding of Theta Epsilon with different men.”
In a statement sent to The Eagle, Kreman wrote that “Delta Tau Delta is committed to working in collaboration with the Interfraternity Council and other stakeholders to address and improve campus safety and culture,” and that the chapter will remain open.
Elysia Gallivan, the national executive director of Alpha Xi Delta sorority, said that she hoped the organization could remain part of campus life.
“We feel that being part of the community would allow us the avenue to make the change we believe needs to happen, easier than just stepping away from the community,” Gallivan told The Eagle.
In an email obtained by The Eagle, individual members of Alpha Xi Delta who suspended their memberships were also ordered to cease and desist “all activities in the name of Alpha Xi Delta, use of any marks or premises of future Alpha Xi Delta membership.”
Some former members of AU’s Greek organizations aren’t convinced that change can come from within the organizations. According to Payne-Reichert, reform is not possible when it comes to the organizations that fall under the IFC.
Both Ethan McInerney, the IFC president, and Bella Dixon Smith, the former Panhellenic Council president, declined to comment.
Some students, like Payne-Reichert, said that they initially believed they could change the culture of fraternities and sororities by joining them.
“I was thinking like, ‘hey, these are good guys, you know, they seem to really, really care about this,” Payne-Reichert said. “I think that kind of justified [joining] in my mind. And, initially, I thought that if Greek life is so messed up culturally, that maybe I could try to affect some change from inside.”
Marc Steiner, a rising senior who recently disaffiliated from the fraternity Sigma Phi Epsilon, said that Greek life “has really done a lot more negative for this campus and just for campuses everywhere.”
Students say that the harm done by social Greek life cannot be overlooked for their own personal gains, and that it perpetuates a harmful culture.
“The topic of drugging [in Greek life] has become so normalized that it’s passed over in conversation,” Kalisz said. “Especially with party culture you kind of just learn that these things are normal.”
Kalisz said that at an event with a fraternity she asked a brother for a soda, and she does not “remember six hours” of her life.
While individual members may choose to disaffiliate from Greek life, the organizations will still remain on AU’s campus, for now. The specifics of disbanding differ across organizations, but many of them involve discussions with the national organizations, alumni, current members and the University.
“We definitely support whatever students are trying to do, but we want to make sure that we're doing the best for the community and the impact that it has on the community,” said Travis Roberts, the assistant director of Fraternity and Sorority Life and IFC advisor.
Allie Rivera, a rising junior and member of the sorority Phi Sigma Sigma, said she wants to disaffiliate from her chapter, however the national organization put a three-week hold on disaffiliations until dues that coincided with the coronavirus pandemic could be refunded to members.
Rivera, who is Hispanic, said that from the time she joined her sorority, she didn’t feel comfortable in the organization, but decided to initially stick with it and give it a chance.
“Looking back on it, I didn’t have the context to see that my organization was part of a larger group. And I guess I never realized that being a part of it is aiding the systems of racism, homophobia, transphobia, everything.” Rivera said.
Rivera also said that the ignorance she came across while in Greek life was “astounding” and that she felt she had to work extra hard to prove her worth in her organization.
“I really do think that if you've ever called yourself an ally, or if you identify currently as an ally, that there's no other choice. You need to disaffiliate,” Rivera said.