Student government referendum finds 1,100 voting students do not support presence of social Greek life
Majority of voters expressed support for more community-building alternatives to social Greek life
In the spring 2022 American University Student Government executive board election, 46 percent of students who voted said they do not support the presence of social Greek life on AU’s campus. Additionally, 73 percent of voting students want alternatives to community building beyond social Greek life.
The election saw record turnout at 2,408 total votes, with around 1,100 opposing the presence of social Greek life on campus. About 42 percent of students said they support its presence on campus. Around 12 percent of the voters abstained or were undecided.
The referendums serve to gauge how the student body feels about social Greek life, according to members of Abolish Greek Life AU. The organization was not allowed to form an official club under the Center for Student Involvement, so they worked to the Undergraduate Senate to put referendums on the ballot.
“CSI told them we would not recognize any club whose goal was to abolish another student involvement opportunity on campus (ex. abolish AUSG, abolish Student Media). We also encouraged them to start a club that provided involvement opportunities for students not interested in joining the fraternity and sorority life community,” CSI Director Ayana Wilson told The Eagle in a statement.
“This is our first chance ever in AU history to really get a read on how people feel about Greek life, and whether we have a mandate to do something,” said Parthav Easwar, a sophomore in the School of Public Affairs and College of Arts and Sciences.
In past years, there have been attempts to put Greek life-related referendums on the ballot, according to Easwar. Referendums assessing opinions on Greek life were passed by the Senate, but were not allowed on the ballot by CSI because of “pointed language.” With the current referendums, SG senator for the class of 2023 Jackson Beauregard worked with CSI on the wording of the bill.
Wilson said it is important to identify the different types of Greek life on the ballot since students may not know the difference.
Referendum results are non-binding to the University, though there have been instances where the University has followed the results of previous referendums. In fall 2021, the University added the Subway footlong back to the meal plan, after students voted in favor of the idea on a referendum. When students voted in support of fossil fuel divestment in spring 2020 following protests, the University board of trustees also voted “yes” to divestment, seven years after the original referendum.
“This is a really important issue and the students and we need to know what the students think,” Beauregard said.
With over 1,100 students opposing the presence of social Greek life, Abolish Greek Life AU hopes to use the votes of students as leverage with the University.
Though they have met with the University in the past when applying to become a club, they want to discuss the results of the referendum, Abby Sharkis, a sophomore in SPA, said.
“From the University, we just want to see commitment and a serious attitude. And not just a meeting to say that they've met with us and then can move on, like an actual, concrete, actual plan from the University,” Sharkis said.
In SG, Beauregard is working to organize a town hall meeting on April 15 to further assess students’ opinions on social Greek life.
Abolish Greek Life AU’s goal is to create a sense of community on campus that isn’t social Greek life, which they say are systematically exclusive spaces.
“People at this school need the spaces where this school is providing a community for them,” Easwar said.