A couple of weeks after sorority recruitment, affiliated and non-affiliated alike gathered at Penn Women's Center to discuss the positive and negative aspects of Greek life.
Penn Association for Gender Equity hosted the event called "Unpacking Greek Life" on Feb. 7, in which attendees discussed issues ranging from race to misogyny and classism within Greek organizations.
PAGE is an organization that seeks to promote gender and social justice on campus. PAGE Programming Chair Tanya Jain said PAGE decided to host the discussion in light of the recent rush process and campus discussion around it.
Late last month, after sorority recruitment had ended, The Daily Pennsylvanian columnist Isabella Simonetti published a feature in 34th Street Magazine called, "Sorority rush failed me. It will fail again," which sparked controversy around the process. The vice president of recruitment for the Panhellenic Council submitted a guest column in the DP in response to the feature.
During the hour-long event, students talked about the imbalance between fraternities and cultural centers on Locust Walk. While fraternities lined Locust Walk, centers such as Makuu: The Black Cultural Center and The Pan-Asian American Community House reside in building's basements, or located further from campus.
“Locust is a place for everyone. Frats are definitely not a place for everyone. I feel like, in there being so many fraternities on Locust, [Penn] is prioritizing certain races, genders, or status above others,” College freshman Angela Yang said.
Students discussed Penn’s financial incentives to maintain fraternity spaces, and noted the relationship between university funding and fraternities. Many of Penn’s alumni donors, students noted, had legacy ties to certain fraternities.
Some remained unconvinced by this reasoning to uphold the fraternity presence on campus.
“It’s frustrating that it feels like there’s this excuse of money being that they don’t do anything about any of this, despite the fact that multiple peer institutions have banned all Greek life on campus and are doing perfectly fine, and have a huge endowment,” PAGE Chair Curie Shim said.
While some attendees advocated for the abolishment of Greek Life, others countered by noting the numerous benefits of sororities, from hosting philanthropic events to providing a welcoming community.
Yet not all found the Greek organization communities to be inclusive in regards to race, class, and socioeconomic status.
“Greek Life, as an institution, is maintained by race and racism. Is this something we can change?” Jain asked the group as discussion moderator.
“A lot of sororities are actively trying to be more inclusive. For example, I’m Chinese, and there aren’t a lot of Chinese people in Greek Life, but we’ve recently formed a diversity committee,” College junior and SDT member Kyler McVay said.
2017 was the first year that the Panhellenic Council had a diversity chair position on its executive board. The Interfraternity Council, the governing body of on-campus fraternities, also considered creating a similar position on its board. Attendees discussed the value of such efforts and whether they are enough.
“I think the heads of these Greek institutions need to talk to people in cultural centers, and talk about how racism is embedded in Greek Life, as opposed to just talking within themselves, and include other voices,” Jain said.
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