Student Affairs seeks to maintain 10 Greek houses on campus, improve the campus social scene and “better” the process of assessing Greek organizations with the help of a steering committee and Greek alumni, Vice Provost of Student Affairs Susie Brubaker-Cole announced on Monday.
“Our shared goal will be to create an outstanding Greek experience that is sustainable and lives up to our high expectations: one that ensures fairness for the extraordinarily diverse students and chapters that constitute our community; one that is proudly supported and enabled by the university and its processes; and one that is embraced and sustained by new student members for years to come,” Brubaker-Cole wrote in an email to all campus Greek organization members.
Housing in flux
Though there are currently nine active Greek houses on campus, the announcement came less than three hours before Greek chapter presidents were notified that the former Sigma Chi house at 550 Lasuen will be allocated to one or more University-recognized Greek organizations for the 2020-21 academic year. The Sigma Chi chapter lost its charter in May 2018 after the Sigma Chi International Fraternity organization concluded there were “few members who would carry the chapter forward in a positive manner.”
The Daily reported in Jan. 2018 that Sigma Chi International began investigating the Stanford chapter after an alleged drugging by a non-Stanford affiliate at the Sigma Chi house.
Brubaker-Cole noted that Student Affairs has heard concerns regarding housing, diversity and inclusion among Greek life members. She added, however, that Student Affairs has ongoing concerns with Greek life as well, including the practices of “hazing, unsafe drinking and drug-use culture, and unsound recruitment practices.”
Monday’s announcement comes in the wake of criticism over the removal and subsequent reinstatement of Theta Delta Chi’s (TDX) campus housing earlier this month. Though the University cited a failure to meet Standards of Excellence (SOE) expectations as the motivation for TDX’s housing loss, the house was restored after Student Affairs discovered a “procedural flaw” in the application of a curve to assessment of Greek organizations.
“I will not speak to the policy and conduct of TDX surrounding these issues in years past,” wrote TDX president Nico Garcia ’20. “Currently, we are building a space for the discussion of mental health, substance abuse, and peer advising among our members so that these are matters that are brought into the open rather than hidden, which is where they are the most harmful.”
In a January email notifying Greek leadership of TDX’s housing restoration, Brubaker-Cole wrote that Student Affairs is “supportive of Greek life at Stanford.” In her Monday statement, she elaborated that the University’s “expectations need to be communicated clearly, understood by everyone, and administered in fair and equitable ways.”
Sigma Psi Zeta (SYZ) co-president Katie Mansfield ’20 wrote in an email to The Daily that the Standards of Excellence (SOE) expectations “have been relatively straightforward,” though she added that the Multicultural Greek Council (MGC) sorority would like to see “greater transparency” from the University regarding the grading system.
SYZ specifically wants “clearer instruction on what organizations need to revise if they are classified as ‘Needs Improvement,’ or more support for organizations that are repeatedly granted ‘Exceeds Expectations,’” she noted.
It is unclear whether SOE will continue being the system by which Greek housing is determined. In her email, Brubaker-Cole wrote that the University needs to consider how “to create a fair and equitable housing allocation process for the future,” given that that there are 26 Greek organizations on campus and only 10 Greek houses planned.
Additionally, Brubaker-Cole did not specify whether the University will allow more than 10 Greek houses on campus at any given time. Student Affairs spokesperson Pat Harris told The Daily she has “no information on the possibility.”
“Following TDX’s housing crisis, I fully support making more space for Greek organizations on campus,” Garcia wrote. “I think they provide comfortable spaces for Stanford students to express themselves, make meaningful connections, and find community … That said, I do understand the issues surrounding self-selection that Greek organizations require and the complications to student housing that these cause.”
Kappa Alpha (KA) fraternity president Patrick Gilligan ’20 told The Daily that his organization, one of six currently housed fraternities, is “solely focused” on its role as an on-campus residency and convincing the University that it should maintain that role. Both KA and TDX are members of the University’s Inter-Fraternity Council (IFC).
“We are in support of all other housed organizations, Greek or non-Greek, and I am certain that any group which gains housing will be well-deserving,” he added.
New advisory groups
Brubaker-Cole also noted that she will be forming a steering committee of “students, alumni, administrators and professional staff” to host “think tank” sessions open to all Greek life members to solicit feedback regarding the future of University Greek life. The committee will help Brubaker-Cole formulate a “framework for reviewing and evaluating Greek-letter organizations” as well as “a process for chapters to have access to housing.”
Mansfield and Garcia both mentioned support for the steering committee proposed in Brubaker-Cole’s statement. Mansfield referred to the committee as “a good step forward” for the campus community.
The committee, Brubaker-Cole wrote, will invite Greek life members “to share their experiences with the purpose of fully understanding our current landscape and future needs.”
“I would like to see a stark appreciation for facts pertaining to Stanford’s Greek life and a concern for all viewpoints, pro-Greek and non pro-Greek,” Gilligan wrote of the committee’s work. “It is an important conversation.”
In Monday’s announcement, Brubaker-Cole noted that a group of Greek alumni has been convened by ResX task force member and former TDX member Jesse Rogers ’79 to “work directly with our Greek chapters to help define and encourage excellence in our community.”
Brubaker-Cole did not specify whether separate initiatives will focus on members of the Inter-Sorority Council (ISC), IFC and MGC or whether reforms will be approached in the same manner for all Greek organizations. Alpha Kappa Delta Phi president Christina Ping ’21 shared the Asian-interest MGC sorority’s perspective in an email to The Daily.
“I appreciate Brubaker-Cole’s efforts and sentiments towards increasing diversity and inclusion within the Greek community here at Stanford,” Ping wrote. “I think that Stanford does possess diversity to an extent … However, it’s unfortunate that very few ISC/IFC members know that the MGC organizations exist, or recognize us as ‘real Greek organizations.’”
“One conversation that definitely must continue is diversity and inclusion along lines other than culture and ethnicity — our national organizations often require dues of their members, or travel expenses to attend conventions, so how can we make that more accessible to people of different socioeconomic backgrounds?” Mansfield said.
Mansfield also reflected on the shared housing model piloted by SYZ and IFC organization Sigma Phi Epsilon at 1047 Campus Drive. The SYZ president wrote that the model “provides a lot of opportunity for growth, but only if all parties come into it with clear expectations and a shared vision.”
“It’s hard to organize around long-term change, build a specific living-learning culture, and get other members of your own organization to buy into it when you don’t know if you’re going to have the house in the next year, which isn’t something that the traditionally housed Greek organizations have had to contend with,” Mansfield wrote. “One thing the University should be mindful of is that MGCs tend to be much smaller, so being accommodating of those specific challenges as we move toward diversity on the Row is important.”
Mansfield mentioned that SYZ’s experience has improved in its second year sharing the house at 1047 Campus Drive. She also noted that SYZ co-president Ysabel Ojoylan ’20 will be one of the members on the steering committee.
Garcia told The Daily that TDX “and most of the other Greek organizations have played a very active role” in the campus social scene; however, fraternities including TDX and KA have been on probation for at least part of the 2018-2019 academic year and were consequently unable to host parties. Brubaker-Cole also mentioned Stanford’s social scene as a source of concern in her Monday announcement.
“This year, as many of these organizations have been under probation, I think they have not been able to play as big of a role, leading to some frustration among the student body,” Garcia wrote. “It is important that Greek houses give the space for social life through all campus parties and other social events because few of the other houses on campus are willing/able to do the same.”
“The biggest change to the social scene I would like to see would be fostering a feeling of respect of our spaces and the shift of accountability for damages to Greek houses to be not solely on the Greek organization but on the individual who chooses to make poor decisions while attending an all campus party,” he added.
While the University released a statement last Thursday regarding potential social initiatives, such as shutting down the Row for block parties and expanding Cardinal Nights alcohol-free event programming, it remains to be seen which initiatives will become reality, and to whom they will be targeted.
“We’d like to see some more MGC-IFC/ISC crossover so that orgs on both sides can be aware of each other’s existence and build relationships between members, as well as more collaboration between Greek life and other student orgs,” Mansfield wrote.
For now, Brubaker-Cole wrote that her “most immediate task” is “populating the steering committee and setting dates for the think tank sessions.” Garcia expressed hope that the steering committee would close a pre-existing gap between Greek organizations and the University.
“A big problem I’ve seen since I have been elected to president is that there exists a general disconnect between Greek members and the administration,” Garcia wrote. “Creating a ‘steering committee’ shows the commitment from the University to hear the concerns and opinions of Greek members which I think, in large part, did not exist before.”