Stanford’s Inter-Sorority Council (ISC) and Interfraternity Council (IFC) will hold Greek rush on Zoom from Friday to Sunday. Following campus dialogue on reform and potential removal of Greek life at Stanford, The Daily interviewed current members and anti-Greek advocates on the equity of the process, the Abolish Stanford Greek movement and the future of Greek life at Stanford.
Abolish Stanford Greek (ASG) was formed last summer, following the death of George Floyd and national protests over racism, to fight back against institutions that members feel perpetuate racist, sexist and classist practices. Through an anonymous Instagram account, former and current members of Greek organizations at Stanford have shared dozens of negative experiences. Stanford’s chapter of Alpha Chi Omega (AXO) even dissolved after all but four members left before the start of the winter quarter. Its former president Noor Fakih ’22, now a member of ASG, wrote in an Daily op-ed in October that “despite the good-willed intentions of some members of Greek life, there is no tangible, positive progress that can be made, as chapter headquarters would simply not allow it.”
ASG has also begun to work with the University to advocate for removal, mounting pressure against Stanford’s remaining organizations to change longstanding practices, and against students to quit or refuse to join Greek organizations. Stanford Politics published a story in January exploring the the Abolish movement and the issues within Greek life students have brought to light.
In response to the movement, ISC postponed recruitment from winter quarter to spring quarter with the stated goal of “ensur[ing] a more equitable recruitment process moving forward.” According to ISC president Aracely Valencia ’21, on Friday and Saturday, Potential New Members (PNMs) will attend Open House. On Sunday, the “second night” of rush that was previously devoted to philanthropy, sororities will host events on topics picked by the chapters, such as reform and diversity initiatives, virtual philanthropy and others. The Preference Night, where PNMs decide between up to two sororities, will take place on April 12.
According to the blog post on the ISC website, the winter quarter design for virtual rush failed to pay “adequate attention to the ongoing campus conversations surrounding Greek life and recruitment” and consider the necessary accommodations for PNMs, “particularly those of marginalized backgrounds.” In the blog post, ISC leadership debuted an accountability tracker to publish the progress on its Inclusivity Compact, as well as a response form to accept “ideas and constructive criticism.”
ISC has also held weekly discussions that have resulted in changes such as “additional rounds for PNMs experiencing technical difficulties, splitting the first night across two days to make the process more accessible, and mandating cameras off to reduce potential bias,” Valencia wrote in a statement to The Daily.
IFC decided in the early winter quarter to schedule rush in spring quarter in order to prepare the new fraternity presidents, adapt recruitment to a virtual format and take into account the recommendations from the Fraternity and Sorority Life office working groups.
The groups were created in summer of 2020 to “to address diversity, equity and inclusion, harm reduction, community values, wellness and flourishing” of Greek life at Stanford and to make recommendations for implementation by FSL. Four of the seven workgroups of alumni, students and staff have completed their recommendations, to be reviewed by associate vice provosts Mona Hicks and Emelyn dela Peña.
According to IFC president Ben Zuercher ’21, IFC is implementing several changes suggested by the FSL recruitment working group to allow for more focus on chapter values during recruitment. Fraternities asked PNMs about how they plan to contribute to a diverse and inclusive fraternity experience during registration and are focusing recruitment events “on the state of the chapter, philanthropy and brotherhood rather than the unfocused events held in the past.”
However, ASG member Sylvie Ashford ’21 M.A. ’22 says that “the online rush won’t be able to solve the inherent problems in rush.”
“We believe rush will contain the same exclusive and problematic elements that it always does,” Ashford said.
As rush approaches, ASG is focusing on a boycott rush campaign through asking students to sign a pledge and hosting panels on Wednesday and Thursday for students and alumni to share their experiences as former ISC and IFC members. Ashford said they are meeting with various student group leaders and promoting their events as “alternative sources of community to rush.”
“Our sophomores have only had one year at Stanford, and freshmen have had no years at Stanford. There’s a lot of room for education and exposure for these students who don’t necessarily know the legacy of harm Greek life has had at Stanford,” Ashford said. She found rush her freshman year “kind of upsetting and archaic.”
Zuercher wrote that the IFC chapters have acknowledged the “valid and legitimate criticisms of Greek life” raised by the Abolish Greek movement and that “even before ASG, leaders in Greek life have been working to reform many of its historically harmful practices, joining work groups focused on alcohol and drug use, diversity and inclusivity, and relationship violence, to name a few.”
“While there is still work to do, the changes we have made to rush this year will lead to a more values-based Greek experience, and PNMs that decide to join a fraternity will be more aware of how to combat the harmful effects of Greek life and contribute positively to the campus,” Zuercher wrote.
Individual sororities have also reflected on their previous practices. Margaret McKenna ’22, president of Stanford’s Pi Beta Phi chapter, characterized the year “as one of the most challenging, eye-opening” for the organization.
“Understanding how to proceed with recruitment over Zoom has definitely been an adjustment but also has given us the opportunity to challenge the structure and system that existed and explore more ways in which we can support our PNMs and ensure a more inclusive process,” McKenna wrote.
Sarah Lee ’22, president of Stanford’s Delta Delta Delta chapter, has also been reflecting on the “chapter’s place on Stanford’s campus, within our National organization, and within systems of institutionalized elitism, classism, and racism.”
“I think about the people that have been harmed, whether directly or indirectly, by Tridelt or the Greek system at large,” Lee wrote. “I think about my own role as a leader and woman of color at the helm of an organization I love but am deeply conflicted with.”
While Lee found her community at the organization and experienced how it is “to have my identities not only welcomed but celebrated,” she recognizes that this has not been the case for everyone in Greek life at Stanford — “that is precisely the problem that we cannot tolerate.”
Some of Lee’s considerations have been prompted by discussions started by the ASG movement. According to her, the leadership team at Tri Delta respects the work done by a movement that provides “a platform for people to speak their truths surrounding the harms that Greek life has rendered on our campus in the past and present.” She hopes to work with the sorority to create an “equitable, inclusive and just” future.
“We cannot and will not ignore the legacies of the institutions that Tridelt represents and is a part of, but as an individual, I carry my truth of believing in this community’s capacity for growth,” Lee wrote.
Valencia agrees that the Abolish Stanford Greek movement has brought forward issues within Greek life at Stanford, emphasizing the respect for courage to share stories on the platform. Similarly to Lee, she sees the capacity for growth and improvement for the organizations, recognizing that the process will take time.
“The experiences of our peers and alumni are ones we have reflected on deeply and ones we are holding ourselves accountable to,” Valencia wrote. “We are currently working to improve our processes — individually and collectively — and hope to make them more accessible, equitable, and inclusive.”
While ASG is working to center voices of both Greek and non-Greek students in conversations with administration, Ashford said the group thinks that “after having those conversations, the inevitable conclusion will be that these groups can’t have a place at Stanford.”
“But I think that takes bringing all the voices to the table because we believe that the harm of ISC/IFC isn’t limited to, say, non-members who go to frat parties. It really affects every member who’s a part of the system,” Ashford said.
The ASSU distributed a survey on Greek life via email on Tuesday to assess student opinions on Greek life with some live results available to responders. As of Thursday night, around 40% of survey respondents said that Greek life should be abolished, and 16% said Greek life should “lose privileged housing.” A quarter of respondents said Greek life should be reformed, while 17% said it should stay the same. Still, 17% of respondents said they are interested in joining Greek life, and around a quarter of respondents said they were former or current Greek members.
The survey writing committee was led by undergraduate senators Lenny DeFoe ’21 and Jonathan Lipman ’21 and included representatives from AGS, IFC and ISC as well as members of the administration.
ASG member Alex Young ’20 says their overarching goal is to end ISC and IFC Greek life at Stanford. In the short term, they focus on promoting radical reform like housing redistribution and disaffiliation from national chapters.
Young believes the administration has a responsibility to at least redistribute housing because “Stanford owns all of the houses … and has a lot of power to determine the social landscape and the power dynamics of our physical campus.” Currently, three fraternities and five sororities are housed at Stanford.
According to Ashford, ASG has met regularly with University administration and faculty members “to help [faculty] understand that housed Greek organizations will be given this position of power in the new neighborhood councils that no other student groups would have.”