Greek Life, Targeted

A2Georgetown University prides itself on its founding Jesuit values and has, therefore, historically made a concerted effort to distance itself from Greek life on campus, largely content to ignore its growing presence. Yet, recent measures taken by the university indicate a targeted, unfounded attack on social fraternities and sororities.

At this fall’s Council of Advisory Boards Fair, in an over-the-top effort to disassociate itself from Greek and other non-access-to-benefits organizations, the university placed a large, conspicuous sign in front of Red Square noting that certain student groups are unrecognized at Georgetown. Last week, students received an email from Vice President for Student Affairs Todd Olson and Associate Vice President for Student Affairs Jeanne Lord, unequivocally discouraging students from involvement in Greek organizations. Citing Georgetown’s tradition of Jesuit education, the email reiterated the Greek system’s unofficial status and encouraged students to seek out other campus organizations. Olson and Lord further noted that “organizations at Georgetown are expected to comply with a standard of open membership, one which contributes to building the inclusive and welcoming student community at the heart of the Georgetown experience.”

The ambiguous phrase “standard of open membership” seems strangely ill-suited in the context of Georgetown’s extracurricular offerings and social culture. Most large Georgetown student groups — Students of Georgetown, Inc., the Georgetown University Alumni and Student Federal Credit Union, this very newspaper and even volunteer programs — are notorious for being highly selective, competitive and socially exclusive. While there are undoubtedly arguments to be made about negative aspects of the Greek system — among them allegations of hazing, homogeneity and alienating superficiality — the criteria Georgetown used to single out these organizations is disingenuous, and the email added nothing productive to the greater conversation about inclusion and acceptance across the Georgetown community.

By purposefully attacking sororities and fraternities, Georgetown disregards and insults the many students involved in Greek life who contribute to the vibrancy and mission of this campus. Instead, administrators should revert to treating Greek life as fairly as it treats other unrecognized organizations. Respectful disavowal is better than vocal hostility.

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  1. What a shocking display of ignorance (or is it malice) on the part of Olson and Lord. If they care so much about transparency, how about the University release the salaries of all administrators and faculty.

  2. As I said on the other article on Greek life, this is great. I’m actually not in Greek Life but i totally agree with the author that the idea of campus organizations having a policy of “open membership” doesn’t reflect the reality of Georgetown’s campus or certainly my experience of it. Frankly, it’s disappointing. My experiences with students at Greek life at Georgetown have been overwhelmingly positive. I think greek life has, unfortunately, developed a poor reputation largely because of the actions of Fraternities and Sororities at other schools, and if Georgetown is not willing to reconize them I understand that. However, the reality is that Georgetown student groups fall far short of any objective of being “inclusive” and that really is something that needs to change. One idea- perhaps Joe Luther and Connor Rohan, who seem to have made major strides in reforming campus policies on sexual assault, can try to start a dialogue about our campus culture and how it could become more inclusive. Otherwise, we can’t really claim we’re better than schools that allow greek life if the exclusivity (and lets be honest, a lot of the misbehavior) of greek life is just replicated on our campus through student clubs.

  3. Perhaps student groups like the newspaper and credit union are socially exclusive, but I’ve never viewed them as being major factors in campus social life. Important, yes, but students’ social lives are focused elsewhere. However, at many other campuses I’ve visited, the Greek system is the social life. One of the reasons I came to Georgetown was precisely the lack of a strong Greek system.

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