Each fall, the Division of Student Affairs sends out an eerily familiar email. Disseminated by Jeanne Lord, associate vice president and dean of students, and co-signed by Vice President for Student Affairs Todd Olson, this message annually reminds students that “Georgetown University does not support a social Greek system.”
Per the university’s official stance, Georgetown provides neither funding nor official status to social fraternities and sororities, exiling Greek life to unrecognized status. The administration cites several reasons for this policy. It argues that Greek life is often associated with dangerous behaviors including hazing and alcohol abuse. It also notes that the decision is rooted in the university’s Jesuit values, which emphasize the importance of each individual and of inclusion.
The administration’s position on social Greek organizations is simply hypocritical. This is starkly apparent in its discussion of the issue of “inclusion.” While arguing that social Greek life is not inclusive enough, the university continues to recognize on-campus organizations with acceptance rates lower than its own, which this year hovered around 15.4 percent. For example, the university supports organizations such as the Blue and Gray Tour Guide Society, which had a 12.1 percent acceptance rate last semester, and the Georgetown University Alumni and Student Federal Credit Union, which accepted 13.8 percent of its applicants this spring. By recognizing Greek life on campus, the university would signal that it truly is committed to supporting inclusive organizations that align with Jesuit values, an effective way to demonstrate their common rhetoric.
Furthermore, the university’s characterization of the risky behaviors associated with Greek life may be accurate at schools across the country, but does not necessarily reflect the reality of sororities and fraternities at Georgetown. Moreover, if these issues do exist in Georgetown’s Greek life, granting the organizations status of official recognition would allow the administration to better understand and regulate this behavior. For example, granting official status to Greek social organizations would allow the university to collect more information and statistics about these groups’ behaviors, allowing a discussion that reaches beyond merely reputations and rumors. It would also allow the administration to include these groups in on-campus conversations about issues like hazing.
This is not the first time our community, nor even The Hoya’s editorial board, has critiqued the university’s position on Greek life. Two years ago, an op-ed published in The Hoya by Danielle Zamalin (NHS ’18) criticized the administration’s condemnation of Greek life, noting that the accusation of exclusivity that is lobbed at social fraternities and sororities better describes many of the recognized clubs on campus, such as Blue and Gray and GUASFCU.
Last fall, the editorial board echoed these sentiments, arguing that the condemnation of Greek life ignores the very issue that the ban seeks to solve: fostering inclusive on-campus organizations that also respect our Jesuit values. Yet, the editorial board’s critiques seemed to fall on deaf ears. Even as students — including, last year, the Georgetown University Students Association executive — continue to respond vehemently to its position on Greek life, the university has failed to adequately respond.
The acceptance rates for Georgetown’s sororities and fraternities, meanwhile, are stunning in comparison, even though the available statistics are limited. For instance, in spring of 2015 — the last available data — 100 percent of girls who completed the sorority recruitment process received a bid, according to Zamalin’s piece. Some of these organizations also take specific steps to ensure inclusive cultures: The Delta Phi Epsilon sorority, for example, recently held a focus group to direct their inclusivity efforts, seeking to create a space where sisters of all backgrounds could feel included and have their experiences heard.
In addition to their progress combatting exclusivity, many of Georgetown’s sororities and fraternities also embody the Jesuit credo of “women and men for others” through their charitable efforts. Last November, the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity hosted its third annual run to raise money for victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse. The Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity has sponsored a blood drive, hosted bake sales, and has consistently participated in Relay for Life. Similarly, DPE has hosted clothing drives and is currently holding a drive to provide underprivileged women with sanitary napkins.
The university should re-examine its policy regarding Greek life, especially as it continues to receive criticism from across the Georgetown community – from the editorial board of The Hoya to the GUSA executive. Hopefully, the student body will not have to read this editorial again.