Georgetown 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.