While the administration may hate the sexual assault, binge drinking, and hazing that seems to come along with Greek life, they do not hate Greek life itself. As a former chapter president, I’ve worked alongside passionate staff members and administrators who care deeply about the academic and social well-being of DePauw students. It’s time to address the widespread misconception that the Greek system is “under attack,” or hindering the DePauw experience, so we can shift our focus to the future and betterment of Greek life at DePauw.
College graduation rates are 20 percent higher among Greeks than non-Greeks (USA Today). It is proven that participation in Greek life is positively correlated with students’ academic and social success in college. In the founding documents of every Greek chapter on this campus are core values of academic success, leadership development, philanthropy, and service. I place immense value on my own Greek experience for challenging me as a leader, providing a community and family for me on campus, developing my overall character, and giving me fun, memorable social experiences. But it would be foolish to think that the Greek system is not undeniably and structurally flawed.
It is our obligation as critical thinkers to question this system we value and with which we identify ourselves. Why do we accept the consistently high number of sexual assaults, drug and alcohol abuse, coercion, and pervasive sexism, racism, and heteronormativity cases manifested within the system? How can we truthfully tell ourselves that we value service and philanthropy when, in reality, some organizations do very little (if anything at all) to advocate for their national philanthropies? We need to stop hiding behind our privilege and acknowledge the dissonance between our talk and our walk. The University does not hate Greek life, but rather, they are advising us because we have failed to practice and uphold the values on which we were founded centuries ago.
So, where do we go from here? Let’s communicate. Let’s talk to one another, to our advisors, to the CLCD staff, and to the administration. Let’s figure out what it looks like to hold ourselves accountable to the high standards set by our national organizations, while maintaining the fun, central role that Greek life plays in our social lives and college experiences. Let us also challenge the University to hold themselves accountable, to support us in our endeavor to self-govern. No one is telling us to stop having fun. What they are telling us is that they will hold us accountable when our actions do not align with our values. They are also telling us that they will support us in making a change. In my four years at DePauw, I have never met an administrator unwilling to listen to me or less than eager to hear about life from a student perspective.
Greek life at DePauw is not going anywhere. The University would have to make huge investments in new infrastructure (dorms, dining halls, etc.) and would arguably lose financial support from key stakeholders. I hope this calms any current students telling prospective students not to attend DePauw because of anything related to Greek life. It is disheartening that we are not sharing the immense opportunity DePauw provides for students willing to better themselves as learners and thinkers.
It is time we look within and ask ourselves what it means to be Greek at DePauw. What matters to us? Are we prepared to evaluate ourselves, to look within our organization and to realize that the administration is not an enemy? What does “Uncommon Success” look like for DePauw’s Greek system? It is imperative that we ask ourselves what excellence looks like and decide what we will do to get there.