The Abolish Greek Life movement

Ellie Lowe, Senior Writer

A total of 1,352 University undergraduate students, or approximately 37% of the University’s undergraduate population, are members of a Greek letter organization (GLO). Our University has acquired a particular reputation for its Greek-dominated social scene, consistently ranking in the top 10 of U.S. News and Princeton Review’s annual reports of the nation’s most Greek-heavy schools.

As the nation continues to wrestle with the inequalities exposed by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, as well as the mass police protests sparked by the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, the “Abolish Greek Life” movement gained purchase at universities across the country. The movement argues that Greek life is exclusionary, racist and misogynist, and structurally resistant to important reforms due to the hierarchical nature of national Greek organizations.

Due to Greek life’s considerable presence on our campus, the University could hardly stave off such a movement long. An Instagram account under the handle @abolishgreeklifebucknell was created over the summer, sharing submitted anecdotes that detail unique student experiences with the Greek system. Most are less than flattering, and many spark grave concerns about the continued preeminence of GLOs on campus.

The majority of the account’s submissions seem to delineate a Greek experience that is predominantly white, straight, physically-fit, and heteronormative. Other posts touch upon such sensitive topics as sexual assault and other serious emotional hardships, which the account argues is part and parcel with a cardinally Greek social culture. Some describe the stress of recruitment, while others talk about how students felt as a person of color in a sorority or fraternity. “Our organization was a mess. Racism, sexual assault, and breaking and entering was just the tip of the [iceberg],” noted one anonymous critic.

The @abolishgreeklifebucknell page also conducted their own research, distributing a survey about GLO abolition to the account’s followers. Out of 141 responses, 66% of those surveyed thought that Greek life should be abolished. While the results may not be representative of the opinions of all students at the University — considering the small sample size and the possible risk of self-selection bias — this result does speak to an incipient call for the total abolition of the Greek system at the University.

While there are students who support the abolition of Greek life, there are many who are more skeptical about such unconditional demands. With fraternity and sorority recruitment season recently concluded (albeit virtually), it is clear that there are still many students who see tangible benefits to Greek life. GLOs remain powerful arbiters of social interaction on campus, and philanthropic work performed by the fraternity serves as both an important personal and career experience to many. Greek life also fosters relationships with students in different class years, and even provides a substantial career network to those recent graduates, who may find themselves in particularly dire economic straits in the face of a galloping recession.

“[Sigma Alpha Epsilon] has helped me make better connections with the guys, helped me get more involved at Bucknell by hearing about opportunities around campus, and has helped me feel more connected to the Bucknell community,” David Lundy ’21 said.

“I joined Greek Life to meet people and make more friends,” Haley Scopelliti ’23, a member of the sorority Kappa Alpha Theta, said.

Other Greek members have contemplated, and even actually followed through with disaffiliation from their GLO. “Deciding to disaffiliate was a very tough decision because of how prevalent Greek life is on Bucknell’s campus; however, I ultimately made the decision because my values no longer aligned with what Greek life perpetuated and I was no longer interested in the party culture. I was also eager to discover a new side of Bucknell,” Megan Waldron ’22 said. “The past few weeks I have found some of the most amazing people and communities on campus that I never would have been exposed to if I had stayed in my sorority. It was a scary decision to make, but one that I am so grateful that I made because I am learning more and more about what Lewisburg and Bucknell have to offer every day.”

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