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Keep It Like a Secret

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Written by Casey Enders

To the members of the University Greek community:

In many ways, the Greek community at the University lives up to its promises: it is a way to find great friends, take advantage of new leadership opportunities and enrich your social life. I have really loved being part of my sorority, as well as the broader community, and I know many graduating fourth years who count their decision to rush among their best decisions in college.

And yet there are many aspects of the Greek system at the University which cry out for reform and significant change. There are sororities that put their least attractive girls in the kitchen during recruitment, relegating them to making drinks because their own sisters have judged them unfit to represent their organization. There are women who are locked in hotel rooms and forced to drink copious amounts of alcohol during the pledging process. There are men who are encouraged to drink and drive, putting themselves and others at extreme risk. These problems warrant serious attention and, unfortunately, the system which currently exists to address these issues is seriously flawed.

The spirit chant accidentally released by one sorority during formal recruitment this year emphasized the very real problems in this system. The most shameful part of the entire incident was not necessarily that members of one chapter chose to degrade members of their own community and to vulgarize the recruitment process -- although that itself is a major cause for concern. What was most problematic was the way the Greek system chose to address the issue when it was brought to the attention of community leaders. Instead of condemning this behavior and approaching the incident as an opportunity to talk about and hopefully address this kind of inappropriate behavior, they worked to control the damage and stifle any discussion.

Unfortunately, this hush-hush handling of serious problems and resistance to reform is endemic to the Greek community. Where attempts are made at reform, they are superficial and do not even attempt to address underlying problems. Sororities adhere to stringent recruitment requirements; the length of rounds are timed to the second and sororities which close their doors 15 seconds too late are subject to fines which can amount to hundreds of dollars. Skit lyrics are carefully screened and offensive phrases like "Rugby Road" are quickly removed for fear of associating drinking with the Greek community. At the same time, incidents like the spirit chant and others which demonstrate blatant disregard of the no-booze, no-boys policy are "handled internally" and discussion is silenced. The community learns nothing from the experience, other than that they can continue to break the rules with the tacit consent of community leaders. The truth is that the leaders of our community are more concerned with leveling the recruitment playing field than they are with making systemic changes which could help stymie inappropriate behavior.

This is not to say the community hasn't made some strides toward reform; we should all learn something from the Big Sis Week panel that Alexis Tarbet -- former president of the Inter-Sorority Council -- established last year after serious concerns were raised about drinking incidents and allegations of sexual assault associated with the week's activities. Similarly serious discussions were held about bid day procedures and, since then, significant, positive changes have been seen in both bid day and Big Sis Week activities. These panels and open discussions are exactly the way we should be addressing problems in the Greek community. Instead of turning a blind eye to serious issues or choosing to focus on superficial issues such as recruitment registration deadlines and round lengths, we should zero in on the behavior which is denigrating our entire community.

Thus, this letter is a call for reform; it is a call for serious changes in the way the Greek community addresses policy violations. Making new policies is not an effective way of addressing problems if the policies are not enforced and if we do not use incidents as an impetus for change. The Greek community at the University has defined so many students' experiences, but not all of them have been positive. Instead of addressing superficial concerns and hushing up serious offenses to avoid the scrutiny of outsiders who "just don't understand," we should use these experiences as a way to start discussions about ways to make the community a better, safer place.

Casey Enders is a fourth year in the College and the former president of Kappa Delta.