It continues to perpetuate racism, sexual assault, and elitism
According to the CU Denver Greek Life Commitment to Diversity and Inclusion Statement, “Encouraging a culture of empathy and inclusion, members of social Greek letter organizations are required to participate in a comprehensive leadership development curriculum centered on mutual respect and cultural sensitivity.” It is evident that the University is taking every precaution possible to make Greek life an inclusive space, but the history of Greek organizations makes that near impossible.
In 2018, Baylor senior and Phi Delta Theta President Jacob Anderson was accused of four counts of sexual assault, and according to the Washington Post, he did not receive jail time. Similar cases have been seen in Greek organizations at Wesleyan University, University of Wisconsin, and recently, CU Boulder’s campus. Greek organizations across the country have faced countless scandals, from blatant racism to sexual assault, despite the rise of Title IX and so-called “diversity committees.”
The first fraternities all began at elite, white-male-only universities as philosophical or literary clubs in the late 18th century. Once women entered academia half a century later, sororities became popular. Black Greek organizations were founded soon after in resistance to exclusivity policies within historically white fraternities.
While de jure segregation in Greek organizations was eliminated alongside the Civil Rights Movement, many racist acts have occurred within Greek organizations since. From the “Halloween in the Hood” frat party at Johns Hopkins University in 2006 to videos of sorority members in black face surfacing at the University of Oklahoma in early 2019, racism is alive and well in Greek letter organizations.
Additionally, “paying for friends” refers to paying membership dues for the social gain often associated with Greek life. It is often an argument used against Greek letter organizations, and it does apply to a certain degree. Most Greek organizations require members to pay dues each semester, which dramatically vary depending on the university and the organization itself. Some ask for a recruitment fee, usually between $50 and $75. At the University of Southern California, the average yearly dues for sororities are $1,300 and fraternities are $1,200, but that does not include housing. New member fees are often even more expensive.
Once initiated into the organization, members are expected to invest in extensive wardrobes for a variety of events. During the “Big/Little” process, sorority members are encouraged to spend more money arranging gifts for their new sisters. According to a previous Sentry interview with Courtney Kristan, the CU Denver Greek life coordinator and previous coordinator for The Sentry, CU Denver Greek organizations would have the opportunity to fundraise to lower the cost of membership. However, even with scholarships and fundraising, membership dues are an unnecessary expense for many college students, and many choose to not join because of this financial strain.
Part of what members really pay for is membership in a historically bigoted space. Greek letter organizations are founded upon elitism, both social and economic. These histories repeat themselves because no one takes responsibility. It is not enough to simply disband a chapter or discipline individual members for bigotry. Just because people say “diversity committees,” Greek letter organizations continue to perpetuate racist and sexist acts and still require members to pay hefty dues.
CU Denver is a unique community: a tri-institutional commuter campus with an incredibly diverse student body. The networking opportunities and community advertised by Greek letter organizations can easily be found in other organizations on campus that don’t share the same foundations of racism, sexism, and economic elitism.