Students protest Greek life, spread awareness of alternatives

Activists pass out fliers with a list of alternative social organizations on campus to students coming to sorority recruitment on March 30. Ray Bernoff / The Tufts Daily

Coordinated recruitment for two Tufts sororities — Kappa Alpha Theta (Theta) and Alpha Omicron Pi (AOII) — began this week, after the suspension of recruitment for all Greek life organizations was liftedDuring the week’s recruitment events, some students gathered to protest Greek life as an institution and promote alternative social spaces.

The week’s events began on Tuesday with an orientation for potential new sorority members in Barnum 008. About 15 students outside the room handed out fliers to prospective members that listed dozens of alternatives to Greek life. They also offered to speak to students about places in which they have found community at Tufts.

“The goal is to raise people’s awareness and make people feel that communities are reaching out to them and that they don’t have to do the work of finding alternatives to Greek life,” Zoe Schoen, a sophomore who was part of the group outside Barnum 008, said.

Michelle Chan, another sophomore in the group, explained that her identity and background has prevented her from interacting with members of Greek life. She believes that the effort to acquaint people interested in joining Greek life with other organizations on campus was an effective way to foster interactions across different groups.

“As a low-income student, as a person of color [and] as a queer person, Greek life isn’t attractive to me in a lot of ways,” she said. “People in Greek life might not know about the things that I find a home in. I think being here is a great opportunity to bridge that gap.”

Bailey Siber, a junior, looked at Greek life through the lens of her own experience as a former member of ATO of Massachusetts, Tufts’ co-educational fraternity. She said many students at the gathering had experiences with Greek life that prompted them to push for alternatives.

“I can say I firsthand understand what [students interested in recruitment] are going through … and why Greek life … can seem like a really exciting thing that makes you feel good and makes you feel supported,” Siber said. “But … there are so many problematic things about Greek life, even if fraternities and sororities are trying to address [them].”

Julia Depp, a junior in the group, emphasized the importance of spreading awareness about communities outside of fraternities and sororities.

“The point of this was to get a bunch of really interesting and involved people who have sought the community elsewhere, and just [say], ‘Hey, we get where you’re coming from. You want community. Here it is. This is how you can have it,’” Depp said.

Later in the week, on Thursday at about 6:20 p.m., approximately 20 picketers took to the streets to protest the institution of Greek life on campus. They began protesting at AOII and walked to Theta afterward, spending twenty minutes outside of each house. Potential new members entered the houses for a scheduled recruitment event as protesters stood outside.

Protesters held signs that read “Abolish Greek Life,” “Greek Life is an Instrument of White Supremacy” and “AO-Bye.” They chanted “Up, up, up with communities! Down, down, down with sororities!” and “Hey hey, ho ho! This racist system has got to go!” In contrast to the gathering on Tuesday, these protests were explicitly anti-Greek.

Nicole Joseph, a junior who was present both at the community-building action outside of Barnum 008 and the Thursday protests, described the impetus for the actions.

“Since rush … started this week and we tried to do a more inclusive and community-building action [on Tuesday], we thought that we still wanted to show that there are people in opposition to Greek life on this campus,” she said. “We wanted to put pressure on Greek life as an institution.”

Joseph explained that protesting could help influence the Student Life Review Committee’s decisions on the Greek life system that will be made toward the end of the academic year, as well as an upcoming TCU Senate resolution on Sunday that calls for the abolition of Greek life.

Ben Kesslen, another student present at the Thursday protests, explained that the protesters take issue with Greek life’s continued presence at Tufts.

“We think Greek life is racist, classist, transphobic, queerphobic, ableist and ultimately just really violent. And I think it’s proven itself to be that, whether it’s the DTD stabbing, [reports of hazing at] Pi Delta [or] all the frats on cease-and-desist,” Kesslen, a junior, said.

Protests started up again at 8:20 p.m. and followed the same structure. According to Kesslen, between 40 and 50 people came to the second round of protests. He explained that there is no name for the group of students who protested, nor do they operate under an organized structure.

“We’re just a group of students who think that Tufts would be a safer, more inclusive and a healthier place without Greek life,” Kesslen said.

Sara Fitzgerald, the recruitment coordinator for the Panhellenic Council (Panhel), which represents Panhellenic sororities at Tufts, noted that Panhel supports the rights of the protesters to express their opinions as well as their efforts to publicize alternate social spaces and clubs on campus.

“Though we may have different means of achieving these goals than the protesters, the Panhellenic Council is committed to facilitating positive change within the Tufts community,” Fitzgerald, a senior, told the Daily in an email.

According to Su McGlone, the director of the Office of Fraternity and Sorority LifeGreek life as an institution has undergone changes this year in response to concerns about safety and inclusivity. She said that coordinated recruitment represents an important change, but that they are discussing further reforms to the recruitment system in the long term.

McGlone explained this year’s coordinated recruitment structure is a hybrid between formal and informal recruitment. It will allow for longer events, more autonomy for prospective members and transparency about financial and gender-inclusive policies for individual sororities, she said.

“The structural changes are a first step that complement the discussion, preparation and work that is being done outside of recruitment by the Greek organizations themselves in collaboration with our office to improve the Greek life system,” McGlone told the Daily in an email.

Likewise, Dean of Student Affairs Mary Pat McMahon said that sororities have worked to change their new member recruitment system to ensure that it is inclusive.

“[Greek life] leaders’ efforts to coordinate further and more inclusively around recruitment represents a positive step and a great deal of work this academic year,” McMahon told the Daily in an email. “I appreciate that our sororities are thinking differently and with thoughtful intention about recruitment and how they introduce new members into their organizations.”

CLARIFICATION: This article has been updated to reflect that Bailey Siber is a former, not a current, member of ATO of Massachusetts.