Op-Ed: A fight for Greek life

The past few weeks at Tufts have been about two things:

  1. Reading: Facebook statuses, Facebook comments, tweets and Instagram posts from friends, fellow students and Greek organizations. I have seen countless posts with people spewing angry, hateful things about various topics — politics and Greek life in particular. Never before have I felt such a presence of anger and rage on the Tufts campus. Never before have I seen such anguish.
  1. Internalizing: I, labelled as complicit in the classist, racist and heteronormative structures perpetuated by Greek life, have never felt more isolated from my campus community. People are fighting and I do not want to take part, yet I feel as if I have been given no other choice. There is a pressure to speak, but a pressure to speak in a way that I do not agree with.

About a month ago, the Panhellenic Council released a statement in light of the Nov. 7 Observer article “Abolish Fraternities.” This statement, written by members of the four sororities on campus, was meant to represent all members of sorority life in response to this article. However, I, along with many others in Tufts sorority life, did not see this statement until it was released. And I, and perhaps others (whom I respect and understand), were not pleased with this statement, which put words in my mouth and made it seem as though I agreed with the abolishment of Greek life. In reality, I was hurt and angry. I would like to point out parts with which I disagreed:

“We, the members of the Panhellenic Council, want to acknowledge the current state of toxic hypermasculinity in our country and in particular within Greek life at our university. We are horrified by the results of the election. We are hurt and afraid. Donald Trump’s presence is a direct result of the misogyny in our country. These misogynistic attitudes exist within our own Greek life system. We are thankful that Ben Kesslen courageously brought this to light in his Nov. 7 Observer article.”

I understand that people are scared with Trump’s newfound presidency. But that does not mean it is right to assume that everyone shares the same political beliefs. American politics had no place in this statement because there was no way to ensure that it reflected the opinions of all members of sorority life. Additionally, there was no need to further intensify the upset that made this campus so toxic throughout the last few weeks.

I do not appreciate Panhel thanking Ben Kesslen for his article entitled, may I remind you, “Abolish Fraternities.” I understand that they were specifically referring to the rape culture that surrounds fraternities, and that they were trying to protect and respect women’s rights. However, this article, although seemingly focused on male Greek life and rape culture, greatly hurt female Greek life as well. By thanking him, we essentially agree to the abolishment of an organization that for many is the entirety of their college career. This organization bonded me to many women I would not have met otherwise and allowed me to forge some of the strongest friendships I have made at Tufts. In this same way, male Greek life is about more than partying. It too is about finding comfort during some of the most difficult years of one’s life. It is a home away from home. For many, Greek life is not just “Greek” life. It is “life.” To rid someone of their “life,” especially during these harsh four years, is unacceptable.

“We want to take this time to speak directly to fraternity members … You betrayed us. You lied to us. We have been in your houses and trusted that we had our safety. Our sense of artificial safety has been shattered.”

The blunt, accusatory tone of these very sentences made me squirm with discomfort. I have many friends in fraternities on campus, and never have I felt this harshly towards any of them. I did not find it appropriate or fair, because regardless of how we try to disassociate ourselves from these boys, we are still part of the system. Greek female and male life counterbalance one another, regardless of how much we try to disassociate ourselves. Conclusively, by thanking this article for trying to abolish fraternities, we abolish ourselves. This is not fair to anyone who has done no wrong in the Greek system, to which we have pledged ourselves. By agreeing to this article, we are going against the very vows we made when joining.

Yes, sororities are meant for forging bonds with women who share similar ideals. But we cannot deny the fact that many women join because of the social horizons it opens up, especially during their freshman years, specifically as they receive invites to social interactions with this “structural misogyny” and “classist, racist, heteronormative structure.” Just as others find fun and relaxation in locations and/or organizations such as the I-House, Rainbow House and Crafts House, fraternity members also find refuge in their brotherhoods, or houses occupied by Zeta or 123.

In addition, I would like to point out the issue with a sentence such as, “Our sense of artificial safety has been shattered.” So from the moment we entered the fraternity house, we knew it was artificial? Why are we openly criticizing when we actively go, every weekend, to these sites of “artificial safety?” We shouldn’t accuse fraternities, but rather ourselves. If we are so aware of this “artificial safety,” then why are we going in the first place? Why are we being hypocritical?

“Until we are ready and until we feel safe, we are suspending organized events with fraternities and sports teams. The environment of sports teams echoes the misogynistic culture of hazing and pledging present in fraternities. We do not condone hazing from any organization.”

So, you feel the same way when you are in the women’s soccer or field hockey house as you do in the male lacrosse or hockey house? Hazing is not limited to fraternities and teams. The abolishment of Greek life does not mean the abolishment of hazing, but a greater battle to find hazing within other Tufts organizations.

All this is not to say that I think fraternity violence and harassment are justified, or that what happened is acceptable. This is not to say that I don’t believe it happened. But this is also not to say that these acts of hazing, violence and misdemeanor are not happening in other parts of the Tufts community, and that they will stop if Greek life is abolished. Greek life is cursed with a historical background of white male supremacy, and is thus an easy target for accusations regarding sexual, physical and radicalized violence.

The voices you label “heteronormative, cisgender, queerphobic/transphobic” deserve to be heard too. This country is built on free speech. Everyone’s voice deserves to be heard because when you graduate, the world expands beyond the Tufts bubble, and you must be prepared to face it. There are going to be many different voices, and more often than not,  you will not be able to drown them out.

The purpose of this article is not to spark an argument, but to promote progressive discussion; it is to bring to light proper communication between the victim and the victimized and the accused and the accuser, instead of paragraph texts, table talks and accusatory social media posts vying for “likes.” In the end, what we lack can unite us: the development not of smooth comebacks and passive aggressive social media posts, but conversation, understanding and common ground for peace, justice and sovereignty.

Thank you for listening. It is okay if this generates negative reactions. If you want to talk, I will listen. I only ask that you do the same, because no opinion is necessarily wrong, just as no opinion is necessarily right.


Editor’s note: If you would like to send your response or make an op-ed contribution to the Opinion section, please email us at tuftsdailyoped@gmail.com. The Opinion section looks forward to hearing from you.


CLARIFICATION: An earlier version of this article included the phrase, “heteronormative, cisgender, white female” to describe the writer. Per request of the writer, this line has been clarified to reflect that these characterizations are labels that have been attributed to her, rather than self-characterizations. The article has been updated accordingly.

35 Responses

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  1. Jeff
    Dec 05, 2016 - 02:36 PM

    This is article on Tufts Daily

    • ex-jumbo
      Dec 05, 2016 - 02:41 PM

      Sadly, this poorly written and reasoned mess is indeed published on Tufts Daily.

      • Jack
        Dec 05, 2016 - 02:57 PM

        I think this comment probably falls into the category of an ad hominem attack.

  2. Jake von Statefarm
    Dec 05, 2016 - 02:39 PM

    Finally someone has called out Kesslen for his incendiary libel, and Tufts Panhel for its misrepresentation of sororities and excessive blame deferral.

  3. Alum
    Dec 05, 2016 - 03:10 PM

    Not speaking to the content of the article, I’m just sort of glad someone spoke up against the grain and the collective hive mind on this campus. The free speech thing that crossed senate was absurd and misguided, but a lot of this article properly illustrated the problem with how tufts operates now. There’s a middle ground to be achieved.

    The constant echo chamber that exists at tufts is troubling and leaves students I’ll equipped to handle real life scenarios.

    • pls
      Dec 05, 2016 - 05:19 PM

      hm… sort of glad someone spoke up against the grain and collective hive mind eh? i wonder if you could say the same about someone handing out satanist pamphlets during a church sermon, or christian pamphlets during a satanic ritual. theres a time and place for everything. sometimes the grain and hive mind can be positive.

      • pls pls
        Dec 05, 2016 - 08:45 PM

        Lol so now Satanism is to Christianity what Greek life is to Tufts?

        • pls
          Dec 06, 2016 - 12:42 AM

          i mentioned both cases. also satanism is actually more preferable than christianity imo, although my point wasnt to make an anaology between frats and religion. my point was, going against the grain isnt always a good thing.

          • 1st Amend.
            Dec 20, 2016 - 09:42 AM

            I think preferring Satan to Christ would be considered “going against the grain.” Remember to think your argument through.

    • Not An Alum Yet
      Dec 10, 2016 - 03:40 AM

      Evidently it will also leave us “I’ll equipped” to handle real life grammar and spelling

  4. lol
    Dec 05, 2016 - 04:08 PM

    this is gross and bad please abolish yourself

  5. cait
    Dec 05, 2016 - 04:12 PM

    The voices you call “heteronormative, cisgender, queerphobic/transphobic” deserve to be heard too. This country is built on free speech. Everyone’s voice deserves to be heard because when you graduate, the world expands beyond the Tufts bubble, and you must be prepared to face it.” The fact this is the crux of your argument speaks to how easy Greek life is to take issue with. It is an outdated institution, and your voices HAVE been heard. Your racist parties, your sexual assault cover ups, your years of racial, class, and gender discrimination. If you want to have a party, have a club or a group, thats totally ok. The issue is when universities and other institutions of “higher education” institutionalize or endorse such behavior.

  6. student1
    Dec 05, 2016 - 04:25 PM

    As a member of a sorority, and would like to point out that many of us do not agree with the statements in this op-ed. Yes, I also do not agree with some of the statements that were made in the panhellenic letter, but this article strongly misaligns with my beliefs. The fact that she began by identifying herself as a heteronormative individual completely threw me off. Maybe she doesn’t understand what the word ‘heteronormative’ (denoting or relating to a world view that promotes heterosexuality as the normal or preferred sexual orientation) means, but if so, she shouldn’t be writing this op-ed to begin with.

  7. John Lagate
    Dec 05, 2016 - 04:36 PM

    These are antiquated on-campus country clubs that perpetuate racism and sexism. How such destructive attitudes and institutions can coexist on a campus that prides itself on diversity is beyond me. These institutions do not reflect the values of this university and should be replaced with better organizations that can perform a similar social function. That shouldn’t be too hard considering Greek life here has already set the bar so low.

    • Rational thought
      Dec 05, 2016 - 10:21 PM

      This is a ridiculous comment. I implore you to actually take the time to meet individual members of greek life both male and female, and then reconsider before speaking as an expert on a topic you clearly know nothing about.

      • John Lagate
        Dec 05, 2016 - 11:26 PM

        I’ve spoken with several individual members of Greek life who provided pointed criticisms of their organization’s discriminatory policies. Kesslen’s piece is further confirmation that Greek life will continue to find ways to disappoint us all, no matter how many times they are slapped on the wrist.

        • Rational thought
          Dec 05, 2016 - 11:55 PM

          That was one example. I’ve spoken to many individual members who have consciously been trying to improve the way they do things before these punishments, which by the way are based on stereotypes and assuming you know a person’s identity solely because of the groups the belong to. Not to mention labeling an entire group based on an isolated incident.

  8. pls
    Dec 05, 2016 - 05:11 PM

    1) The voices you call “heteronormative, cisgender, queerphobic/transphobic” deserve to be heard too. This country is built on free speech.

    ….girl pls…..do you even know what free speech is?? discrimination is NOT a right.

    2) … the world expands beyond the Tufts bubble … There are going to be many different voices, and more often than not, you will not be able to drown them out.

    not an excuse to allow discrimination on campus. we need to stop getting used to bias based on innate qualities. college should be the place where students feel inspired to make the world a better place, not feel pressured to get along with the wrongs.

    3) The purpose of this article is … to promote progressive discussion

    a heteronormative claiming to promote progressive discussion… what a time to be alive

    • kolderen
      Dec 05, 2016 - 08:58 PM

      You stated: “not an excuse to allow discrimination on campus”. Are you suggesting hate speech and non-violent discrimination should be illegal/banned? Freedom of expression is a crucial pillar to any society built upon the principles of classical liberalism, and one of the distinguishing features that separates tyranny from democracy.

      Extremists on both ends of the political spectrum are currently attempting to limit individual freedom of speech/expression: President-elect Trump has stated that he wishes to criminalize the act of burning the American flag while leftists across the nation have been actively attempting to turn “hate speech” into an illegal act. Free speech involves accepting hateful rhetoric, discrimination, false propaganda, differences in belief/opinion, etc. Just because we as human-beings with subjective opinions don’t personally agree with something, doesn’t mean that we should encourage withdrawing somebody’s right to express free speech. Putting aside one’s personal opinions and sensitivities must be a goal we as a society seek to strive for in order to accommodate free speech from all possible directions. I might be offended by a hateful statement, but I will still unapologetically fight for that person’s right to express his/her opinion. Banning hate speech on any campus is not worthy of any institution of higher learning and it is a disgraceful way to honor our forefathers who fought for liberty and freedom.

      Have a good day!

      • pls
        Dec 06, 2016 - 12:37 AM

        discrimination 👏 is 👏 not 👏 a 👏 right

    • Logic
      Dec 05, 2016 - 10:18 PM

      She’s just voicing her opinion. Just because someone it heteronormative doesn’t mean they can’t promote discussion….

      • pls
        Dec 06, 2016 - 12:37 AM

        heteronormative is not progressive

      • lesenfantsdemarxetdecocacola
        Dec 06, 2016 - 03:32 AM

        Heteronormative: relating to a world view that promotes heterosexuality as the normal or preferred sexual orientation.

        There’s nothing progressive about that

        • Bob
          Dec 09, 2016 - 09:43 PM

          Hetero is the normal sexual orientation. The problem is people like you promoting the belief that existing outside the norm is automatically a negative.

  9. Gdi
    Dec 05, 2016 - 05:38 PM

    “we essentially agree to the abolishment of an organization that for many is the entirety of their college career”

    If Greek life is your whole life and the only thing going for your college career, you’re going to be in trouble when you reach this “real world” you speak of in later paragraphs. I can understand how it helps some people find their niche in college. However, you refuse to acknowledge the many problems with Greek life in a larger scale. It is good for some, but overall, it causes a larger amount of problems.

    Also unless your words have harsher intentions than I am hoping, you used heteronormative when I’m pretty sure you meant heterosexual.

    • Gdi
      Dec 05, 2016 - 05:39 PM

      Also it’s ironic that you shared this on Facebook for likes lol

  10. Aight Hold Up
    Dec 05, 2016 - 05:39 PM

    First there was the attempt by Panhel/Sororities to distinguish themselves from the “bad boy” fraternities and act innocent and victimize themselves, pretending that they are “above” hazing as a collective whole even if one of their own may be under investigation for obvious hazing practices.

    Then there was the IFC letter of “voluntary” recruitment suspension of fraternities made without the consultation of the other fraternities, completing disregarding what the IFC is even supposed be for.

    And now there’s an article basically suggesting that the voices of discrimination are okay.

    There’s a lot of random shit going on but please write responsibly and stop failing to communicate the proper ideas.

  11. ha
    Dec 05, 2016 - 05:54 PM

    you SJW’s think you’re actually doing something, and it’s hilarious. reading the quotes from the abolish fraternities article made me laugh harder than i have in a while. greek life isn’t going anywhere any time soon, and i think most of you would be surprised if you actually met some kids in frats to learn that most of them are friendly, normal, and not racist/sexist/classist (whatever that means). have fun in the real world.

  12. consider:
    Dec 05, 2016 - 07:47 PM

    short-sighted and apologist. refine your thoughts next time – you’ll get much farther in understanding yourself and others

  13. LC
    Dec 05, 2016 - 10:16 PM

    “The voices you call “heteronormative, cisgender, queerphobic/transphobic” deserve to be heard too. This country is built on free speech. Everyone’s voice deserves to be heard because when you graduate, the world expands beyond the Tufts bubble, and you must be prepared to face it. There are going to be many different voices, and more often than not, you will not be able to drown them out.”

    ^ This statement is so problematic — it minimizes the enormous danger of hate speech and emboldens others by justifying bigotry through “constitutional rights” – you have to know better than to believe this. Here is an article that partially explains why: http://www.newyorker.com/culture/cultural-comment/now-is-the-time-to-talk-about-what-we-are-actually-talking-about
    “Now is the time to burn false equivalencies forever. Pretending that both sides of an issue are equal when they are not is not “balanced” journalism; it is a fairy tale—and, unlike most fairy tales, a disingenuous one.”

    Some of the things you say are so off-target and downright hurtful to a lot of people. I’m a white cisgender heteronormative woman who participated in greek life/panhel – one who has entered the “world beyond the Tufts bubble” and can promise you that no one should “need” to be prepared to face hateful incendiary speech such as this :(.

  14. K
    Dec 05, 2016 - 11:13 PM

    This is absolutely ridiculous. Fraternities and sororities are founded on a culture of exclusivity, sexism, and racism. I don’t care how “different” you think Tufts’ sororities/fraternities are; they are still founded on the same principles that all sororities are, and those principles are not something that Tufts stands for. Knowing that there are people at this school who are okay with these kind of horrible systems continuing makes me feel unsafe. I thought Tufts was a safe space for people who are made uncomfortable by unfair systems that exist elsewhere, but by containing to include Greek life at this university, it is no longer safe.

    • OK
      Dec 06, 2016 - 12:12 AM

      The United States was also much more exclusive, sexist, and racist. Just like Tufts Greek life it is continuously reforming and evolving. I wouldn’t call for the U.S. to disband itself just as I wouldn’t call for the end of all Greek life.

  15. Pres. Monaco
    Dec 05, 2016 - 11:16 PM

    Extremely well written! Finally someone has spoken out against the wrongful labeling and accusation of an entire group of people due to a few isolated incidents involving a small number of individuals! Great to see that someone has the courage to voice this opinion despite the likelihood of being silenced and attacked by the majority opinion at this school!

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