Latest

UGA Greek Life: Silence, Rumors, Race and Misogyny

Just as the cherry blossoms begin to bloom, so do the seeds of self-destruction within the national Greek community. As stories of racial, sexual, and social indiscretions come to gain headline-grabbing public scrutiny, we are forced to evaluate the nature of our own Greek community at the University of Georgia. The information that has surfaced in the media at other universities has serious implications that seem to serve more and more as a testament to an epidemic within the culture, and less and less as an indication of just a few bad apples.

Written by an anonymous Panhellenic sorority member

Just as the cherry blossoms begin to bloom, so do the seeds of self-destruction within the national Greek community. As stories of racial, sexual, and social indiscretions come to gain headline-grabbing public scrutiny, we are forced to evaluate the nature of our own Greek community at the University of Georgia. The information that has surfaced in the media at other universities has serious implications that seem to serve more and more as a testament to an epidemic within the culture, and less and less as an indication of just a few bad apples.

UGA boasts a large and active Greek community with 26 percent of undergraduate students as members. However, there seems to be a stunning absence of critical discussion of any kind of this part of the student body as well as a distinct culture of secrecy around the nature of its activities. As other schools’ Greek communities come under fire for sloppy and insensitive social media postings and very public pending lawsuits or criminal charges, we are forced to ask ourselves the uncomfortable and necessary question of whether these types of things happen in our own community.

In regards to the recent scandals that have grabbed national media attention, a UGA sorority member of four years said, “The same things that are happening at these other schools happen right here at UGA. The only difference is that they have been caught.”

The lack of open criticism and lack of thorough university oversight over these organizations fosters a sense of exclusion and silence that may allow harm to be effectively swept under the rug. This is a truly dangerous silence that serves as an indirect approval of the values the Greek culture at large perpetuates.

Incidents highlighting the questionable behavior of fraternity and sorority members across the nation have spread like wildfire in the media with increasing frequency.  In 2013, an unsettling email was leaked from Georgia Tech’s Phi Kappa Tau fraternity to its members articulating the methods of how to “lure rapebait”. Penn State’s Kappa Delta Rho fraternity has come under criminal investigation this year for the alleged posting of photos of unconscious and partially clothed women in a private Facebook page.  The University of Alabama’s student newspaper published an article in 2013 revealing the persistent racial segregation involved in sorority recruitment. However, one of the most recent national media scandals has struck a cord of panic within UGA’s Greek community.

The recent scandal at the University of Oklahoma in which a video was leaked showing a Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity chapter singing a racist chant sparked public outrage. The chapter was immediately removed from campus and two student members were expelled. The events at the University of Oklahoma prompted an email to be circulated by some executive members in UGA’s Greek community that discussed the implications of this event on their own organization’s activities. The focus of this email was primarily advising members to “be careful what you record”. Instead of taking the opportunity to open a dialogue on race and gender issues in this community, most energy has been centered on damage control.

Quickly following the events at the University of Oklahoma, UGA’s student leadership made the decision to officially prohibit the use of costumes in Kappa Alpha Order’s and Sigma Alpha Epsilon’s annual spring events Old South Week/ Founder’s Day celebrations and Magnolia Ball, which traditionally recreate the cultural themes of the Confederate South and plantation life. Female attendees have traditionally donned antebellum style hoop skirts and men have worn suspenders or other period attire. Until around 2006, KA members sported Confederate style soldier uniforms.

While this move in the direction of social progress has been long overdue, the collective uproar over the ban makes it very unclear if participants fully comprehend the implications of these themed events that unapologetically endorse racial stereotypes. While being a blatant celebration of whiteness and a time period characterized by the institution of slavery, the insensitivity of these events is only heightened by the stark absence of non-white participants.

Few seem to understand that it is not the hoop skirts themselves that are problematic. It has little to do with the hoop skirt itself and all to do with the context. It’s the costumes coupled with a celebration of Confederate roots. It’s the costumes coupled with the reputation of racism. It’s the costumes in conjunction with an exclusionary pretext and rumored incidents of racism. It’s the costume as a symbol of white privilege in a time period inextricably intertwined with slavery.

It’s the combination of conditions that makes these events a social, cultural, and public relations disaster for UGA. Those who see the hoop skirt ban as an infringement on their fun are oblivious to the way the message of these costumes affects non-white UGA students. These are symbols that negate and diminish social equality, mobility and sensitivity. It negatively affects the interests of all involved.

Efforts to divert media attention away from UGA’s Greek community and this decision are being fervently and very quietly enforced. Within a day of the costume ban decision being announced, news reporters appeared in the area. Many Greek members report being advised by executive members not to make any kind of comments regarding this decision to the press or else face disciplinary action by their organizations. Again, there is a default to silence and secrecy that is not only encouraged, but in some circles- enforced.

drawing

Illustration by Abby Gregg

Less publicized social events of some organizations have in the past often boasted misogynistic and ethnically, culturally or socially insensitive themes. Indians and Cowboys, BET vs. CMT, CEOs and Tennis Hoes, Billionaires and Trophy Wives, Secs and Execs (short for Secretaries and Executives) and “gangster” themes are just a few examples of the kinds of reckless and systematic discrimination that occurs against gender and race in the name of exclusive drunken socializing.

From this information alone it seems that the Greek community exclusively and expressly supports the interests of white heteronormative students. Stories that circulate in UGA’s Greek community that exhibit instances of racial discrimination or intimidation, sex crimes, hazing and the general reward of ignorance are unfortunately in no short supply.

Plenty of jokes can be made about the ills of fraternity culture at UGA. The mass erectile dysfunction that plagues frat members due to unrestrained alcohol consumption and the distinctly uncreative uniform they have adopted- serve as easy targets of lighthearted criticism. However, the other widespread ills are far less of a laughing matter. The widespread use of email listservs to document the details of members’ sexual conquests and the rumored proliferation of unsavory photos is unfortunately no secret in UGA’s Greek community.

Gender-specific living arrangements are also a cause for concern. While sorority members living in-house are strictly prohibited from having male overnight guests, there seems to be no such rule for their male counterparts. Additionally, alcohol, while not the central cause of racist or sexist behavior, it is the center of much of Greek life. It serves to amplify the cultural attitudes already present. It worsens the ramifications of a pack mentality as many members engage in activities that they may not individually or in a sober state.

Although official university rules attempt to create a fair and merit based recruitment process, there is much of the process that is left to the discretion of the individual organizations. Some African American students have commented that they have felt silently discouraged from taking part in the Panhellenic recruitment process, fearing that the reputation of racism is too true to test. Many members themselves have expressed serious concern over Panhellenic sorority recruitment, commenting that it is in desperate need of reevaluation- or reformed in a way that makes it more impartial and less superficial.

It has been rumored that some sororities unofficially prefer not to extend membership to non-white students out of fear that it will keep them from having social events with certain fraternities. Some also worry that alumni will cut funding and donations if they extend membership to African American students. Although most people do not consider themselves to be bigots, it seems too many members may be trading a feeling of social acceptance and inclusion for the violations of social justice that seem unlikely to ever become public knowledge. Could members be truly oblivious to the harm inflicted by the fraternity or sorority culture norms? Or do they see speaking up too great of a social risk?

These instances of social injustice occur several layers deep within these student communities, and are kept far from the ears of university officials or Panhellenic/ Interfraternity Council authority. That is why these stories are almost uniformly relegated to the realm of rumor- unable to be legitimized by any kind of physical evidence. Because these stories are usually regarded as hearsay, they are also categorically determined to be unreliable non-truths. While much can be denied in the realm of rumor, even I have heard with my own ears the disturbingly casual use of racial slurs in a derogatory context in certain exclusively white Greek circles.

What is the social and cultural price we pay to uphold the survival of these organizations at UGA? Is the abundance of stories and rumors of racism or misogyny indicative of a systemic issue within fraternity and sorority culture? Why has passivity and silence taken the place of introspection and social progress in these circles?

In the interest of maintaining an ethical and upstanding relationship with UGA as an institution of higher education as well as with the rest of the non-Greek student body and the greater Athens community, we need to ask the uncomfortable questions. Most members do not believe themselves to be perpetuating harmful cultural archetypes. And the damage of this obliviousness is only exacerbated by the silence.

Unfortunately, it is likely that complete transparency would reveal morally and ethically unpalatable information and practices, as well as abundant and direct violations of university policies that would prompt immediate university action. It is likely that the kind of transparency that a society concerned with human rights and fairness demands would quickly disband and eradicate these social groups. Is it possible that under the guise of youthful abandon or civic involvement, we have overlooked the possibility that Greek life provides the exact antithesis of the goals of higher education and progressive modern society?

As a member myself of a Panhellenic sorority here on UGA’s campus, I have experienced first hand the reality of sorority and fraternity life as well as the socially irresponsible and damaging habits of a distinct portion of its members. I tried for a very long time to withhold my judgments about the Greek community, after all I have made friends through this organization that I truly love and respect and who I do not believe to be bad people. There is no doubt that I myself once participated and indulged in the social privilege of such an exclusive and competitively won membership. The sincere civic involvement of my organization and of others is certainly something to be admired. But as membership has awarded me with many fun and rewarding experiences, it has also made me privy to the unacceptable truth of its persistent cultural attitudes that work against social progress and systematically alienate and degrade those of different color, social class, and background.

I do not wish to assert that the Greek community is completely devoid of smart and socially conscious individuals, because that is certainly not the case. Not every Greek organization is guilty of the kinds of activities discussed here. But since such a large percentage of UGA’s student body participates in this kind of anachronistic and systematic elitism- we need to be talking about the pockets of its activity that condone morally reprehensible behavior. While of course there are exceptions, and some particular organizations are far worse offenders than others, it is obvious that at this time, the agenda of the Greek community does not prioritize social progress.

What I seek to address here, above all, is the inappropriate mode of silence and passivity that exists in our student community about these issues.  The systematic discouragement of members to openly discuss grievances and internal problems is plainly wrong.

As a distinct culture of allied silence surrounds these organizations, we are forced to ask ourselves if these famous centers of mystery, glamour, and exclusivity are any longer socially relevant or acceptable. It is becoming more apparent that the institution of Greek life needs to be reevaluated and evolve in order to survive in a world of increasing transparency and decreased tolerance of bigotry and disenfranchisement. Evolve or dissolve.

I do not doubt that there are students that have experienced nothing but a positive reality within sorority or fraternity involvement. It is usually those that enjoy the perks of privilege that are truly oblivious to its harm.

40 Comments on UGA Greek Life: Silence, Rumors, Race and Misogyny

  1. Well written and insightful. I wish the writer had the courage to claim her words — despite the potential consequences within the Greek system. Her hesitation to do so speaks volumes about the Greek “group think” that shuts down dissent. Maybe if she set an example and spoke openly and frankly, she could begin to create change. I hope a majority of Greeks would agree, if pressed. Sometimes it just takes one good person to speak out forcefully to make others come to their senses. Having right on your side should help.

    If you do not believe you can inspire change, my advice is to quit. I considered quitting my sorority in the 70’s for similar reasons — but stayed in because I wanted to go to beer busts and meet frat guys. 30+ years later, I still respect myself less for having made that decision. By the way, I have a kid starting UGA in the fall. I was reading this to see if the Greek system had changed at all since my college days. Apparently not.

  2. LovingDumpling // July 9, 2015 at 4:31 am //

    When will it ever end. Here I was so excited to go to UGA but now I’m quite terrified thanks to some of the inflamed and rude comments. I didn’t expect to feel divided from other races. I want this to stop happening. Life doesn’t feel worth living if I have to feel isolated socially and emotionally because of my race because people refuse to accept the fact that Greek life is inherently flawed. Producing adults that will hinder the developing progress of love and acceptance in America.

  3. Great article. The more rational comments on this article also seem to support the author. Clearly there are issues with Greek culture that need to be addressed. Instead of launching illogical arguments in the comments section in retaliation, opponents to this article should focus their energies on improving the few (perhaps many) weaknesses in their organizations that are contributing to the negative perceptions of Greek life and hindering modern progress.

  4. Hail to Georgia down in Dixie.

  5. i understand all of the racism within Greek like but no one seems to mention that there is an EXCLUSIVELY African America and Indian Greek presence on campus’s around the United States, not just at UGA. As a white girl, I came to this school feeling the division but it seems to be brought upon ourselves. if I tried to join AKA a black sorority I doubt that I would be offered a bid. This double standard is bull and not fair to put on only the Panhellenic Greek life.

  6. This article is well written a lot of the points highlighted in this article like the misogynistic rape “culture” especially. It makes me sick to know that there are guidelines to lure rape victims. However, on the topic of race I think that it is pivitol to highlight the themed social events that present prejudice and bigotry. I also understand that there are many good people within these fraternities and sororities who aren’t able see these incognito injustices. With that being said I do think the anonymity of the writer weakens the argument, I also think that being a part of something you’re so passionately against compromises your character. Think about it, you’re supporting financially and socially the same same organizations that you’re denouncing. If you really want to make an impact come out and denounce these groups with your actions because I can assure you that the majority of people who read this are minorities who already know the truth.

  7. If you actually think this is true then you need to get out of Greek life altogether.
    I truly don’t think that if I was a white person and tried to rush in an African American sorority on campus I would get any positive feedback for that. I guarantee you that during recruitment the race of a PNM is not something talked about. This is a thing called rumors and they got the best of you here.
    By saying that Greek life is surrounded by alcohol and causes racial and cultural tensions to increase – this is college alcohol exists everywhere not just Greek life.

    Just because we have been seen as the “privileged” class doesn’t mean that we haven’t been discriminated against too.
    Greek life has an unnecessary bad stereotype and believe it or not despite “all our partying” Greeks have the highest GPAs compared to any other group on campus and do more community service.

  8. I have done extensive research on Greek life for a paper in writing entitled “Greek Life: An Unnecessary Institution. It perpetuates classism, racism, and sexism. I honestly do not know why colleges and universities continue to allow these entities exist. There is so much privilege. Especially in, but not limited to, the traditionally white organizations. To be a white person in America, especially the south, you automatically have a disadvantage when it comes to understanding POC or what it means to be born not white. This is the more important conversation. This is what the discussion should be. However, Greek life is a good place to focus our energy. College is about learning new things, experiencing new cultures, and if you don’t become anything else in college, you should leave more understanding and thoughtful. But when you have these ancient institutions that have been around since one of the worst times in our history, there are obviously going to be problems. Change is about inevitable and if Greek life does not do it of its own volition, it will be done for it.
    It is so hard to imagine change in this nation when the young white people we are sending to college to become better join these organizations that embody everything that needs to change. They hold on to these traditions so hard instead of starting new ones. Change seems impossible when young people have the ideals of our great-great-grandparents.

    To the author of this article, great job. As a young black woman in college, I am learning that it is okay to offend white people for change and to make a better world. You have done that in an attempt to make a change, to be heard. I commend you for that. Keep feeling this way, teach your kids this way. The seeds of change are being planted.

  9. This rocks so hard. So much truth. It is funny to read the comments from people against the article- yall are so silly. “Dudewhojump” and the author of this article– i love you.
    As for the sexist and racist jerks who truly think nothing is wrong with the Greek system– I’m truly praying for yall to find wisdom and love and understanding in this precious one life we have. Open your eyes!!!

  10. I think it’s kind of funny that you talk about how you disagree that greek members should stay quiet about issues, and then you put yourself as anonymous. ALSO it sounds like you need to drop because you clearly aren’t finding the positive aspects of the greek experience enough to stop you from publicly defaming our organizations.

  11. For whoever wrote this article, thank you.

  12. GD Independent // April 21, 2015 at 11:58 pm //

    Many great concerns addressed in this article and its comments. Deliberation is at the core of American ideals, and discussions like this are truly more beneficial and constructive than banning “hoop-skirts”. Cultural norms and behaviors, even those that are insensitive or ignorant (which every race, ethnicity, gender, and religion have), cannot be reformed over night. As seekers of knowledge and higher education, we are among the most progressive and “worldly” thinking proportion of the population. Let us not hinder ourselves by focusing on the inhumanity of our past, but instead critically attempt to compromise a solution where aspects of history (and let’s be honest much of history is inherently unethical) can be appreciated without jeapordizing the feelings of others.

    “If you can cultivate the right attitude, your enemies are your best spiritual teachers because their presence provides you with the opportunity to enhance and develop tolerance, patience and understanding.”

  13. Neither the coward author nor the supporters of this muckraking blog post are interested in having a “conversation” about anything unless it adheres to their undercooked premise that fraternity members are racist, sexist, bigots. They’re authoritarian in their motives and sheltered in their thinking. They’ve been coddled their whole lives, led to believe anything they personally object to is wrong and therefore, should be banned. Only child syndrome? Maybe, but on a bigger scale. It’s a sad existence and one that seems to permeate in our fragile-minded and narcissistic generation. They’d rather tear down and criticize than build themselves up. It’s a beautiful day, go be somebody.

  14. In regards to the undeniable inaccurate comments made by fraternity members responding to this article by claiming accusations that this writer’s personal experience with Greek life has been negative & in response, she has chosen to retaliate by writing this piece, simply proves her point. Greek members, (specifically male members) are threatened by the accuracy of this article and therefore feel they need to personally attack the writer. This only shows the continual disregard of painful truths within the Greek system, their seemingly incapability of claiming responsibility, & the fear that the reputation of their entitled, sheltered, privileged existence is being questioned & publicly exposed. Greek life could be a good, beautiful, & beneficial thing if we would genuinely try to better it by looking at and changing its corrupt and self-interested system. The truth hurts. Kudos to the writer of this article, she has more balls than most of her Greek male counterparts.

  15. whatthehell // April 21, 2015 at 7:55 pm //

    “I mean, if someone literally wanted to start a whites-only club, aren’t they allowed to?”

    Like…do you know anything about ANYTHING? I’m sorry that our education system failed you my friend. The person with the “dudewhojump” handle laid everything out in such a simple, eloquent way, and you still failed to comprehend what they were saying. I guess that happens when you’re too pint up with self-righteous anger and confusion.

  16. anonymous // April 21, 2015 at 6:10 pm //

    This article is spot on and that’s probably why it has received so much back lash. I was a white sorority girl myself that left and I used to hear the “N” word thrown around like it was nothing. I remember going through sorority rush watching girls get cut simply for being black and hearing my sisters openly admit that. There is nothing more heart breaking to see a girl cry because she did not gain acceptance simply because of skin despite holding leadership positions in high school, being an athlete, and having a distinguished GPA. There were several organizations that openly discussed how African Americans had never been accepted to their certain chapters and never would. I remember hearing one of my friends from another chapter say that she’s not personally racist but their alum would stop funding the chapter if they took African Americans. I witnessed unbelievable fraternity hazing to the point of alcohol poisoning and saw kids sent to the hospital all in the name of Greek life. So many of the socials appropriate culture and the vast majority of Greek life is white, which is not just coincidence. I wish I had had the courage at the time to speak out against it all. The uncomfortable questions definitely need to be presented. This is a great first step.

  17. LOANFREE // April 21, 2015 at 4:49 pm //

    These comments are typical. Fortunately, we (majority of black students) don’t want to be members of your fraternities/sororities. They don’t stand for much which is why we usually take home the awards given by this campus for things that actually matter (community service, scholarship, etc.). We also find comfort in the imitation of the African American Greek culture (Greek Grind). We extend membership to anyone and are allowed to do so because much of our funding is based on the difference that we make in the community not the outdated opinion of a few donors. We make students of all races feel welcomed at our events – the reason that most multicultural groups flock to us. Our history is just as long and far more rich. As for the “Everything Confederate does not equal racist just as Everything German does not equal anti-semitism” comment, I’m sorry but you are wrong. When a group of people stand by and watch injustice, persecution, etc. of other human beings that renders you just as guilty.

  18. even if the KAs are completely racist…. Isn’t that just called freedom of speech? Aren’t I allowed to walk around dressed as whatever blood-thirsty monster I want ? Are we really to the point now where the meekest complaint from some blogger can shut down years of tradition? You have every freedom of press to spread your thoughts on the fact that this is racist, but they have every right to wear their stupid suspenders and unflattering dresses too! I mean, if someone literally wanted to start a whites-only club, aren’t they allowed to? This is America, were allowed to do whatever the fuck we want and everyone is allowed to say whatever the fuck they want but the choice is still ours. It’s kind of stupid that the second one little thing is deemed “racist” we all have to scramble around and act like it never happened. All this political-correctness is creating a world where nobody can say a damn thing, and it’s completely unrealistic . I’m not saying I condone racism, but I fully 100% condone an individual’s freedom to dress or express himself however he wants .

  19. dudewhojump // April 21, 2015 at 7:35 am //

    “Accept the fact that whites should be able to love their history without being stigmatized…”

    Well, the good news is you are in fact allowed to love white history; indeed, you spent quite a few paragraphs doing just that. The bad news is when you choose BEING A WEALTHY SLAVEOWNER as the history you so “love,” some stigmatizing is probably gonna come your way — y’know, on account of most people finding slavery rather distasteful, having a sense of social context, exhibiting tact, that sort of thing.

    And it’s totally true that putting on a hoop skirt for these Old South shindigs doesn’t automatically make you a racist; I mean, when I slip on my old, ratty Drew Bledsoe jersey, I don’t instantly become a talented but perennially underachieving NFL quarterback. What I do achieve, though, is a tacit endorsement of Mr. Bledsoe and all the principles for which he stands. Any person who saw me wearing this jersey could reasonably assume this and, if they considered Drew Bledsoe a shameful and horrific chapter of American football history, rightfully take umbrage at my choice of attire. “Why,” they might ask, “would you choose to honor football, a sport that has provided us so many people and accomplishments worthy of celebration, by selecting this particularly unsavory aspect of the game to commemorate?”

    “But,” I might reply, “I am not actually Drew Bledsoe, and I didn’t have anything to do with his career. Sure, he wasn’t great, but a lot of quarterbacks then weren’t great either. It wasn’t just him.” Then I might choose to bolster my argument with a detailed and somewhat condescending history of professional football designed to prove that it wasn’t really about Drew Bledsoe being good or bad, but a much more complex gray area of politics my opponent clearly doesn’t understand. Y’know, to prove my superior wit and all.

    “Ok,” they’d say, “but Drew Bledsoe still sucked and you’re still wearing his jersey, knowing exactly what it represents and just having adapted a handy list of rationalizations to justify it; or, alternatively, you truly do lack the comprehension skills to understand why it makes you seem like such a dumb turd to wear such a thing.”

    And I’d be like, “crap, you’re right.”

    I admit it’s not a flawless analogy. After all, one is a mostly-fondly remembered old quarterback, and the other is objectively one of the most reprehensible periods in our nation’s history, recent enough that the effects of its rampant injustice are still rippling through society now. This is probably why I’ve never had to panic-ban wearing my Drew Bledsoe jersey in fear of public outcry. But despite the much smaller scale, the basic idea is the same: if you dress up for giggles as something that’s caused generations and generations of people immeasurable suffering, you’re probably gonna catch some flack.

    I wonder, at these parties, if anyone ever adopts the “white, impoverished Reconstruction-era sharecropper” outfit as a shout-out to the good ol’ South. My instincts tell me it probably lacks the sexy panache of a bejuliped plantation owner’s drawling charm. I also wonder, if the sorority/fraternity had black members (not an issue from what I can glean, but for the sake of argument), how would they participate in the festivities? Would you shoot for historical accuracy by making them work at the party for free? Give them the nobler option of being a Union soldier, enemy of the glorious Confederacy and designated target of your nostalgic antebellum indignance? Or would you deign to offer them the ultimate privilege, one whole night swaying in their own rocking chair on the porch of white power (sorry, I meant northern political domination, my b) as an honorary Caucasian? I can’t decide which would be more profoundly awkward: telling your black friend (you so have black friends!) that he is allowed to be a white person for the night, or trying to get him to come as a Mandingo without actually ever using the word “Mandingo.” Good thing that, again, this doesn’t seem to be an issue any of these particular “Greek” sects would encounter in reality.

    I don’t really get why people get so stiff for “heritage;” it seems pretty silly to feel pride for something you didn’t experience and had nothing to do with. But if that sort of thing is important to you, why not pay tribute to the South for things like peanut butter, jazz and blues, Harper Lee, soul food, Billy Carter, small government, hospitality, Elvis, the SEC football conference, or even just Lynrd Skynrd? All of those things are so much better than slavery (albeit with NCAA sports most closely toeing that line).

    And, hell, if you really wanna do some straight-up white people appreciation, I agree; there’s nothing inherently wrong with that. But instead of the “well, we’re just aiming for wealthy southern dynasties of the early to mid 1800s, no implications here of anything else, that’s just the period of time we happened to pick, sorry not sorry” approach, why not dress up like the Wright Brothers, book the band Heart, have Tesla v Edison Night, hire a Stevie Ray Vaughn impersonator, do a Neil Armstrong theme, bake a cake of harry truman’s face? Shit, have Ayn Randapalooza — any and all of those would be white folks more worthy of your homage than generations of silver-spooned lowlifes whose most tasking challenge in life was picking out the appropriate cuff links to sport while purchasing a human being. Really, it’s not hard to figure this out.

    Obviously, as you say, not everyone in the south was a crappy racist, just like not every WWII German soldier was a Nazi. But I don’t think there’s a bevy of cars in Germany with swastikas on their front license plate; it’s almost as if they understand that symbol, however unresponsible for it they are, represents a terrible, ugly sentiment and evokes nothing but bad feelings and national shame. A hoop skirt is not a swastika, for sure. But when you’re putting on that hoop skirt for a party that you know is based on a time when the kind of people who wore giant hoop skirts almost definitely owned human slaves, you’ve either disconnected yourself so much that it’s a joke to you or you haven’t yet put the thoughts together to understand the meaning of it. Or, I guess, you’re just a real dick.

    If you’re upset that this stuff got banned, you should be. It is truly sad that a governing body has to step into your affairs to tell you that, hey, maybe gloatingly re-creating the era of American slavery for fun is a bit uncouth. But I suppose it’s just one of those times, like with ol’ Abe Lincoln (hey! He’s white; why don’t you guys ever party for him?) , when the teacher finally has to step in and stop the kindergarteners from eating the paste, since they just can’t figure it out on their own. Or in your case, the superintendent finally put a stop to it before you all hit 12th grade and people started noticing. You guys should be grateful.

    (And my apologies to Drew Bledsoe for casting him in the unfortunate role of slavery in my extended metaphor. You’re a class act, Drew. You’re just the only football iersey I own.)

  20. dudewhojump // April 21, 2015 at 7:29 am //

    “Accept the fact that whites should be able to love their history without being stigmatized…”

    Well, the good news is you are in fact allowed to love white history; indeed, you spent quite a few paragraphs doing just that. The bad news is when you choose BEING A WEALTHY SLAVEOWNER as the history you so “love,” some stigmatizing is probably gonna come your way — y’know, on account of most people finding slavery rather distasteful, having a sense of social context, exhibiting tact, that sort of thing.

    And it’s totally true that putting on a hoop skirt for these Old South shindigs doesn’t automatically make you a racist; I mean, when I slip on my old, ratty Drew Bledsoe jersey, I don’t instantly become a talented but perennially underachieving NFL quarterback. What I do achieve, though, is a tacit endorsement of Mr. Bledsoe and all the principles for which he stands. Any person who saw me wearing this jersey could reasonably assume this and, if they considered Drew Bledsoe a shameful and horrific chapter of American football history, rightfully take umbrage at my choice of attire. “Why,” they might ask, “would you choose to honor football, a sport that has provided us so many people and accomplishments worthy of celebration, by selecting this particularly unsavory aspect of the game to commemorate?”

    “But,” I might reply, “I am not actually Drew Bledsoe, and I didn’t have anything to do with his career. Sure, he wasn’t great, but a lot of quarterbacks then weren’t great either. It wasn’t just him.” Then I might choose to bolster my argument with a detailed and somewhat condescending history of professional football designed to prove that it wasn’t really about Drew Bledsoe being good or bad, but a much more complex gray area of politics my opponent clearly doesn’t understand. Y’know, to prove my superior wit and all.

    “Ok,” they’d say, “but Drew Bledsoe still sucked and you’re still wearing his jersey, knowing exactly what it represents and just having adapted a handy list of rationalizations to justify it; or, alternatively, you truly do lack the comprehension skills to understand why it makes you seem like such a dumb turd to wear such a thing.”

    And I’d be like, “crap, you’re right.”

    I admit it’s not a flawless analogy. After all, one is a mostly-fondly remembered old quarterback, and the other is objectively one of the most reprehensible periods in our nation’s history, recent enough that the effects of its rampant injustice are still rippling through society now. This is probably why I’ve never had to panic-ban wearing my Drew Bledsoe jersey in fear of public outcry. But despite the much smaller scale, the basic idea is the same: if you dress up for giggles as something that’s caused generations and generations of people immeasurable suffering, you’re probably gonna catch some flack.

    I wonder, at these parties, if anyone ever adopts the “white, impoverished Reconstruction-era sharecropper” outfit as a shout-out to the good ol’ South. My instincts tell me it probably lacks the sexy panache of a bejuliped plantation owner’s drawling charm. I also wonder, if the sorority/fraternity had black members (not an issue from what I can glean, but for the sake of argument), how would they participate in the festivities? Would you shoot for historical accuracy by making them work at the party for free? Give them the nobler option of being a Union soldier, enemy of the glorious Confederacy and designated target of your nostalgic antebellum indignance? Or would you deign to offer them the ultimate privilege, one whole night swaying in their own rocking chair on the porch of white power (sorry, I meant northern political domination, my b) as an honorary Caucasian? I can’t decide which would be more profoundly awkward: telling your black friend (you so have black friends!) that he is allowed to be a white person for the night, or trying to get him to come as a Mandingo without actually ever using the word “Mandingo.” Good thing that, again, this doesn’t seem to be an issue any of these particular “Greek” sects would encounter in reality.

    I don’t really get why people get so stiff for “heritage;” it seems pretty silly to feel pride for something you didn’t experience and had nothing to do with. But if that sort of thing is important to you, why not pay tribute to the South for things like peanut butter, jazz and blues, Harper Lee, soul food, Billy Carter, small government, hospitality, Elvis, the SEC football conference, or even just Lynrd Skynrd? All of those things are so much better than slavery (albeit with NCAA sports most closely toeing that line).

    And, hell, if you really wanna do some straight-up white people appreciation, I agree; there’s nothing inherently wrong with that. But instead of the “well, we’re just aiming for wealthy southern dynasties of the early to mid 1800s, no implications here of anything else, that’s just the period of time we happened to pick, sorry not sorry” approach, why not dress up like the Wright Brothers, book the band Heart, have Tesla v Edison Night, hire a Stevie Ray Vaughn impersonator, do a Neil Armstrong theme, bake a cake of harry truman’s face? Shit, have Ayn Randapalooza — any and all of those would be white folks more worthy of your homage than generations of silver-spooned lowlifes whose most tasking challenge in life was picking out the appropriate cuff links to sport while purchasing a human being. Really, it’s not hard to figure this out.

    Obviously, as you say, not everyone in the south was a crappy racist, just like not every WWII German soldier was a Nazi. But I don’t think there’s a bevy of cars in Germany with swastikas on their front license plate; it’s almost as if they understand that symbol, however unresponsible for it they are, represents a terrible, ugly sentiment and evokes nothing but bad feelings and national shame. A hoop skirt is not a swastika, for sure. But when you’re putting on that hoop skirt for a party that you know is based on a time when the kind of people who wore giant hoop skirts almost definitely owned human slaves, you’ve either disconnected yourself so much that it’s a joke to you or you haven’t yet put the thoughts together to understand the meaning of it. Or, I guess, you’re just a real dick.

    If you’re upset that this stuff got banned, you should be. It is truly sad that a governing body has to step into your affairs to tell you that, hey, maybe gloatingly re-creating the era of American slavery for fun is a bit uncouth. But I suppose it’s just one of those times, like with ol’ Abe Lincoln (hey! He’s white; why don’t you guys ever party for him?) , when the teacher finally has to step in and stop the kindergarteners from eating the paste, since they just can’t figure it out on their own. Or in your case, the superintendent finally put a stop to it before you all hit 12th grade and people started noticing. You guys should be grateful.

    (And my apologies to Drew Bledsoe for casting him in the unfortunate role of slavery in my extended metaphor. You’re a class act, Drew. You’re just the only football iersey I own.)

  21. A Little Perspective // April 21, 2015 at 5:36 am //

    I don’t understand why everyone is still so up-in-arms about the ban on hoop-skirts and antebellum-themed social events. Yes, that was a part of our history, and no, we are not trying to deny anyone’s heritage or traditions.

    But here’s the thing: while the hoop-skirts and suspenders and etc. are definitely not racist in and of themselves, and the people who want to celebrate the “Confederate South” are not intentionally racist, the reason that this is a problem is because that culture, the culture of that period in history, held the belief that people of color were not equal to whites, and that belief pervaded everything, including symbols of status like clothing and remnants of plantation life. Yes, it is a part of our history. But it’s not a particularly positive part of history. And it is insensitive to parade those parts that literally supported the oppression of entire races of people.

    Furthermore it is impossible to claim an openness to recruiting non-white members while still upholding these traditions. It’s akin to dressing up as Nazis and holding Third Reich themed social events, while claiming that Jewish members are welcome to join. Can’t you see why this would be viewed as offensive?

  22. Johnny Reb // April 21, 2015 at 4:09 am //

    Why don’t you ride your pony on back to where you came from Yankee Doodle

  23. For those of you who say this article lacks evidence, I say to you “The absence of evidence, is not the evidence of absence.” For those of you who disagree, it is okay to disagree as human we cannot accept everything we read as true, BUT even if do not agree that doesn’t mean that it isn’t true.

    Understand where a person is coming from and acknowledge the privileges, biases, and experiences that preclude you from experiencing what others have experienced and cloud your understanding.

    It is okay to disagree, just know that everything is not black and white.

  24. Well said Charles. The history of many countries “is literally built on slavery”. I have never heard someone get upset by an Egyptian costume when it is believed that the pyramids where built by slaves. People do not cry out for social justice about the Romans who enslaved those they conquered for hundreds of years. Most southerners did not own a plantation and an entire history and culture should not be condemned for some members of the society owning slaves.

  25. I wish the above commentators could read what they have written and realize how innately racist they sound…In a “post-racial” society, assuming that racism ended promptly with the passage of the Civil Rights Act (a faulty assumption to make), it is small cultural nuances, micro-aggressions, and even language that set the tone of an overall larger culture. To say that whites should not be stigmatized for representing their pasts is to completely ignore what this “past” rested on. The South was a system built on the foundation of slavery and promulgated through racism. There is no “white” history. There is no “white” nationality that existed in the United States. In a country born of immigrants, it is preposterous to assert that persons of white race can celebrate a collective history. This in itself completely undermines the argument of the celebration being non-racist, with racist having a meaning of being prejudicial and pejorative. Not only does this admit that Confederate pride is a racial white pride, but it also extends one to realize that white pride in the time of the Confederacy was one built inherently on the distinction between a “superior” and “inferior” race. To say that Germans have not stopped celebrating nationalistic traditions from the time of the Holocaust is too flawed of an assertion to even address.
    To assert the idea of “white pride” as being an idea to even defend admits that Greek life as an institution is based on white pride and therefore inherently racist…
    The writer’s idea of “evolve or dissolve” resonates even louder after reading these comments. Take a step back and look at what you are defending.

  26. Well yes but slavery was certainly the largest issue and I think most historians would agree that it was the straw that broke the camels back so to speak and why the south went to war. Additionally, Abraham Lincoln did not want to free slaves at the beginning because he was afraid that this would push the neutral states to join the south not because he thought the idea of slavery amenable. Finally you make argument regarding Germany I don’t think that is entirely correct either. I would certainly be very concerned if an organization of Germans got together to celebrate in the nazi regime in old nazi war uniforms as I’m sure would you. The Germans also did not only fight world war two to exterminate jews but this makes their actions from that time no less reprehensible. I think that spending your time fondly remembering a confederation that supported slavery even if that wasn’t their only identifying characteristic is probably some what insensitive. I’m not trying to single you out here and I agree that some of the points in this article are some what overdone and confused.

  27. The importance of this article branches way beyond any personal convictions against greek life–if you can read this entire article and the only reaction is “this is SO wrong, how dare they say anything that disagrees with my personal experience”, writing and debate loses all of their purpose. All greek-affiliated students should read this and either be horrified that they’ve taken part in it OR horrified that others are tarnishing the name of greek life to this extent, and look at this article as a way to find further improvements within their own system at their school or in their house.
    Well-written article with challenging but thoughtful points, I will definitely pass this along to the girls in my sorority

  28. Scarborough Agglethorpe // April 21, 2015 at 2:05 am //

    Excuse my informal language, but if everyone would stop getting so butt-hurt about everything that ever happens to anybody, everyone would be much happier. If you want to rant about immorality, go on about parents sueing an institution for $30 million over the death of a child and the lack of morality in the idea that money can make up for a death. Do not condemn others if they desire to wear a grey suit and ride horses around, for it just symbolizes our history and nothing more. It doesn’t represent slavery, or racism, because it is simply one recognizing their heritage. I have ancestors that fought for the South in the war, yet never owned a slave and could barely provide for themselves and their families. Also, racism goes both ways. Accusing a white person of being a racist in these times, without any other proof than their silly outfit they wear once a year, is just as racist. Besides, a lot of KAs’ and SAEs’ ancestors were carpetbaggers. Robert E Lee was never a KA. God bless America and all Americans.

  29. interesting to note that most of the negative comments were from men….
    ” It is usually those that enjoy the perks of privilege that are truly oblivious to its harm.”

  30. I appreciate what this article is trying to do, but spitting out the same tried and true anti-greek lines doesn’t really work. I was hoping that, since this article comes from an individual involved in the system, it would present a more unique viewpoint. I’m not greek and probably never will be, and the elitism of these organization is certainly real, but indicting these organizations for catering to their particular membership seems a bit ludicrous. This is a well written article that seems to miss its chance to say something truly impactful.

  31. maybe a history that is literally built on slavery shouldn’t be loved, charles. a very important article.

  32. Charles Smith // April 20, 2015 at 10:47 pm //

    I totally followed you until you started lambasting hoop skirts and clothing attire in a typical anti-southern, anti-confederacy diatribe. To not include that the entire country, not just the South, harbored racial prejudices in the 19th century is a complete misunderstanding of the time period. To argue that everything confederate must be racist is the same fallacy that would argue that everything German-nationalist is anti Jewish, that everything Harlem renaissance is anti white. The argument is feeble.

    If you wish to enter into a post-racial society, accept the fact that an organization composed of majority whites is acceptable (just as any organization meant for any other ethnic or religious group). Accept the fact that for the majority of American history, slavery existed and yet, representing this time period with clothing, slogans, or paraphernalia do not make present day whites racist. Racism makes one racist.

    If you’d like a history lesson: The Confederacy was a government designed to maintain political autonomy from the North due to increasing political dominance from Northerners. This domination was enhanced by increasing urban populations in the North and representation in the electoral college. The North dominated policies in a number of issues including protectionist tariffs, foreign policy, etc. Slavery was just one of these issues. To aggrandize the North as liberators is misguided. President Abraham Lincoln who gave the Emancipation Proclamation desired to keep slavery status quo in the South even two years into the war.

    Organizations designed to promote racist ideology or misogyny should be condemned. However, to take the argument further to suggest that whites cannot represent their past, culture, or history, devoid of these hateful ideas is idiotic. Your argument becomes anti-white in nature. To think that, simply because slavery and social discrimination existed, this somehow negates any and every white accomplishment from the same time period, is a self-deluded attempt to pretend that every white must be evil because they lived during a time period when a social evil existed.

    Accept the fact that whites should be able to love their history without being stigmatized and you will enter into this world of acceptance you speak of.

  33. I think this addresses a lot of issues that regard greek life. Judging by the negative comments those that would like to protect various secrets of the greek community aren’t very happy about some of their secrets coming out. Very accurate when stating: “I do not wish to assert that the Greek community is completely devoid of smart and socially conscious individuals, because that is certainly not the case. Not every Greek organization is guilty of the kinds of activities discussed here. But since such a large percentage of UGA’s student body participates in this kind of anachronistic and systematic elitism- we need to be talking about the pockets of its activity that condone morally reprehensible behavior.”

  34. such a well-written article about a really important topic!

  35. James Sutton // April 20, 2015 at 10:28 pm //

    Some of the exclusivity and not participating with other Greek groups is also very prevalent. A member of a new Greek Fraternity on campus and we haven’t been able to get a panhellenic or multicultural sorority to have a social. This type of prejudiced and elitism is present even amongst groups of “equal stature”. It really is a sad reality when most of us just want to have fun and meet new people.

  36. This article is biased and ironically bigotry-filled garbage. I hope this gets the attention you think it deserves.

  37. I appreciate what you’re trying to do here, I really do, but you’re wrong.

    Well written and decently thought out article, but probably just written to feed off of the burgeoning anti-Greek sentiment spreading through America thanks to chapters like Ohio’s SAE.

    Also, have you even considered the fact that the growing anti-Greek culture – which you only feed with incendiary articles like this – produces infinitely greater problems and stresses for Greek students than Greek students are making for anybody else?

    Greeks nowadays must carry a constant fear of being watched or recorded, as a single errant action can bring down their whole fraternity or sorority in an instant. We have been warned to stay away from reporters, as the questions asked are now hostile instead of positive ones focusing on the undeniable good that Greeks do on college campuses.

    Conversely, when have you ever heard of an independent student in fear because of a goofy social theme that Greek organizations used? Has anyone ever said “No, I’m scared to leave my dorm because of the Cowboys and Indians social that ___ and ___ are having tonight”?

    Now, I don’t like that KA/SAE used to have events that were tied to the Civil War through means of Confederate uniforms – and I certainly do not condone any form of racism. I have several African American fraternity brothers (yes, in my IFC fraternity) myself, not to mention the Filipinos, Mexicans, Native Americans, etc.

    Basically what I’m saying is this: CALM DOWN, PEOPLE. I know it’s fun to jump on the backs of Greeks, but could you please stop? As a whole, we do endlessly more economic, social, and extracurricular good than harm – and most of that harm is to our own livers, and shouldn’t concern you.

    I hope you all have a wonderful day arguing about irrelevant shit on the Internet.

  38. Reblogged this on Liz Biz Today and commented:
    Its time for us to start talking abou the difficult and uncomfortable topics and this article does that.

  39. John Locke // April 20, 2015 at 9:43 pm //

    Stop your sjw and leave greek life. Did someone make fun of you and you are just too butt hurt to accept the fact that you chose to be a part of the community. Who cares if they are any of those pejorative terms you listed, at least we know who the idiots are. It’s people like you that make them clam up and your quest for social justice makes people angrier and scared. Live and let live.

  40. “It has been rumored…” might as well be the title of this post. Everything you’ve said probably has happened, and I personally don’t believe in much of what Greek life stands for; however, without any actual evidence/objective information to back up your points, this entire post just comes off as little more than a rant. It adds nothing but finger-pointing to the entire discussion. Also, the veil of anonymity further shrouds any credibility you might have had.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: