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Frequently Asked Questions

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FAQ #1

After people drop, what’s next? How can we ensure actual social change post abolition?

The first step after dropping is to begin evaluating the hurt and the damage the IFCPH community has done and start to reconcile it. 

While it is understandable to want to replace IFCPH Greek Life, it is critical to remember that we, through this system, have been perpetrators of hurt across our campus. Therefore, if we are the ones to decide what will replace IFCPGL, we will carry our roots in IFCPGL and resow them into new campus spaces.

It is not for us to decide.

Now is the time to listen, learn, and interact with other parts of our campus and let others lead.

IFCPH voices have been dominant for too long.

For example, we need to invest in and expand organizations for multiculturalism/international students/social goals/community development/mentorship/professional development, and carry through with accountability in all of these spaces.

This normalization of accountability on our campus is a crucial step.

By abolishing IFCPH Greek Life and agreeing to reconcile with the rest of the Vanderbilt community, we are holding ourselves accountable for the harm we have caused, which is the first step towards actualizing social change.

Because of COVID-19, regular IFCPH Greek Life programming will be interrupted (large gatherings are unsafe), and we can use that pause to truly reflect on the impact of IFCPH Greek life on our campus.

We can also take advantage of this COVID-19 interruption by getting involved in non-Greek campus organizations that can continue to operate without high capacity meetings in order to expand our own circles and make meaningful connections with individuals and groups that have been negatively affected by IFCPH Greek Life in some capacity.

The movement to abolish IFCPH is not an isolated or one-and-done deal. The issues that IFCPH Greek life perpetuates — such as classism, racism, ableism, rape culture, transphobia, and homophobia — will not magically go away with its abolition. Vanderbilt’s campus will not turn into a social utopia in which every space is wholly inclusive and safe for every student.

However, abolishing an antiquated system founded on exclusion is a step in the right direction. Many Vanderbilt students have been harmed by this system, and so, although issues of injustice will still be present on our campus, we want to do everything we can to minimize these injustices; and upholding a system that cannot ever be truly inclusive will only continue harming certain students. 

The abolition of IFCPH Greek Life may not significantly affect the current Vanderbilt cohort, especially upperclassmen, as these students have already been a part of IFCPH organizations and the social stratification that comes with it.

However, not having IFCPH Greek Life be an option for future classes at Vanderbilt will automatically result in more inclusion and integration on campus, as first-year students will fulfill their social needs through student organizations that do not have financial barriers and that will enable them to connect with each other based on shared interests and passions.

FAQ #2

How will this movement prevent the potential rise of elitist off-campus organizations? / Are there plans to stop other groups like sports/clubs from taking up the toxic mantle?

Making a deliberate change to get rid of an existing elitist, toxic social structure — IFCPH Greek Life — will be the first step in affirming the Vanderbilt student body’s stance against such organizations. 

Unfortunately, the abolition of IFCPH Greek organizations does not mean that there will not still be some students on campus who want to preserve elitism. Therefore, with the abolition of a structure that we already know to be harmful — yet has been socially accepted — comes the resounding call to say that groups formed with the purpose of upholding toxic and elitist ideals, like the current IFC/Panhel structure, are unacceptable at Vanderbilt. These organizations will not be tolerated.  

We cannot control those who want to preserve the hierarchy intrinsic to IFCPH Greek organizations after they are abolished, but we as a student body, have the power to not tolerate history repeating itself through elitist and toxic groups taking the place of IFCPH. 

That being said, we can control, and need to control, the power we give these organizations. If we all stop funding these groups and create a culture in which we disapprove of those groups, their power will be completely dismantled. If you do not approve of those types of organizations and they do come about on campus, don’t join them, don’t tolerate their existence, and remember that if we have the power to rid our school of Panhellenic/IFC, then we will be able to deal with subversive groups as they present themselves.  

Additionally, without the legitimacy of being an official, national organization, it will be more difficult for these groups of students to formally recruit on campus, collect money from one another, and maintain a long-lasting leadership structure. If they do not have a house big enough for meetings or events, then that stands in the way of the regular programming that they would be known for. This is especially relevant now, when crowding in small, enclosed areas in the midst of a pandemic is dangerous.

We can work together to help create a community in which exclusive organizations do not crop up on our campus. For instance, we could establish an overall stricter regulation of all student organizations, as well as academic requirements that could foster inclusion (ie. AADS and WGS course requirements). This movement is not merely open to student suggestions; we are reliant on these suggestions, as we want to unite the Vanderbilt community and serve the needs of students who have been harmed in some way by IFCPH Greek Life.

Furthermore, for those who point to the possibility of Vanderbilt students mimicking schools such as Georgetown and Princeton where social structures (underground or not) exist, there are several considerations that should come with that argument. Those underground societies and eating clubs were founded around the same time as IFCPH Greek Life. Therefore, they were built upon a similar structure of exclusion. With that said, the emergence of these toxic social structures in response to the abolition of IFCPH Greek life is unrealistic given the nature of our times. Moreover, those who seek to establish groups of these sorts will be quick to be held accountable for their actions.

Finally, the current cohort of Vanderbilt students — especially upperclassmen — will not reap all the benefits that will come with abolishing IFCPH Greek Life. Rather, we are setting the stage for incoming Vanderbilt students to have a more inclusive social experience by having their entire Vanderbilt experience free of an inherently exclusive social structure. Because these students will enter Vanderbilt having never experienced IFCPH Greek Life themselves, they are far less likely to establish organizations that mimic IFCPH Greek organizations. In other words, by abolishing IFCPH Greek life, we strive to shift the overall social culture of Vanderbilt for future classes. 

This is only the beginning of a reimagined Vanderbilt. There will, without a doubt, be obstacles in this process. However, if we listen to our community and adequately respond to the needs of students, we can and will achieve a more inclusive and safe campus. 

FAQ #3

What if this surge of IFCPH members dropping leaves these organizations with folks who do not care/are ignorant to the problem?

This concern is why the goal is abolition, so that the people who remain complacent do not have the legitimacy of an on-campus organization. Once every organization is left with only those folks that do not care or know enough to drop, there will be immense pressure on them to either educate themselves or leave the system as well. In other words, if those with more knowledge leave, those left may feel forced to take on diversity and inclusion efforts within their chapter (in part in response to pressure from this movement) and in doing so, they will be forced to learn more about problems of racism/sexism/classism/elitism. Perhaps after doing so they will ultimately decide to drop as well!

Additionally, it is much easier to keep a watch on a small group of individuals who are perpetuating exclusivity and abuse than it is to keep a watch on large organizations perpetuating these issues. 

The goal of the movement is not only to get people to drop but also to prevent incoming students from rushing. Therefore, if there do happen to be a few complicit/harmful people left in IFCPH Greek orgs, they will graduate in a year or two, maximum. Additionally, these sorts of people would not have the legitimacy to remain in social power. Moreover, when it is clear what it means to remain in IFC and Panhellenic organizations the choice to rush for incoming first-years will be very binary: Do I want to become part of the problem?

FAQ #4

How does leaving my IFCPH organization change anything unless everyone drops? 

It is difficult to realize this, but the decision to drop is an individual one; it is not worth waiting to convince others to leave your organization with you. The way to inspire others to make the right decision is to do it yourself first. If you believe that IFCPH Greek Life is toxic, but you want to stay because you are worried that your peers will stay, you are acknowledging that a certain amount of exclusion is acceptable as long as it’s normalized. We all can choose which institutions we participate in.

Silence is violence. 

If you choose to drop your organization, it means that you are aware of your privilege and the harm you have caused other groups by being a part of IFCPH Greek Life, and therefore, you no longer want to be a part of it, even if the institution itself remains. 

Everyone else who is in the same situation as you will follow.

Do not underestimate the power of your individual actions. If you drop, you are signalling to Vanderbilt, your organization, and your peers that we must change the current culture. Dropping may encourage your peers who are on the fence to drop as well.

Finally, leaving IFCPH will inevitably bring you closer to people at Vanderbilt whose values align more closely with your own. By learning more about certain issues that spark your interest and getting involved in organizations that address those meaningful issues, you will not only be educating yourself, but also contributing to the Vanderbilt community in more substantive ways and helping these organizations achieve their honorable goals.

FAQ #5

Why not stay and try to make the IFC/Panhellenic Greek Life environment better and more inclusive?

Even if the changes to the system are as drastic as rebuilding it from the ground up, there is no way to rebuild the history that will always be present in making it a flawed system that is unsafe for the people for whom it was not built. 

That structure is the reason that it has not been meaningfully reformed yet, because it is not beneficial for the people who are in charge of the organizations to make such reforms.

What good does working “in the system” do if the system is what subjugates people in the first place?

We cannot fix a system that is not broken. 

IFCPH Greek Life was never designed to include BIPOC, the LGBTQ+ community, etc. It is not broken; it was built this way.

Think deeply about why you are willing to continue to subject generations of BIPOC and LGBTQ+ students to the negative impacts of IFCPH Greek Life. 

If you weren’t pushing for “reform” before, what makes you think you could devote time and energy towards it now? Most importantly, what makes you qualified to make such reforms? Who are you to decide what reforms will be beneficial to those harmed by this system when they are the ones asking you to tear it down?

A group such as a “diversity and inclusion committee” taking on “reform” work would be an impossible task, because while educational programming is somewhat easy to implement, it would be much harder to force everyone in the chapter to always include each other.

This is something that no leadership or committee can teach, foster, or facilitate, as it cannot come from the efforts of a few. 

And even if this effort was put in from every single individual, it would not change the fact that there is still an uneven playing field: some members come into the system with built-in cliques or pre-made friendships and some do not, based on the connections (often stemming from wealth) that they have been able to make before the school year even began. 

Furthermore, many students are unable or unwilling to join IFCPH Greek Life due to financial barriers or a general lack of familiarity/comfort/exposure to Greek Life in general. These students that choose not to join IFCPH organizations will remain excluded, regardless of any reform made within the system itself; reforms to the system will only benefit those who have access to the system. Meanwhile, the students who cannot join, or do not want to join, will still be disadvantaged as a result (ie. absolved of connections for job opportunities, social opportunities, tests bank access, etc.) while IFCPH members will continue to reap the benefits.

How is that fair?

Often, the supposed determination to reform IFCPH Greek Life a veiled way of saying “this system has always been great for me, let’s just keep it going.”  

It is difficult to see how deeply the issue runs when you have only ever benefited from it, but it is important to look from a lens other than your own. As soon as you do this, it becomes impossible not to see that the only solution is to get rid of the system altogether.

FAQ #6

How do fraternities and sororities support white supremacy? 

The first Greek-letter organizations were exclusively white fraternities and sororities, created so that white students could enjoy segregation from Black students and insulate themselves in their racist beliefs and behaviors. 

Practices and policies such as “white clauses” explicitly made it impossible for Black students to join.

The racism embedded in these organizations’ founding principles are passed down, generation after generation of exclusive recruitment practices.

Segregation and discrimination may be illegal de jure, but recruitment is just a vehicle for people to act on their prejudices unchecked in similar ways for the sake of conformity. 

For a “successful” recruitment process, sorority women and fraternity men are encouraged (formally or informally) to disregard and disrespect those who either aren’t “interesting” or “cool” or don’t seem like they will “fit in with the chapter.”

These are euphemisms.

Fraternities and sororities are looking for others who fit in with their ways of life and have had the luxury of money and time to party, eat out at expensive restaurants, go on trips and vacations over breaks, all the while being able to not have a job and enjoying tangible benefits passed down from their wealthy and well-connected parents.

Those expectations overlap entirely with whiteness, white privilege, and white supremacy. 

After all, think about who has held the lion’s share of the power and money in this country for its entire history.

IFCPH continues that trend by offering a huge network of alumni and social capital to its cherry-picked members who are predominantly rich and white (and let’s not forget, able-bodied and heterosexual).

Take a good look at the demographic makeup of IFCPH.

Your “Diversity and Inclusion” Chair doesn’t do much if BIPOC and queer students are still being excluded. 

Your “Diversity and Inclusion” Chair doesn’t do much if you’re selectively uplifting only the minorities who fit your mold of “interesting.”

If you are still participating in a system that makes BIPOC, queer students, low-income students, and first-gen students, feel unwelcomed and worthless, you are upholding white supremacy. 

If you are only associating with the privileged, white mentality, you’re very likely missing out on how white people (and yourself) are perpetuating white supremacy, and you cannot be relied on to change the system for the better.

FAQ #7

How do fraternities and sororities support the patriarchy?

Fraternity men have the unique power to throw parties and hold many more date parties compared to sororities. Fraternity men effectively control what social events happen and who is allowed to participate in them. At these parties, fraternity men control the distribution of alcohol,  and abide by an “our house our rules” sort of mentality that allows them to get away with disrespectful—and sometimes violent—behavior toward women.

Fraternities also perpetuate rape culture. Last year, the Vanderbilt Office of the Provost released findings that 32.3% of Greek women have been sexually assaulted—and this number rises to 45% for women who live in Greek housing—while 21% of Non-Greek women have been sexually assaulted. This discrepancy highlights the prevalence of sexual assault in Greek spaces. 

There is pitiful accountability within both fraternities and sororities who are close with a fraternity man with sexual assault allegations, are part of his organization, or wish to maintain close social ties with his organization. Many Greek organizations and individuals want to hold on to their social clout with the frat rather than sit with the cognitive dissonance and take a stand, and the Greek system more often than not protects abusers in this way. 

How many survivors do we have to burden with recounting the trauma of their assault just so you can finally acknowledge that the problem of patriarchal exploitation exists? You aren’t entitled to their stories as educational lessons.

Research indicates that sexual victimization occurs at increased rates during fraternity parties (Grossbard, Geisner, Neighbors, Kilmer, & Larimer, 2007; McMahon, 2010) and after fraternity sponsored functions in fraternity houses (Mohler-Kou, Dowdall, Koss, & Wechsler, 2004; Murnen & Kohlman, 2007). 

Minow and Einolf (2009) found that more than 1 in 3 rapes reported on college campuses took place in a fraternity house. As compared to men who are not in fraternities, men who are in fraternities are also more likely to engage in sexually aggressive behaviors (Loh, Gidycz, Lobo, & Luthra, 2005; Murnen & Kohlman, 2007) and to endorse rape-supportive beliefs and attitudes (Boeringer, 1999; Boeringer, Shehan, & Akers, 1991; Canan, Jozkowski, & Crawford, 2016; Humphreys & Kahn, 2000). 

These findings suggest that fraternity subculture may be conducive to sexual violence against women and that specific venues such as parties and events hosted by fraternities represent spaces of high risk for the perpetration of sexual assault. We argue that fraternity culture, marked by “hooking up, sexual competition among brothers, and collective disrespect for women[,] make[s] fraternity rape a virtual inevitability” (Boyle, 2015, p. 386). []

Derby Days is the series of charity events held by all Sigma Chi chapters, where money is raised by all sororities in competitions organized by Sigma Chi. The sororities do all of the fundraising work for Sigma Chi, while Sigma Chi receives all of the credit. Derby Days is fundamentally sexist. A dance competition where men are the judges is blatant objectification of women, as well as a perpetuation of the tier system, yet every person and every chapter who has participated in it has had no problem going along with it. 

You might not have supported Derby Days, but the social pressure to remain silent and go along with it comes from the system. 

FAQ #8

How have IFC/Panhellenic Organizations harmed communities outside of Greek Life?

Many people have had positive or neutral experiences with IFC/PH Greek Life, but these come at the expense of others who are harmed by the system. While abolishing IFC/PH Greek Life may not completely fix the issues of classism, racism, sexism, etc. on Vanderbilt’s campus, it takes away a system that upholds and empowers these isms/phobias and makes them the norm. 

IFC/PH Greek Life’s reinforcement of the gender binary and rigid gender roles in campus social structures is harmful to the LGBTQ+ community, as well as to anyone who may not identify completely with the social stereotypes of their gender.

IFC/PH organizations also create a rigid social hierarchy where everyone knows who is wealthy and who isn’t. People who can’t afford Greek Life or trips to Gulf Shores feel alienated and isolated from the rest of campus.

The tier system within Greek Life has caused immense harm to the Vanderbilt community at large through social stratification based on wealth, race, class, and Eurocentric beauty standards. 

Test banks in IFC/PH organizations put non-Greek students at a significant academic disadvantage. Because IFC/PH organizations are predominantly white, test banks widen the already existing achievement gap between white students and BIPOC students across the nation. 

“But other organizations can have test banks!” They sure can. But these test banks are not nearly as thorough as most Greek organizations’ test banks; in fact, most test banks outside of Greek Life have almost nothing in them. 

Furthermore, nobody in this movement is arguing that non-Greek organizations should have test banks, either. They shouldn’t. But this movement is about abolishing IFC/PH Greek Life; so let’s please start there. If we can get rid of IFC/PH Greek Life, we promise that getting rid of test banks from other organizations will be a piece of cake. 

Vanderbilt even put up its own test bank on Brightspace with tests approved by professors, and unsurprisingly, it is completely empty. Whether or not you are in Greek Life — which has strong connections to SES, race, sexuality, and other identities —  should not determine whether or not you have access to certain academic materials. 

Greek Life insulates people in their own biases and prejudices whether that be racism, sexism, ableism, misogyny, homophobia and transphobia. Having a support system for some should not come at the expense of others’ feelings of support or safety on campus. Vanderbilt prides itself on creating community throughout the campus experience — student organizations are a major selling point, and Commons/other Residential Colleges also serve (ideally) as built-in support systems.

In theory, the abolition of IFC/PH organizations would enable the University to devote more resources and attention to structures such as these that aim to provide an equitable experience for ALL Vanderbilt students.

FAQ #9

What will happen to the charities/causes that my frat/sorority supports?

If you are dedicated to the cause that your Greek organization supports, then you are absolutely encouraged to keep fundraising as an individual for them. In fact, with certain Greek houses, fundraising individually will benefit the charity MORE because the money will not be going through nationals first, where it can go other places, as was seen with the philanthropy chair of Zeta Tau Alpha Nationals recently.

Additionally, if you are worried about your charity missing out on the money you pay in your dues that goes towards them, you can donate the money that you would have paid towards dues directly to the cause.

You can also create organizations (or join existing campus organizations) dedicated to these causes, and better yet, you can do so without the barriers that Greek Life poses on how the money is dispersed. 

This means you can choose to participate in philanthropic opportunities that cater to issues YOU are passionate about instead of being a passive participant who is obliged to fulfill certain service requirements under your Greek organization’s name. 

FAQ #10

How will we communicate with incoming first-years to help them feel empowered to not rush IFC/Panhellenic? How can we support them and give them the courage to find friends and social life elsewhere?

One of the goals of this movement is to make Vanderbilt a place where IFC/PH Greek Life is not the only option for making friends. While this may not be the culture we are able to achieve right away, it is absolutely possible with continued pressure on the IFC/PH Greek system.

Additionally, as the students who do not currently partake in IFC/PH Greek Life can attest to (which, let’s remind ourselves, is the majority of the school), there are many ways to make friends and have a flourishing social life at Vanderbilt that aren’t founded on a system of exclusion and toxic behaviors. The people who seem to be unaware of this are often the ones involved in IFC/PH Greek Life, because they have chosen to enclose themselves in a Greek bubble that actually inhibits them from making new friends.

And to be quite frank, with the way this movement has been progressing along with COVID-19, we do not foresee rush happening this Winter.

FAQ #11

Greek members are currently mandated to go through antihazing education/sexual assault prevention workshops/etc. If panhel/ifc are abolished and those students form similar organizations outside of Vandy’s scope of influence, how will they be incentivized to do these workshops?

For starters, the university should not be relying on Greek Life to administer this training. These should be required for ALL students when they arrive on campus. This is something we are looking into bringing up to the administration.

Secondly, let’s question how effective these workshops have been for the Greek Community. It is clear that even with them, there are still HUGE problems with sexual assault and hazing. This is not to say that the content of the courses isn’t good enough, but rather, that the greek community didn’t take them seriously.

Each of us must examine the role we play to create a campus environment where assault and abuse are not tolerated. Additionally, question why the greek community was specifically mandated to take these workshops — should we really have to be told to not be a bystander or a perpetrator of assault and/or hazing?

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