The platform Greekrank was known by most to be a forum to post gossip about the latest happenings in campus Greek life. But just two weeks ago, the platform became an avenue to spread threats against Cornell’s Jewish community.
These threats brought national attention to Greekrank, a website that describes itself as a platform that “strives to be the best place to learn about and interact with college Greek life.” Greekrank is not affiliated with Cornell, and it hosts several avenues for anonymously discussing Greek life and ranking sororities and fraternities on 819 college and university campuses.
On the website, users can make general discussion posts about Greek life, rate and review specific chapters of Greek organizations and rate a college or university’s Greek life system as a whole. Patrick Dai ’24 used the discussion section of the website as an anonymous user to make threats to the Cornell Jewish community, according to court documents, putting the website’s content moderation practices and merits to Greek life under scrutiny.
However, a post from Oct. 26 that calls for “death to “Israel”” and “death to America,” and calls on Hamas to kill “zionist pigs,” referencing an antisemitic trope, remains on the website as of Nov. 12. This post has not been attributed to Dai in court documents but alludes to the Oct. 17 bombing of a Gazan hospital that Dai’s public defender said was distressing to him and includes similar rhetoric to posts reported to the FBI.
While threats of violence like the ones Cornell recently experienced are rare on the website, Greekrank has struggled in the past to mitigate other kinds of harmful content, affecting Cornell and other colleges and universities on the website. At Vanderbilt University, several students in July 2020 identified Greekrank as a “platform through which hateful comments from Greek members have been amplified.” A Vanderbilt Greekrank discussion post and associated comment reposted to a public Instagram account earlier that month called Black students “stinky Ns” and “crack smokers.”
An op-ed posted to The Daily Wildcat, the University of Arizona’s student newspaper, in March 2021 characterized the website as a “toxic hellscape of objectification,” citing comments on the university’s Greekrank forums that call women in various sororities “trashy girls who use their bodies for popularity” or “some beaters but some fine a** smash worthy ones.”
A since deleted post on Cornell’s Greekrank forum from Nov. 1 included similar remarks, calling women affiliated with certain sororities “Jewish wifey[s]” or “girl[s] you wish you were with when ur gf gives a toothy bl*w job.” It is unknown whether this post was removed through Greekrank’s reporting system.
Many students in Cornell Greek life think that the content on Greekrank does not represent their organizations. A fraternity leader, who requested to remain anonymous, called the website a “stain overall on the community.”
The fraternity leader lamented that Cornell is one of the most active schools on Greekrank, attributing this to the prevalence of competitive attitudes among the student body that may stem from Cornell’s highly selective admissions process. As of Nov. 12, over 79,000 discussion posts and comments have been posted to Cornell’s Greekrank forum, and new posts, reviews and comments are made each day.
The vast majority of the discussion posts on the website contain only a ranked list of fraternities or sororities on campus based on their perceived relevance, with commenters “bumping” lists they deem agreeable to the top of a university’s feed. The rankings on Greekrank are supposed to be based on a set of seven factors, including reputation, friendliness, popularity, classiness, involvement, social life and brotherhood/sisterhood, but posts often focus on the perceived attractiveness of Greek members or other superficial factors.
The fraternity leader said that commentary and rankings on Greekrank provide an inaccurate reflection of the Cornell Greek life experience and cautioned prospective new members against looking to the website for useful information.
“Greekrank is solely based off of who throws good parties, who mixes with what sorority [or] frat, and generally who is seen as the best on campus, which is absolutely not what you should look for when you rush,” the fraternity leader said.
“[Greekrank]’s really not an important part of actual Greek life at Cornell,” he continued. “It’s just unfortunate that what happens when you look up Greek life at Cornell is that [Greekrank] comes up.”