Greek life is one of the oldest and most controversial systems at Cornell. The current structure of Greek life that we’re familiar with has been decades in the making, and in this week’s Solar Flashback, we wanted to take a look back at some of the most significant policy changes involving social Greek organizations. As Greek life reforms come into the spotlight once again, it’s important to understand its history in order to gain insights for future change.
A Panhellenic Council proposal to freeze social mixers failed to collect unanimous support on Wednesday, despite a majority of Panhel sorority delegates voting in favor of the contentious plan to stop mixing with Interfraternity Council fraternities until the IFC undertook safety reforms.
How do we create institutional change? At a University that has existed since 1865, we fall victim to systemic problems that persisted since long before the conception of Cornell. When evaluating the campus problems we seek solutions for — issues that affect one, many or all Cornellians — the sheer length of the list makes taking action seem overwhelming and unachievable. But what if we take one of the institutional problems we are facing and put forth a conversation and some action items to begin to tackle it? Many organizations on this campus, like Cornell Minds Matter, are champions of this approach and are creating positive institutional change.
I urge members of the Panhellenic community to consider the power we yield in regard to changing unsafe party culture on this campus. I ask that Panhellenic’s 13 chapters unanimously vote to stop attending mixers at fraternity houses until the following demands are met by the Interfraternity Council President’s Council and Executive Board:
An action plan demonstrating tangible ways they will cease dirty rushing, including forms of punishment for chapters that engage in dirty rush events. A commitment to make their events safer in the following ways:
Scanning IDs of every individual in attendance and fully marking over or under 21 years of age. Having Cayuga’s Watchers, who are students trained in both bystander intervention and sober monitoring, at every event hosted by a fraternity. At least one sober monitor at every exit of the chapter house to check that individuals leaving the house are able to arrive home safely, and have sober people offer rides for those who need transportation home.
The University has withdrawn its recognition of the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity following an investigation that revealed the fraternity engaged in various hazing activities during the spring 2018 semester. Activities were both physical and non-physical, including a presentation on health and nutrition that featured “demeaning images of women,” according to the report.
In elementary school, there was one other black girl in my year, and she had the Addy Walker American Girl: a fugitive slave doll who’d escaped with her mother from a plantation in North Carolina to Philadelphia during the Civil War. My mother wouldn’t buy us the Addy doll, telling us that we wouldn’t hold a slave doll and betoken a painful heritage that wasn’t ours — a strict edict heavily loaded with implications about identity. Still wanting me to be happy and fit in, she did what any mother would: she bought me an Elizabeth Cole doll. Growing up, my parents made sure my sisters and I knew to never allow anyone to classify us as African American, a term that typically refers to descendants of enslaved black people. Not because there’s anything inferior about any other diasporan identity, but simply because I’m not.
In January 2016, I bought a pair of black Adrienne Vittadini heels so I could make a good impression. I was a sophomore at Cornell and had transferred in the previous semester. I had friends, but I wanted a home. I was going to rush a sorority. A week later, I joined a long line of girls waiting to enter sorority houses for rush.