UConn’s chapter of the fraternity Phi Gamma Delta has been suspended and is facing expulsion after an investigation found the organization to have violated seven acts of UConn’s student code. The investigation was prompted by the hospitalization of a student with acute alcohol intoxication last spring.
Phi Gamma Delta is not the first Greek organization at UConn to be suspended for violating the student code. It’s predecessors include Sigma Alpha Epsilon, Kappa Kappa Gamma, Delta Zeta, Delta Gamma, Kappa Sigma, Pi Kappa Alpha, Sigma Chi and Zeta Beta Tau.
What does violating the university’s student code mean?
It means threatening and harassing Black women with racial slurs. It means forcing men to bob for alcohol nips in a toilet and to eat cat food. It means demanding that women lie on the floor and “sizzle like bacon” while drinking alcohol. It means forcing people to take shots off other people’s bodies. It means pressuring people to drink alcohol in quantities that kill.
We do not recall these incidents in an attempt to conflate the actions of a few Greek organizations with the values and practices of all Greek organizations at UConn. The exceptionally demeaning and life-threatening actions of the suspended organizations (some of which have, in fact, been reinstated) are not representative of all Greek organizations at UConn.
Yet when history repeats itself — when a pattern of events becomes undeniably evident in an institution’s history — it would be careless for that institution to leave that pattern unexamined. When the pattern involves a desecration of human life and identity, leaving that pattern unexamined becomes not only careless, but also callously irresponsible.
The pattern of Greek organization related incidents at UConn, and the recent ban of Phi Gamma Delta that confirms this pattern, forces us to ask: What is the purpose of Greek organizations at UConn?
How does the existence of organizations that are by nature exclusionary align with UConn’s efforts to create a more inclusive and egalitarian campus community?
Even as individual UConn-affiliated chapters institute change, do the national ties that bind Greek organizations together, and that are the strength of Greek organizations, make it ever possible for a Greek organization to completely separate itself from the operational structures which are antithetical to fostering inclusion and equality on a college campus?
Are the service and philanthropic efforts that are typically presented by Greek organizations as their primary focus and purpose for existing necessarily enacted through the structures of Greek organizations — especially when these structures were first constructed as a way for society’s elites to carve out a space for themselves which would aid in the preservation of their status on college campuses?
Black lives matter. As UConn seeks to affirm this through its practices and policies, how long should we wait for reform at all levels — reform for individual chapters and the national organizations which they are linked to — from organizations with histories plagued by racism? How long should we wait for the transformation of organizations which, despite “reform,” have traditionally maintained a cultivated aesthetic of racial homogeneity?
How many more student lives will be injured while we wait?
How long will the pattern go on?