Abolish UW–Madison PHA and IFC.

By Maya Cherins, Molly Kehoe and Maggie Jay

Content Warning: Exclusion of BIPOC, discrimination against BIPOC, sexual violence, disordered eating. 

Editorial Note: This article is an overall evaluation of the systemic issues within predominantly white [PW] Greek life nationally, as well as a smaller reflection of UW–Madison’s PW Greek organizations. We are calling for the abolition of Panhellenic (PHA) and Interfraternity Council (IFC), not the Multicultural Greek Council (MGC) or National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC). We do not support the abolition of the MGC and the NPHC, as they were founded to uplift and support students of color.

Hi, I’m Maya and I joined a PHA sorority at the University of Wisconsin–Madison to find a community who shared similar values and interests as me. 

Hi, I’m Molly and I joined a PHA sorority at the University of Wisconsin–Madison because in high school, I wasn’t someone with lots of close girl friends and I wanted to have that. 

Hi, I’m Maggie and I joined a PHA sorority at the University of Wisconsin–Madison to get involved on campus and find my people.

Hi, we are all Bell Magazine writers and we believe UW–Madison needs to Abolish predominately white [PW] Greek Life.

We want to make something clear: this is not an attack on the chapters that we were in specifically. We made great friends and had overall positive experiences in our sororities. However, that doesn’t matter. 

What makes PW Greek life problematic is not based solely on the actions of individuals, but rather the system itself. It’s the way that its history is bound in racism and exclusion. It’s the way it continues to systematically exclude marginalized people. It’s how the recruitment process is superficial and problematic. It’s how fraternities are havens for violence and toxic masculinity. It’s how many individuals can’t afford their chapter’s dues. It’s how those dues are used to pay for political campaigns that don’t align with our beliefs. It’s about freeing our campus from this endlessly controversial system, and encouraging people to ask for more from their college experience. 

We made some of our best friends in PHA; we all had so much fun, at times. But in the end, it doesn’t matter what our personal experiences were like. We are tired of making excuses for our involvement in a system built on white supremacy. People in PW Greek life aren’t the only ones who make lifelong friends in college, so the supposed “sisterhoods” and “brotherhoods” aren’t reason enough to keep these overrated institutions around. We want to encourage our student body to think outside of the white, heteronormative, cisnormative, fatphobic, classist box and take into consideration the bigger picture of what participation in PW Greek life really means. 

Exclusionary history of white Greek life

Greek life, initially male-only, was founded in the 18th century and was built on the basis of literary societies. Along with providing students a place to meet others with common interests, it provided a social platform that differed from the dormitories. Starting off on a privileged foot, women were immediately excluded from these fraternities. In the late 1800s, women founded their own PW Greek organizations, women’s fraternities, which eventually became what we know today as sororities. 

While Black, Indigenous and people of color as well as poor communities were ostracized from higher education, these Greek organizations represented that of the university’s student body: white and wealthy. As BIPOC began to attend these colleges, certain Greek organizations became known as historically white fraternities and sororities (HWFS). The creation of HWFS was explicitly racist and segregationist and ultimately became Panhellenic Association (PHA) and Interfraternity Council (IFC). 

Jewish communities found themselves needing their own space as well, as they had also historically been excluded from Greek organizations: “During the first half of the 20th century, Jewish sorority houses were often the only place young Jewish women could live on campus when barred from boarding houses, Jewish fraternities the only places Jewish men could socialize when prohibited from joining other clubs.” 

In 1895, the first Jewish fraternity, Phi Epsilon Pi, was founded, and many more soon followed, including Zeta Beta Tau (ZBT), Alpha Epsilon Pi (AEPi), Sigma Alpha Mu (Sammy), Alpha Epsilon Phi (AEPhi) and Sigma Delta Tau (SDT). While these organizations were founded with the intentions of including Jews in Greek organizations, all of these organizations contribute to the toxic, white environment of Greek life today, and have had their fair share of exclusionary scandals. 

The first fraternity ever founded, Pi Beta Kappa at William & Mary, excluded people of color until 1960. PHA at the University of Alabama did not allow women of color to join until 2013. This was less than ten years ago. 

This summer when the BIPOC at Wisco Instagram was created, many submissions included experiences of negativity surrounding PW Greek life. One such submission was six Instagram slides long, detailing various experiences of discrimination and exclusion the anonymous person had faced. On the first slide of the post they said, “I won’t even begin to touch on the extent to which [PW] Greek life, which has an enormous presence on campus, has perpetuated white heteronormativity here.” 

Another anonymous UW–Madison student submitted their experience stating: “Being a BIPOC in [PW] Greek life, I have always felt like my presence was checking a box. Filling a quota that is required to have at least one POC in the chapter. I’ve experienced people celebrating ‘Hard R Fridays’ in my own chapter house. I’ve continuously been noted as the ‘token’ in the house. Everyday I dress, act and try to be as white as I can just to feel more comfortable and fit in. It’s exhausting to be ashamed and hide my culture, to constantly make jokes about myself before I let others have the ability to make them. Not saying there aren’t incredible people in Greek life, many of which I call friends. However, the overall system is not very welcoming to BIPOC.”

When asked, Director of FSL Maggie Hayes declined to comment on both the accusations that UW–Madison’s PW Greek system alienates BIPOC and other marginalized students, as well as the attempts of UW Fraternity and Sorority Life (FSL) to repair this relationship.

Sorority Recruitment (PHA)

This discrimination continues today within modern Panhellenic organizations. Throughout recruitment practices, PHA sororities and IFC fraternities are continuously looking for students to join that would ‘fit well’ with the existing members. Rho Gammas, or disaffiliated members who aid in the recruitment period, tell potential new members (PNMs) to join a house where they see themselves best. For students of color and LGBTQ+ students, there is rarely a house where they see themselves represented. 

Certain recruitment practices are kept secret for only sorority executive members to understand. These methods include designating ahead of time which sorority member is going to talk to which PNM — making sure that certain PNMs have the best recruitment experience possible. This ensures that girls who sororities want ahead of time are at the “top” of each chapter’s list. 

Along with using underground recruitment practices that avoid letting BIPOC students into these predominantly white organizations, some sororities and fraternities have legacy policies that allow students whose family members were in the organization to automatically make it through recruitment. This practice allows the same white families to take up space in these organizations, generation after generation. Because students of color were originally excluded from HWFS, their children lack this advantage that has only been growing for white students. 

UW–Madison’s Panhellenic upholds the rule of the “4-Bs” during recruitment (Note: this may be a practice at many other campuses, but we can only speak confidently about UW–Madison since we experienced this first hand). This rule states that you cannot talk about four topics that start with B: Bible, Brands, Boys and Booze. This rule is intended to make PNMs comfortable within each house during recruitment; however, there are underlying tones of discrimination in this practice. 

Until 2020 PHA fall recruitment, it was the “5-Bs” and “Barack” was the fifth. “Barack” — meaning politics in general — was extremely controversial as many women consider their lives to be inherently political. When going through recruitment freshman year, I [Maya] was told by a Rho Gamma to refrain from telling sorority members what I did over the summer — I interned at Planned Parenthood of New York City. UW Panhellenic amended the rule this year to allow PNMs to feel comfortable talking about Black Lives Matter, which they determined was a matter of basic human rights, not politics. We, the writers, are curious to see if the elimination of “Barack” continues after many white women forget about the Black Lives Matter movement. 

The elimination of “Brands” means that you cannot ask a girl where she bought anything she’s wearing or in general talk about money. 

The elimination of “Bible” means you can’t talk about religion at all. This alienates many people who may consider their religion — Islam, Judaism, Christianity or otherwise — to be a foundation of who they are. 

The elimination of “Booze” means that you cannot talk about drugs and alcohol, intended to keep PNMs from asking about parties and from older women from bragging about partying. However, it also prevents young women who may be nervous about this aspect of PW Greek life from being able to ask any questions or express concern. 

The elimination of “Boys” means that you cannot talk about boys. While this is intended to keep the discussion of fraternities out of recruitment, it is an extremely heteronormative, cisnormative rule. It implies that women are going through recruitment with the intention to meet and date frat boys. It also implies that women are the only ones going through recruitment. While that may be the norm, it alienates members of queer, non-binary or trans communities.

The elimination of these categories stems from assumptions on who is going through the recruitment process and who chapters are looking to recruit. It assumes that there is a single blueprint of human beings that are compatible with PHA Greek life, eliminating from conversation many things that people find their personal value in: politics, religion, faith and gender expression. 

Another anonymous submission to the BIPOC at Wisco Instagram account specifically mentioned this rule. She explains how her Rho Gamma told her, “Don’t talk about politics, you are better than that and can come up with better conversation.” The submission then went on to explain her personal reaction to this advice: “Are you kidding me? How [ignorant] does this school have to be to tell people that they are better than talking about politics? This is why the sorority system at UW is full of white privileged women who use performative activism to make themselves look good.”

Outside of the physical houses, recruitment strategies are still at play. Sorority members dive into trash-talking other sorority organizations on campus in order to increase their chances of getting a “cool” pledge class and maintain or heighten their status on campus. This process is called “dirty rushing” and it can be as subtle as a member texting their PNM friends from home about the various houses — something UW Panhellenic prohibits, but can’t control — or it can be as blatant as ignoring a PNM you don’t think ‘fits’.

When I [Molly] was going through PHA recruitment my freshman year, a girl in one of the houses never made eye contact with me and stopped our conversation halfway through to talk to a girl sitting next to me. By showing zero interest in me, I immediately felt like she had sized-me-up and decided I wasn’t good enough for her chapter. 

During UW–Madison’s 2019 recruitment, there was a rumor going around that a woman in a sorority was telling PNMs that “If you aren’t in [X] sorority, you’re either fat, ugly, weird or Jewish.” The fact that this language was circulating the recruitment rumor mill tells you everything you need to know about the horrendous experience of PHA sorority rush.

Another BIPOC at Wisco submission reads: “POC here. I rushed a [PW] sorority last year. It wasn’t particularly diverse, but I knew of people that were like me/had similar ethnic backgrounds in there and so I decided to rush. I am not exaggerating when I say that only one of the girls rushing with me spoke to me and only 3 of the existing sisters made an effort to get to know me. Everyone else was just acting like they were talking to me because they had to … Some girls even acted like I wasn’t there when I approached them but would genuinely open up to the white girls. Ironic how “sisterhood” can be so isolating, exclusive and selective.”

Aside from the actual recruitment processes themselves, recruitment videos (see here, here and here) from UW sororities perpetuate thin and white body ideals, demonstrating that they adhere strictly to a certain type of woman. These videos aren’t unique — PHA sorority Instagram accounts consistently amplify this message. Feeds at UW and across the country — see this, this, this or this for starters — portray cisnormative, heteronormative, white, skinny, privileged people. Ultimately, their Instagram feeds are a huge part of what influences potential new members’ decisions to join, especially in times of COVID-19 and virtual recruitment. If you’re looking for a welcoming and diverse space, this is clearly not for you.

Another BIPOC at Wisco submission touches on the homogeneity of sorority Instagram accounts. “I am a BIPOC woman at UW. Something that has always disturbed me is how little some [PW] sororities seem to care about diversity and inclusion. One look through the Instagram pages of the more exclusive and popular sororities tells you all you need to know about what types of members they value.”

Sorority Membership (PHA)

Joining a PHA sorority does not mean you are in the clear for hazing; fraternities are not alone in this demeaning process. While this may not be the case for certain UW–Madison sororities, organizations across the country practice belittling and degrading hazing rituals that often go unnoticed, as fraternities take the cake for public hazing humiliation. 

Personal horror stories of PHA sorority hazing include the routine “blow or blow”, washing machine weight watching and pressured binge drinking. “Blow or blow” is the terrifying legend of forcing new members to either perform oral sex (a blowjob) or do a line of cocaine. “Washing machine weight watching” is the hazing practice of forcing girls to sit naked on a washing machine while their “excessive skin” jiggles. Sorority members then circle the places these new members need to lose weight. 

Once the possible hazing is concluded and you’re an initiated member, the discrimination and exclusivity does not end. Women in PHA sororities face a lot of heteronormativity in their daily lives. In some instances, sorority women are expected to bring dates of the opposite sex to formal and informal events. 

Themes of certain date parties and formal events can reinforce this message. At social events, the members of PW fraternities or sororities sing vulgar songs to one another and then are randomly paired up to walk to a venue — further pressuring sorority women and fraternity men to talk to each other when they have never met. 

A date party theme called “Screw Your Sister” is common at UW–Madison and reinforces heteronormativity yet again. In some cases, women in the sorority are paired up and told to invite a date for their sister in secret. They then have to get the necktie of the boy — assumedly — who they invited and give it to their “sister” ahead of the event. The boys then show up at the sorority house or venue and find their date by looking for their tie around the neck of a girl. Not only is this event structured entirely around a girl desiring a boy as her date to an event, but it’s very demeaning… It feels like the boy is literally looking to claim his glass slipper.

Additionally, many PHA sororities have rules that boys are not allowed to stay overnight in the sorority house. While this is intended as a safety precaution — and a warranted one at that — the precaution is reserved solely for boys, reinforcing expectations and heteronormativity onto these girls’ times living in their houses.

Eating disorders and unhealthy relationships with food are toxic, college campus cultures, and PW Greek life only further perpetuates this. Many sorority women feel pressure to maintain an ideal weight or body image. Around late winter and early spring, there is often lots of talk amongst the girls of “spring break diets” which, for those of us who have struggled with disordered or restrictive eating in the past, is not helpful in maintaining a healthy relationship with food. 

For many women, their time with their PHA sorority sisters or living in their sorority house constitute some of the best memories they have throughout college. These were some of the best memories we have as well. However, our enjoyment with one another and our time together does not have to be rooted and steeped in internalized sexism, fatphobia, heteronormativity and white dominance. We can be better, and we can do better.

Fraternities (IFC)

In Bell Magazine’s first year as a registered student organization, writer Grace Wagner published a piece titled Dear Frat Guys. This satirical masterpiece gained attention from IFC fraternity members across UW’s campus, as it brought to light the misogynistic and alcoholic space that fraternity parties occupied. This is absolutely not isolated to UW–Madison. 

Here are the facts. Over the past decade in the United States, there have been 33 fraternity hazing related deaths. Being a sorority member has been designated as a “risk factor” for sexual assault. Women in sororities are 74% more likely to experience sexual assault during their time in college and men in fraternities are three times as likely to commit rape than non-Greek life members. 

PHA sorority women who aren’t interested in IFC fraternities or their members face high levels of pressure from their peers, and run the risk of social isolation or estrangement for their non-conformity. For example, older members can pressure freshmen to attend events with frats that they consider to be “popular” to ensure that their sorority maintains status. All three writers have been witnesses to this.

IFC fraternity members are seldom held responsible for sexual assault or hazing incidents, relying instead on the paternal hand of powerful alumni to sweep these issues under the rug. Doug Fierberg, a prominent lawyer who has represented several families in fraternity-hazing lawsuits, says this about fraternity reform: “[Students are] still dying and still getting sexually assaulted and still getting traumatically injured — and for reasons the fraternity industry could control but chooses not to.” 

To add fuel to the flame, many IFC fraternities often host “destination formals” where fraternity men bring mainly PHA sorority women to an overnight location. These events are full of alcohol, drugs and the expectation that dates will be sharing a bed in a hotel for the night. While some sororities tell their new members that they are under no obligation to “hook up” with their dates at formal events, the fact that this needs to be said in the first place is problematic in and of itself. Furthermore, these destination formals reinforce the same heteronormativity in fraternities that we’ve seen in sororities.

“The system of separating young men and women into separate living facilities, where the women must leave to socialize, and the men host every event, gives all the social power to the men. This dynamic often causes [IFC] fraternity chapters lacking strong leadership and accountability to develop toxic masculinity, and allows men to sexually assault women without facing any consequences,” said Freddie Kehoe, Vice President of Communications for Alpha Sigma Phi at University of Oregon.

The only thing more rich and powerful than the history of IFC fraternities in the United States is their alumni. According to TIME Magazine, fraternity men have seats in Donald Trump’s cabinet, the Supreme Court and take up a jaw-dropping 155 seats in Congress. Fraternal institutions have power and prestige that penetrates our branches of government, our economy and, of course, our universities.

Here are some statistics to help put this into perspective: “Of the nation’s 50 largest corporations, 43 are headed by fraternity men. 85% of the Fortune 500 executives belong to a fraternity. 40 of 47 U.S. Supreme Court Justices since 1910 were fraternity men [including Brett Kavanaugh]. 76% of all Congressmen and Senators belong to a fraternity. Every U.S. President and Vice President, except two from each office, born since the first social fraternity was founded in 1825 have been members of a fraternity. 63% of the U.S. President’s Cabinet members since 1900 have been Greek.”

This is not an accident. The Fraternity and Sorority Political Action Committee (FSPAC), known informally as FratPAC, was specifically created to put IFC and PHA Greek alumni in political office in Washington, D.C. They have been wildly successful in this venture; they proudly declare on their website that “In the 2017-2018 election cycle, FSPAC made contributions to 169 candidates, and 87% of them won and now serve in the 116th Congress.” You can find out here if your chapter is donating to FratPAC.  

So what’s the issue? Well the issue is that due to the history of HWFS, according to FratPAC’s data, a majority of alumni donations go to white, male politicians. PW Greek organizations at a national level are not required to donate to FratPAC, but many do. Members do not have a say in this, and are rarely aware of where their dues are going. This makes their participation in a PW Greek organization inherently political without any transparency or warning.

Remember the “5 Bs” rule from sorority recruitment? Members are not allowed to express political views but they’re essentially being forced into donations to candidates they might not support. 

FratPAC is also known to lobby for — or against — legislation to ensure that their values are represented in law. As stated on The Daily Northwestern, “In the past, FratPAC has lobbied to make it harder for universities to investigate campus rape allegations, to make donations for [PW] Greek house renovations tax-deductible and to prevent federal anti-hazing legislation from being introduced.” The Instagram account, Abolish Richmond Greek Life, made this information public this summer, raising awareness of the politicization of membership. 

In the past, one of the primary complaints against fraternal organizations is the history of impeding attempts to hold fraternity members responsible for sexual assault. As shown above, the risk of unwanted sexual advances is already extremely high in PW Greek life; however, with organizations like FratPAC working to keep these cases from seeing the light of day, imagine how much higher it could be. 

Fraternities are not solely responsible for the issues within PW Greek systems, nor are all of them contributing to the disheartening statistics above. However, many of these institutions have become havens where toxic masculinity, dangerous binge drinking and sexual assault have free reign. They draw on the power and prestige of PW Greek life in the United States to escape consequence and accountability, perpetuating the systemic, centuries-old problems we see in fraternities nation-wide.

The Abolish Movement

The Abolish Greek Life* movement was founded early July in the midst of the ongoing fight for racial justice. Millions of young Americans are questioning the ways in which they are complicit in racist institutions, PW Greek life being one of them. @Abolish_GreekLife aims to create Instagram accounts and chapters at universities across the country, spreading awareness on why PW Greek life has to go. Their main nine reasons to abolish PW Greek life are: racism, classism, sexual assault, transphobia, homophobia, alcoholism, student safety, sexism and ableism. Throughout their Instagram, they detail why and how PW Greek life perpetuates such problematic behavior through personal anecdotes and detailed research. 

An anonymous student who runs her university’s Abolish chapter states: “The hazing, racism, sexism, misogyny, discrimination, physical/sexual abuse, corruption due to the amount of money flowing in, hard core drugs, and more has caused so much harm around our campus and other campuses around the nation. This is the most harmful aspect as it is physically and emotionally abusive to students.” 

After the Abolish Greek Life Instagram took off, students at universities across the country took a step back to observe the oppression and exclusion that PW Greek life upholds. They educated themselves, reflected and took to their own Instagram pages. Some students were former PW Greek life members, and some were independent of PW Greek life who have felt first-hand the injustices PW Greek organizations perpetuate. 

Abolish Greek Life chapters emerged at Washington University in St. Louis, Vanderbilt University, Richmond University, Emory University, and more. As chapters at Big Ten campuses like University of Michigan–Ann Arbor and Northwestern University have emerged, students wonder when a chapter will arrive at UW–Madison. 

The same anonymous source from before explains their desire for starting a chapter on her campus: “While we were in [PW] Greek life, some of us witnessed sexual assaults being encouraged, hazing that harmed others, and a lot of problems like major drug abuse and disability/racial discrimination… [We] are trying to bring to light the problems that Panhellenic and IFC covers up. We want to abolish [PW] Greek life due to the harm it brings to others both physically and emotionally.”

Criticisms of Abolish Greek Life

Typical backlash to the Abolish Greek Life movement questions: why abolition and why not reform? When it comes down to it, PW Greek organizations were founded on racism, sexism and overall exclusionary practices. Can an institution that was built on these principles really effectively steer away from that? Anonymous states: “Simply reforming [PW] Greek life is not enough. There have been countless sororities and fraternities that were shut down/suspended only to start up again and cause the same problems that forced them to shut down in the first place. We need to cut it off from the roots [Panhellenic/IFC].” 

Last month, an Instagram account, “Times Up Greek Life” (@TUGLWisco), was created in an effort to shed light on the harmful effects of PW Greek organizations at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. The two posts explained how this account intended to provide a space for UW students to talk about their own experiences and how to ensure fraternities and sororities were no longer engaging in racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. 

Was this UW students’ first attempt at the Abolish Greek Life movement, or was it merely intending to reform a system that was built on the oppression of marginalized individuals? I [Molly] was particularly curious, and prompted this question in the account’s DMs. After a brief correspondence, the account was deleted. 

At schools where PW Greek life reform was attempted, administrators failed to respond appropriately, leaving students with no further resources or options for fixing a broken PW Greek system. Specifically at Vanderbilt University, former PW Greek members attempted to call for “reforms that included a ban on Greek social dues and for redistribution of campus resources.” The director of Greek life at Vanderbilt barely engaged with these students and lacked any sense of follow-up or eagerness to help. 

When asked about reform versus abolition, Director of FSL, Maggie Hayes declined to comment again. This is a continuous example of university administrators, at UW and nationally, refusing to acknowledge systemic racism and other injustices that college institutions perpetuate. 

As well as there being a lack of response from university administrators, a lot of reform comes down to coordinating with the national PW Greek organization. Most of these national organizations would rather not dive into why PW Greek life is harmful, and if the roots of the tree refuse to budge, how can you change the trunk or leaves?  

The Abolish Greek Life movement is also criticized due to the supposed “good” that can come from these organizations. Fundraising and philanthropy is practiced by many registered student organizations on campus; PW Greek organizations are not the only ones doing this work. We should be centering and amplifying BIPOC student-led efforts who are doing this philanthropic giving rather than the white leaders and members of sororities and fraternities, who — let’s be honest — aren’t paying thousands of dollars in dues solely to participate in philanthropy. 

Humorology, a massive fundraiser led by PW Greek organizations, raises hundreds of thousands of dollars every year. Let’s be clear: Humorology does NOT need to be led by white, rich, PW Greek members. This fundraiser can be facilitated by registered student organizations, individual students and faculty members, and can still be effective giving. Humorology can go on without fraternities and sororities. 

“The pros of [PW] Greek life simply do not outweigh the cons. Campuses all over America are allowing a culture of patriarchy and in-group out-group favoritism to perpetuate despite how good they claim their FSLs to be. You can point to community service hours, charitable donations, leadership roles, but it can not outweigh the number of fraternity and sorority chapters with victims of sexual assault who have not seen justice as a result of this system,” said Freddie Kehoe, Vice President of Communications for Alpha Sigma Phi at University of Oregon.

When asked why Fraternity and Sorority Life matter at UW–Madison and what the future of FSL looks like, Hayes declined to comment. 

Another common response to the Abolish movement is the comment, ‘I had a great experience in PW Greek life, why should I want to abolish it?’ To keep it plain and simple: your great experiences with PW Greek life do not outweigh the injustices it perpetuates. The reason you enjoyed PW Greek life is because the system was built for you. If we can’t figure out how to build a system for everyone, why should it exist?

The three of us writers are white, privileged and, at a time, were complicit in this system. We are all privileged enough to have been welcomed into this system. We all still benefit from the privileges that PW Greek life provides, regardless of our disaffiliation — we still have the friends we made in our chapters. We wrote this piece because we felt that as former insiders, we could illuminate certain realities based on our experiences. But PW Greek life doesn’t hurt us to the same extent that it hurts BIPOC and more marginalized members of the UW community. 

As a previously mentioned post on BIPOC at Wisco reads, “My only hope is that white people involved in [PW] Greek life hear my perspective, critically reflect on the institution with which they have chosen to affiliate, and support changes to current practices that would dismantle the culture of white superiority that [PW] Greek life perpetuates.” The three of us are listening to this post and all the other calls for abolition, and trying to further the conversation.

This is our case for why UW–Madison’s PHA and IFC Greek life should be abolished. After we each participated in this system for two years, read up on the Abolish Greek Life movement this summer and reflected on our complicity, we believe this is the best course of action for our campus and campuses everywhere. 

Hi, I’m Maya and I dropped PHA Greek life because I no longer wanted to contribute to racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, fatphobia and classism, when these are constantly the behaviors I am working to demolish.

Hi, I’m Molly and I dropped PHA Greek life because it is a tangible example of the systemic racism that plagues our country, and while I made good friends, that doesn’t change the fact that this system causes so many people to feel ostracized, hurt and alone.

Hi, I’m Maggie and I dropped PHA Greek life because I did not want to continue giving thousands of dollars to an institution that perpetuates and contributes to the societal injustices that I constantly fight against.

If you read this piece and want to get involved with abolishing UW–Madison PW Greek life, we would love to hear from you. If you read this piece and took issue with anything that was written, we are also willing to have that conversation. Please contact bell@rso.wisc.edu.

*The Abolish Greek Life movement is referring to the abolition of PHA & IFC Greek organizations, not all forms of Greek life like MGC & NPHC. We try to make this clear in the section regarding the movement, but we still refer to them by their given name. If the name is ever to be clarified, we will make further edits to this piece to reflect that.

Edit: At publication, this piece used the term “Greek life” as a way to talk about both PHA & IFC. This was unintentionally exclusionary of MGC & NPHC, two systems that are also “Greek life”. By using “Greek life” to describe only PHA & IFC we implied that MGC & NPHC are not legitimate forms of “Greek life”. Once this was pointed out to us, we changed the editorial note as well as the language throughout the piece to clarify that PHA & IFC are the subject of this call for Abolition, and therefore predominantly white Greek life is what we take issue with.

Maya Cherins (she/her) is the Managing Editor for Bell Magazine. She is a junior at UW–Madison studying Gender and Women Studies and Community and Nonprofit Leadership with a certificate in Global Health. When she’s not playing with her dogs or going on hikes, Maya is fighting for reproductive and racial justice. Let her know if you want to phonebank before Nov. 3! 

Molly Meyer Kehoe (she/her) is Editor-in-Chief for Bell Magazine and a third-year student at UW–Madison. Molly is majoring in Political Science and Journalism and pursuing a certificate in History. She’s from San Francisco which explains her love for the ocean, hiking, and cities. She is also the Hub Coordinator for Sunrise Madison — get in touch if you wanna stop the climate crisis!

Maggie Jay (she/her) is a Staff Writer for Bell Magazine. She is a junior pursuing majors in History and Creative Writing. In her free time, Maggie is most likely to be found a) scrolling through TikTok, b) purchasing candy that she doesn’t need or c) asking her roommates if they want to watch the 2011 rendition of Footloose.

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