The future of Greek life in the United States hangs in the balance as colleges across the nation struggle to address the ever-growing controversies stemming from these institutions. Universities such as American, Duke, Tufts and Northeastern are currently exploring reform and abolition, according to Vox.
With growing tension on Lafayette’s own campus, Student Government issued a survey to assess student opinion on Greek life in September. The results paint a picture of a campus divided.
Recently, Instagram pages such as @black.at.laf, @anti.violence.laf, and @abolishgreeklifeatlaf have shared posts highlighting accounts of racism, alcohol abuse, sexual misconduct and other issues in the Greek life system. In response to these testimonies and shifting sentiment on campus, Student Government conducted the Greek Life Climate Survey to gain a better understanding of students’ outlook regarding these historic institutions.
“We don’t have a lot of information about the group [Abolish Greek Life]. We don’t know how many students are running it and things like that, so we just want to make sure that we were getting a large enough sample so that our committee can move forward with projects that we think represent the majority of students,” said Lauren Ameruoso ‘22, Director of the Greek Life Committee.
Student Government worked in conjunction with psychology professor John Shaw to create a survey that would best represent the views of the student body. Economics professor David Stifel helped to analyze the responses. Shaw declined a request for comment, while Stifel could not be reached after multiple requests for comment.
“We worked closely with [Shaw] to come up with a list of questions that we thought were unbiased and representative of everybody,” Ameruoso said. “Whether you are in Greek Life or not, we want to make sure that everybody felt like they had a place in the survey.”
The survey garnered responses from 1,191 students and collected 449 open responses. Results were categorized by class year, gender and affiliation status. Surveys were not sent to first-years due to their absence from campus this semester.
The results were hardly unanimous. Many responses reflected polarization between different demographic groups in the carefully constructed study.
“The differences in experiences are so contrasting. Some people are having really good experiences, and some people are having quite negative experiences,” said Ameruoso.
The survey featured a total of eight questions, the results of which were shared in the Student Government Greek Life Presentation on Thursday night.
One question in the survey was, “If Greek Life was abolished at Lafayette College, how do you think social life at Lafayette would be affected?”
The most common response among sophomores was that abolishing Greek life would positively affect their social life (46.9% of women and 46.5% of men). There was an apparent divide along gender lines for upper-class students, with 59.8% of women believing their social life would be positively affected, compared to only 38.1% of men. The overwhelming majority of men and women who have never been affiliated said abolition would positively impact social life at Lafayette.
“The survey results confirm to us that people benefiting from the system are mostly in the system, and most people who view Greek life in a more negative light are not in the system,” Amerouso said. “In the interest of our community, you don’t want anybody to be feeling negative emotions.”
In an effort to foster a culture on campus in which everyone benefits, the Greek Life Committee, along with Student Government, have undertaken a number of initiatives to ensure the results of the survey lead to action.
“We are having a meeting with the Faculty Committee of Student Life on [Nov. 19], we are then meeting with [the] Greek Alumni Board on [Nov. 20],” Ameruoso said. “Bigger conversations are to be had with the rest of alumni, the administration, the rest of the faculty body. In December or January, we will be presenting to the Board of Trustees.”
In addition to assessing outlook on campus, the Greek Life Committee has looked to other institutions to analyze reform.
“We met with schools that have Greek Life, have never had Greek Life, and schools that had an abolish movement, or abolished Greek life in the past. We spoke to students at Bowdoin, Colby, Grinnell, Swarthmore, Vanderbilt, Holy Cross, and a few others,” Ameruoso said.
While the future of Greek life at Lafayette is unclear, the committee is trying to leave no stone unturned in their considerations.
“We wanted to gauge how other schools handled it [reform/abolition], outcomes, what works and what does not work. This way we can envision what the future of Lafayette looks like either with Greek Life, with reforms to Greek Life, the abolishment of Greek Life, we wanted to consider everything,” Ameruoso said.