Because You Should Know: Campaigns to Abolish Greek Life

The letter below is adapted from similar correspondence shared with alumnae from a number of chapters, each with chapter-specific information. The letter is shared broadly to illustrate the impact of these movements on our Fraternity and was published in the Fall 2020 issue of The Arrow.

The impact of the campus-based Abolish Greek Life campaigns has led to the closure of Missouri Beta, Pi Beta Phi’s 113-year-old chapter at Washington University in St. Louis. A number of other chapters have directly and seriously felt the impact of these campaigns further emphasizing a need for the Fraternity’s focus on addressing diversity, equity and inclusion as a key priority.

Dear Sisters,

Over the summer, grassroots “Abolish Greek Life” movements led to an increase in student activism at more than 50 college campuses across North America, more than 30 of which are home to Pi Beta Phi chapters. The campaign denounces the existence of fraternities and sororities based on personal stories and experiences. Abolish Greek Life movements primarily gain traction via social media accounts that garner attention and outrage within the campus community. On each campus, the issues highlighted by the Abolish Greek Life movement are different, but all promote the belief that fraternities and sororities perpetuate systems and campus norms that create harmful environments for students. A unique component of Abolish Greek Life is that the movement is often driven internally, being led by current collegiate members of fraternities and sororities. Though not the same for all members, in some cases, collegians are sharing they are satisfied with their Pi Beta Phi membership, however a conflict of conscience leads them to resignation as they feel they cannot be part of the larger fraternity/sorority community.

It is not always clear if, or when, a chapter will become heavily impacted by the narrative of an Abolish Greek Life campaign, and the state of a chapter can dramatically and quickly shift without warning. Pi Beta Phi, like many other National Panhellenic Conference (NPC) organizations, has had to prepare for conversations with chapter members about the process by which a chapter can vote to relinquish the chapter’s charter to the Fraternity and close the chapter. At the time this letter is prepared, one chapter has relinquished its charter, and the notion is under consideration at a handful of other chapters.

Please know, although the current movement on campus calls for the abolishment of fraternities and sororities, Pi Beta Phi has every intention of keeping our chapters open. The Fraternity supports productive conversations that will lead to meaningful, substantial change. To be relevant on today’s college campus to tomorrow’s college student, we must constantly be evolving. In fact, the Fraternity has been working toward many of the same goals of these Abolish Greek Life campaigns: a more diverse, inclusive, equitable membership experience, a re-envisioned recruitment process, an enhanced reflection of today’s students’ values, greater affordability, stronger professional network structures, etc. We believe there remains significant value in a sorority experience on the college campus and that these goals, and others similar, are attainable. Abolishing the sorority experience or walking away from Pi Beta Phi membership means diminishing the collaborative coalition of women who have, for decades, made change together.

Pi Beta Phi is invested in the health of every chapter. While the Fraternity directly supports chapters facing these campaigns, we encourage every member to acknowledge the role Pi Phi has played in her life, demonstrate her Pi Phi Pride and share what it means to her to be a member of this sisterhood.

In Pi Phi,
Amy Lorenzen Southerland Emory McGinnis Eison
Grand Vice President Alumnae Grand Vice President Collegians