Feminist Student Union urges students to reject Panhel, IFC recruitment

Media Credit: Courtesy of FSU

Feminist Student Union leaders posted flyers urging students to not go through sorority and fraternity recruitment this spring and acknowledge instances of racism and assault relating to the Panhellenic Association and Interfraternity Council.

Updated: Nov. 7, 2019 at 1:50 p.m.

GW Feminist Student Union leaders are pressing freshmen to avoid sorority and fraternity recruitment, citing nearly a dozen insensitive incidents that have involved Greek chapters over the past couple of decades.

FSU leaders said the group posted between 20 and 30 fliers at different campus buildings that detail recent and past instances of racism and assault on campus and call on students to boycott recruitment to “end white supremacy and rape culture.” Group members said the posters were meant to inform freshmen about the history of Greek life before they decide to participate in Interfraternity Council rush and Panhellenic Association recruitment in January.

“This poster provided a semi-historical outline of discriminatory events that these organizations have been associated with,” FSU co-presidents Natalie Ioele and Dana Donovan and activism director Betselot Bezuneh said in a joint email.

The posters list a timeline of 11 criticisms of “white Greek life” and how the University has responded – or failed to respond – to culturally insensitive and Title IX complaints. The poster states, “End white supremacy & rape culture: don’t rush” at the bottom.

The timeline includes a Snapchat that surfaced in September involving the former Phi Sigma Sigma president and several accusations made against former Sigma Alpha Epsilon brothers for various crimes. All of the information was pulled out of Hatchet archives leaders said they deemed “most inflammatory.”

“The posters were targeted at white audiences of all genders to suggest that their participation would be an act of complicity,” they said. “The information was included to encourage a reckoning within these organizations of their perpetuation of white supremacy and rape culture.”

A student posted an image of the flyer on the Facebook group “Overheard at GW,” garnering mixed feedback from students, some of whom criticized the posters for pulling outdated information after chapters have worked to address insensitive incidents from their pasts.

But Ioele, Donovan and Bezuneh said the poster did not intend to suggest that students joining a Greek organization are vulnerable to sexual assault or to dissuade students from joining an IFC or Panhel chapter.

The leaders said the poster fits into a semester-long effort to advocate against “the existence of predominantly white institutions,”  but they declined to say how the group categorized predominantly white institutions.

They declined to say what steps FSU has taken over the semester to advocate for the institutions’ removal and if members plan to work with the Greek community to address the events listed on the posters. Leaders declined to say if they have been in communication with members of the Panhel or IFC communities since the posters were distributed.

In a statement released Wednesday evening, FSU leaders maintained that the posters were intended to inform first-year students about “discriminatory” events in the past before joining a Greek chapter.

An anonymous member of the group’s e-board, said in separate statement that people have come to the defense of minority individuals who have had “positive experiences” in Greek life. The member said she still supports the information on the posters and will not apologize for the fliers because people have “worked in service of white supremacy” and rape culture by supporting “predominantly white Greek life.”

The student said that as a queer individual and woman of color, the student and other members of FSU will advocate for students who have not had positive experiences in Greek life, survivors, members of the LGBTQ community and women of color.

“No one has come to defend voices like mine,” the statement reads. “In fact, many people involved in the conversation today were attempting to shut down perspectives from those who have been deeply hurt by the actions of white Greek organizations.”

Amari Savage, FSU’s director of education, issued a third statement condemning individuals for supporting Greek life, calling the system a “safe haven for racist white students.”

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IFC President Jared Levinson said the posters are a reminder that the IFC still has “a lot of progress to be made.” IFC leaders have held risk management trainings since last semester to determine how to handle possible instances of assault and excessive drinking, which Levinson said chapters are continuing this semester.

Levinson said he plans to reach out to FSU leaders so the incoming IFC executive board is privy to FSU’s concerns with Greek life as they enter their roles at the end of the semester.

“I simply want to listen and hear out their asks more than anything else,” he said. “Then from there I can ensure the person who takes over my shoes is having those asks in the forefront of their mind when they’re coming in.”

The Panhellenic Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Board issued a statement Tuesday telling women that avoiding recruitment “out of fear of getting raped” is a form of “victim blaming.” Tara Zic, the chair of the board, did not return a request for comment.

The Panhellenic Association Executive Council wrote in a statement Wednesday that the diversity represented in the Panhel community “makes us stronger and helps us live our values,” and members were disappointed to see FSU’s posters.

“We believe that our organizations actually share many common goals, and our hope would be to work together – engaging in positive and constructive conversations to help imagine and collaborate towards a mission of inclusive feminism on this campus,” the statement reads. 

Delta Tau Delta was listed in the FSU poster for a 2001 incident in which a member of the fraternity yelled homophobic comments at GWPride. The organization issued a statement Tuesday stating that the group “takes pride” in fostering an accepting environment with men who are part of the LGBTQ community.

“Any form of homophobic, sexist, racist, transphobic, xenophobic or otherwise derogatory language is not and will not be tolerated in Delt under any circumstances,” the post states.

Sigma Alpha Epsilon was also named in the poster for being charged with physical abuse and assault in 1998. Deyvid Vasilev, the chapter’s president, did not return multiple requests for comment.

The poster also references two racist incidents over the past two years involving members of Alpha Phi and Phi Sigma Sigma.

Aashka Varma, Phi Sigma Sigma’s delegate, and Anita Clifford, the president of Alpha Phi, did not return multiple requests for comment.

This post has been updated to reflect the following correction:
The Hatchet originally attributed remarks from a statement issued by an anonymous member of the Feminist Student Union’s e-board to Amari Savage, the group’s director of education. This post has been updated to correctly attribute the remarks and reflect Savage’s own statement. We regret this error.

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