Administrators refute rumors about threats to future of Greek system

Membership data shows vast majority of students still join fraternities and sororities

Maggie Barker, Arts & Life Writer

Washington and Lee University administrators say they have no plans to diminish the Greek life system on campus, despite rumors among students.

Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Sidney Evans said she has worked at W&L for 17 years and has continued to hear talk that the administration is trying to eliminate the Greek system.

“It’s a rumor. I’ve never heard anyone in the administration say that they are trying to kill the Greek system,” said Evans. “I think it’s just one of those things that, like other rumors, has a life of its own. But that’s not on the agenda.”

For example, the three-year suspension handed to the W&L chapter of Phi Kappa Psi by former university president Ken Ruscio in March 2015, which exceeded the suspension period recommended by the student-led Interfraternity Council (IFC), led some students to believe that the administration was interested in weakening Greek organizations.

Greek life plays a prominent role in student life at W&L because of the consistently high percentage of the student body involved.

Over the past 18 years, W&L data shows that the rate of women who join sororities has fluctuated between 68 and 82 percent, and the rate of men who join fraternities has fluctuated between 73 and 86 percent (with data missing from the 2005-06 school year.)

The percentage of men joining fraternities this school year is nearly the same as last year, while sorority participation is slightly up this year compared to last year.

Associate Dean of Students and Dean of Seniors Tammy Futrell said she is not surprised by these numbers.

“I think a lot of students come to Washington and Lee not sure of the Greek system, particularly some of our international students or students who have not had access to Greek life before,” said Futrell. “They come here and see it, and it’s so prevalent that they want to be a part of it as well.”

Greek student leaders say their experiences working with administrators have largely been enjoyable.

Anna Daccache, ‘19, former president of the Panhellenic Council and member of the Theta Zeta chapter of Alpha Delta Pi, said she met with administrators at least every other week and found the relationships to be positive.

“Most of the time their focus tended to be on IFC issues, and that was usually conduct-related, and less [about] what the fraternity is up to,” said Daccache. “They want to be kept up to date and want to know what is happening, especially in the event of something serious.”

In February 2017, the W&L Greek system experienced an unprecedented event when members of the Zeta Tau chapter of Kappa Delta, which had been active at W&L since 1997, decided to disaffiliate from their national organization and form a “local sorority,” which they named the Delta Society.

Jane Chiavelli was the president of the W&L chapter of Kappa Delta at the time and led them through the process of becoming the Delta Society. She said the school was cooperative throughout the whole process.

“The school was very informed about it throughout the process, and they were completely on board which I think was extremely helpful, because it’s a hard thing to do when you have a national organization at odds with you throughout the process,” said Chiavelli.

She said they did not run into a single obstacle or disagreement from the school.

“Having the school’s support was incredible,” said Chiavelli.

Daccache said she is not surprised that data confirms the continued breadth of the Greek system.

“I know there is always talk that the administration is trying to make Greek life go away, and that’s just not true from what I’ve seen and heard,” said Daccache.

Evans said the school’s focus is on making sure that students have a good experience and are able to thrive.

“We don’t have a quota or a set target number for Greek life percentages,” said Evans. “What we want is if there are students who want to be Greek, we want that to be available and a positive option for them.”