OPINION: New Greek bylaw better late than never

New Panhellenic educational guidelines not enough to change the culture



The Greek community is long overdue for a culture shift. The new bylaw is a good first step.

JORDAN AHLSTEDT, Evergreen columnist

Editor’s note: Trigger warning, this column discusses sexual assault and drug and alcohol use. 

*Some names have been changed to protect identity.

Greek life is an insane experience. 

As a proud sorority woman, I have a plethora of party stories – some I am fond of and others I would rather forget.

Years from now, I will remember the feeling of relief and euphoria when I am dancing on some elevated surface with my closest friends, feeling the bass in my feet and the LEDs burning into my corneas. 

But I would rather forget all the times when drunk men would come up behind me and start grinding or trying to shove their dab pens in my mouth. 

Freshman business major Emma Gray* is a sorority member. 

Last semester, Gray was drugged at a fraternity party. Although she did not feel comfortable sharing her experience in-depth, she did mention what she was told when she sought out medical help. 

“When they talk to us about what they do when you get roofied, they say ‘that sucks, you got roofied,’” Gray said. “If you want to get a test, it’s like a year before you can get results.” 

She said that in a previous semester, being drugged was such an issue that the sorority eventually had emails be sent home to parents about it.

“But the thing is, they don’t do anything about it when it is done,” Gray said.

In light of these ‘prevalent issues,’ toward the end of the fall semester, the Panhellenic Council Chapters established a new bylaw regarding required programming – educational training on relevant issues — for members. 

This was the same bylaw passed by the Interfraternity Council and the Multicultural Greek Council last spring. 

Every chapter requires that at least 80% of members attend a certain number of programs in order to be in good standing with the university; the new bylaw changed the required number and themes of programs every semester to focus more on sexual assault prevention and alcohol and drug use education.

Hailey Palm, former Panhellenic vice president of member education and current Panhellenic president, wrote in an email that the goal of these new changes is to ensure members of the Greek WSU community receive a quality education on two prevalent campus issues. 

It is an important step to require extra sexual assault prevention education for the sake of women involved in Greek life, such as Gray, myself and countless others.

Gray recalled an incident where a girl from her sorority reported being sexually assaulted at a fraternity party.

While the issue is being handled behind closed doors, Gray said that in the meantime, her sorority had disaffiliated itself from the fraternity in question.

Disaffiliating, in this case, includes no longer planning exchanges or date dashes with that fraternity as well as older members warning younger members about that fraternity. However, that is not always enough to prevent members from attending parties hosted by that fraternity. 

Unfortunately, these types of incidents are not uncommon. Gray said there have been multiple incidents like this in her chapter alone. My own chapter has also been disaffiliated from a fraternity chapter due to an incident of sexual assault. 

To me, it seems like avoiding certain fraternities is not enough if the Panhellenic and Interfraternity Councils’ ultimate goal is to prevent incidents like this from happening entirely. There is simply no accountability in disaffiliation. 

My inner optimist hopes that the new programming requirements will encourage fraternity chapters like the one Brad Lucas,* freshman political science major, is in to take more responsibility. 

“We have signals and phrases to refer to when there is a situation where someone is uncomfortable,” Lucas wrote in an email. “In these situations, someone on sober duty intervenes subtly.”

At registered events, a certain number of people are required to be on sober duty. That does not always mean that they will intervene, though, unless the life of the party is being threatened. 

It should not only be up to women to prevent incidents of sexual assault, especially when copious amounts of alcohol are involved and supplied by fraternities. If fraternities want guests to continue to come to their events, they need to step up their safety and safety education game.

Lucas believes that his chapter takes issues regarding drug and alcohol abuse and sexual assault very seriously.

“Older members with more experience with alcohol or drugs generally give their opinions on the matter as anecdotal information along with a presentation that is mandatory in our house,” Lucas wrote. 

Gray and I experienced a similar education, along with mandatory programming. 

This new bylaw should provide more mandatory educational material for community members and hopefully prevent future incidents regarding drug and alcohol abuse and sexual assault. 

My only question is: Why was this bylaw change not done sooner?

It is 2022, and there have been several incidents on this campus and campuses across the country for years that should have triggered bylaw changes a long time ago. 

“I agree that as a whole, these bylaws should have been passed earlier,” Palm wrote.

Greek politics are enough to blame for the delay of administrative bylaws. 

Every chapter under one council must vote to pass a new bylaw by a simple majority. Although this allows for every member to be heard (to an extent), on the flip side, it takes much longer for real change to come about. 

Despite Panhellenic and Interfraternity Council members disaffiliating from their chapter when they take positions, meaning they do not partake in recruitment activities or post their chapter on social media, the councils have their own agendas and limited powers. 

This means that even though they can pass bylaws, it can be difficult to hold people or chapters accountable for alcohol, drug or sexual assault incidents. 

Unfortunately, like in any government or leadership system, change is hard to come by; but we can evolve as a Greek community when we all rally behind one common goal. 

“We are working as diligently as possible to ensure that we have a safe and inclusive community that supports all our members,” Palm wrote. 

She also wrote that this is a community effort. It is our job to hold ourselves accountable and continue to demand change by getting involved in the Panhellenic, Interfraternity and Multicultural Greek Councils. 

When this new bylaw was passed, many members of our community were annoyed that they might have to attend more programming sessions. This is not the attitude that will change a culture. 

“We know where [people are getting drugged] and those fraternities are still allowed to throw parties … [Panhellenic and Interfraternity Councils] just sweep it under the rug because they can’t trace it back to one person,” Gray said. 

I have not been in person on Greek row very long, but from what I have seen in this short time, we need some sort of accountability. If we do not, how are people outside our community supposed to trust us? Even more so, if I were a parent in Gray’s sorority and received an email about members being drugged, I would be furious at the Greek life administration and not want my daughter anywhere near Greek life anymore. 

It is incidents like these that cloud the good things fraternities and sororities do for our communities, like our philanthropies. 

My sorority – Alpha Delta Pi – and the Alpha Delta Pi Foundation have given $17 million to a variety of organizations, including over $800,000 to Ronald McDonald House Charities. 

Fraternities and sororities can offer a place of belonging for students, including myself.

In high school, I had one or two friends who I could rely on. Now that I am in a sorority, that number has multiplied by dozens – I now have people who support my ambitions and pick me up when I fall (literally and figuratively). 

Critiquing my Greek community has been difficult for me. I love my sisters. I have made amazing connections and memories that will last a lifetime. 

Some of the people I have reached out to for a comment on this topic have backed out due to reputation or privacy concerns, but that only shows how critical it is to address this topic and have this conversation.

If it means that fewer ambulances will be called on the weekend and that fewer people will be afraid to be left alone in a fraternity house, I will happily spend a few more hours in a program lecture hall, and every member of the Greek community should too.