Greek Organizations Seek Official Status

Students made a case for the recognition of Harvard’s fraternities and sororities as official student organizations during a meeting of the Committee on Student Life on Thursday morning.

The conversation comes at a time when students and administrators alike look to find a place for a growing Greek presence in Harvard students’ social life.

During Thursday’s meeting, members of Harvard’s Greek organizations laid out what they saw as the benefits of recognition, ranging from the ability to use College space for philanthropic events to the promotion of inclusiveness by utilizing the student activities fair to advertise Greek life.

Phillip J. Morris ’12, president of Sigma Alpha Epsilon, called Thursday’s CSL meeting “very productive.”

“What’s frustrating for me is that I don’t feel like the conversation has seriously occurred about the college’s policies regarding recognition before,” Morris said.

Harvard has not recognized sororities and fraternities since 1984, when the College revoked their official status due to the gender-discriminatory recruitment practices of the social organizations.

Administrators cite the gender discrimination policy, as well as Greek groups’ ties to national organizations, as reasons why the College is unable to recognize Greek life—concerns echoed by Dean of Student Life Suzy M. Nelson during Thursday’s meeting.

During the meeting, Nelson indicated that she has met with fraternity and sorority members about recognition for Greek organizations in the past, telling the student leaders present that “not a lot has changed since the last time we talked.”

Nelson promised to share the contents of their presentation with Dean of the College Evelynn M. Hammonds.

“I was a little frustrated that we came out, essentially, in the same administrated place that we started in,” said Bonnie Cao ’12, UC vice president and a member of Delta Gamma, of the meeting. “But what got me really excited is that I think it gave us the chance to really talk one-on-one with the deans, administrators, and House Masters and address the concerns they may have about Greek life at Harvard.”

Cao and UC president Senan Ebrahim ’12 proposed that Greek recognition be the topic of Thursday’s meeting given growing student dialogue about fraternities and sororities as Harvard’s Greek scene continues to expand.

During the past two years, Greek organizations have become increasingly popular as social groups on campus. Last spring, a record 268 women rushed Harvard’s three sororities, representing the largest rush class in Harvard history, according to sorority leaders. In 2008, The Crimson reported that the sorority rush class averaged about 150 people.

Fraternities also reported an increase in numbers—over 100 men attended Sigma Chi’s first rush event and about 72 signed into SAE’s first event, according to each fraternity’s leader. Both declined to provide rush numbers from past years.

As of this year, five of Harvard’s six Greek organizations possess real estate near Harvard.

Greek members cited the growing interest in Greek life as further evidence for why the College should reevaluate its relationship with sororities and fraternities.

“[Recognition] is a step-by-step process and I think we made a huge step today by really getting in the same room with some of the decision makers and really getting to address their concerns. From there, hopefully, will come recognition,” Cao said. “Starting that conversation is a huge step.”

—Staff writer Hana N. Rouse can be reached at hrouse@college.harvard.edu.

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