We must go legacy-blind

Rayne Daniel

Three years ago, I went through sorority recruitment at The University of Texas. For a select few, this is where the Greek journey begins. However, mine, like many others, began within my very own home — years before I ever stepped foot in Austin.

 My mother proudly participated in Greek life during her time, and in the sorority community, that makes me her legacy. I can’t pretend that at the time of my recruitment I didn’t feel a sense of superiority walking down hallways I knew my mom had walked before me. 

But it wasn’t until a year after I joined my sorority that I began to realize the racist, supremacist implications of legacy status in Greek life.

 From the mouth of a sorority sister, until sorority applications are forced to go legacy-blind, we will continue to perpetuate the uninterrupted marginalization of Black, Indigenous and students of color. In order to create an equitable recruitment process, the University Panhellenic Council must discontinue legacy prioritization.

 I value tradition, and I value the tradition of sisterhood my grandmother, mother, aunt and cousins have laid before me. However, my sorority was founded in the late 1800s, and it wasn’t until fall of 1956 that UT integrated its student body, allowing Black students to enroll for the first time.

“Some women are not legacies because their family members simply did not wish to be a part of the Panhellenic community,” Catherine Holley, vice president of recruitment for the University Panhellenic Council, said in an email. “Other women are not legacies because their family members were not allowed to be in a sorority due to the racist history of our campus and country.” 

 It’s no wonder that when I look in the mirror, I see every sorority legacy looking back at me. It’s no coincidence that we all look the same.

 When my time came to be on the other side of the big white doors, I was not prepared for the legacy protocols I would be told to follow. Recruitment showed me the darkest version of the Greek community I had loved and respected for a year.

“If an organization chooses to prioritize potential new members who are legacies, then it will continually extend membership to a select group of women — mostly white and cisgender,” Holley said. 

 I was taught to roll out the red carpet for a legacy. I could spot their faces in a crowd because they were some of the few I was required to remember. Legacies stand in their own room when visiting the house and speak only with the most impressive members of the chapter. If we are ever sitting, their chair goes front and center. 

If a sorority does not wish to take a legacy, they often need to justify their decision to a national board. 

Most nights during the week of recruitment left me distressed. It takes a toll to rate girls on a number scale, knowing not long ago it was your own faults being reasoned down to statistics. You feel guilt for every girl, but especially those you know most houses won’t give a second glance. Oftentimes these girls are Black, Indigenous and people of color.

 From that point forward, I began to distance myself from the only real community I knew, and I did not return for recruitment the following year. 

In my eyes, Greek life at UT no longer felt like a welcoming space. If this is how I felt, I can’t imagine how nonlegacies felt. 

I implore the University Panhellenic Council to rethink their policies on showcasing legacies during recruitment. 

Legacy-blind applications will not completely solve the diversity problem, and they will not make the Greek community completely welcoming to customarily expelled groups. However, it is a message to all potential new members that we within UT’s Greek life are ready for a change, and those who wish to explore Greek life will not be judged on the experiences of their predecessors any longer.

Daniel is a biomedical engineering and French senior from Baton Rouge, Louisiana.