Consider the bad actors at play, not the system

Sloan Wyatt

Editor’s note: The following letter to the editor is in response to an editorial The Daily Texan published September 8 encouraging the University to increase its oversight of Greek life organizations and their activities. 

Last week, The Daily Texan Editorial Board published an editorial demanding that UT-Austin “release more information (and) create a task force” in regards to the Greek community’s actions and behavior during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

One of the sources quoted criticized “the lack of accountability and empathy in Greek life” and, as proof of our recklessness, pointed to Bid Day, where one sorority chapter held an entirely in-person celebration. That’s a strong (and short-sighted) statement, given all chapters were required (and contractually bound) to virtually celebrate. 

The actions of individual chapters or individual members within the Greek community do not and should not reflect the morals and values of the community as a whole. The chapter that decided to hold an in-person Bid Day was the exception, not the standard, and should not represent the attitude and values of Greek life. 

This year, the University Panhellenic Council required all sorority members to sign a Bid Day behavioral agreement before Bid Day. This contract outlined each chapter’s guidelines regarding Bid Day which included “not gathering in groups of more than 10 people, wearing a mask and maintaining the appropriate social distance when in groups, and not attending any events held by any group or organization, including fraternity parties, house/apartment parties, etc.” Failure to adhere to these guidelines would result in “disciplinary actions from [their] chapter leadership” as well as consequences for the chapter as a whole. Unfortunately, there were people who chose not to listen. 

The sorority chapter referenced, in fact, neither orchestrated nor condoned the actions of their new members on Bid Day. These new members and their families disregarded University Panhellenic Council’s behavioral agreement and acted irresponsibly on their own accord. The executive members tried to put an end to the gathering, but it was too late. People had already documented the misconduct, and the active members were silenced by an audience fueled by cancel culture. 

Interfraternity Council President David Kelly referenced similar behavior in the article when he said fraternity members have been holding apartment gatherings. These individuals are often holding non-affiliated events with Greek life members at off-campus apartments. The question then becomes: Do we hold the entire Greek community responsible for the actions of rogue individuals within the organization? 

The Editorial Board proposed the University exercise greater oversight of the Greek community and act transparently in their handling of Greek life situations. The article toys with the idea of “a permanent task force that investigates Greek organizations’ infractions and conducts disciplinary hearings.” This seems excessive, given that Greek life is already monitored by UPC and IFC, who independently hold disciplinary hearings and investigate chapters’ wrongdoings. 

Not only do they monitor these chapters, but each council also has a form on their website where anyone (both Greek and not-Greek affiliated) can report violations — a practice similar to Texas Tech’s reporting service, which is mentioned in the article. If students are concerned about any supposed preferential treatment or reporting bias within the Greek community, they can use the University’s reporting service

Greek life has often been the scapegoat of student grievances and rightfully so. I will be the first to admit that the Greek system is far from perfect. In the past, we have had our discretions. But we are actively working to change the narrative. It seems as though people refuse to believe, let alone acknowledge that. 

Student gatherings are not only a Greek life problem. Students both affiliated and unaffiliated with campus organizations are acting irresponsibly and putting the University at risk. However, now more than ever, when we are universally suffering in an unprecedented and, frankly, anxiety-producing pandemic, what good does it do pointing fingers at individuals or organizations when there are greater players to blame? 

Your frustration is misdirected. This is not a failure of the Greek system, it is a failure of the University. If the chapters have pledged to be safe and responsible, then it’s time that the University take action against the students who are acting out of line. They should be met with disciplinary measures or, at the very least, some form of communication from the University. 

Surviving this pandemic is going to take a collective effort. Until we start treating one another as allies and holding each other accountable with respect and care rather than antipathy and distrust, we will not make it out together. 

Wyatt is a journalism junior from Atlanta, GA.