Reform vs. Abolish: Gamma Phi Beta alumnae, former members clash over Abolish Greek Life movement


Daily file photo by Isabelle Sarraf

The Gamma Phi Beta house, 640 Emerson St. Alumnae and former members of the Northwestern GPhi chapter have recently clashed over the decision to suspend its charter.

Isabelle Sarraf, Campus Editor

Content warning: This story discusses harmful language about gender dysphoria.

As part of the Abolish Greek Life movement, Northwestern’s chapter of Gamma Phi Beta voted to relinquish its charter this summer and was approved by its International Council to indefinitely suspend chapter activities. Now, older alumnae of the chapter are fighting back against the suspension and questioning the goals of the Abolish Greek Life movement.

Following the charter suspension, alumnae of the chapter formed a private Facebook group called “Save the Epsilon Chapter” to express their thoughts — both for and against — the council’s decision and the abolition movement.

According to former GPhi Financial VP Lily McClain, while some more recent graduates sided with calls to abolish Greek life, older alumnae advocated to reform the institution instead. A handful were blatantly opposed to changing the system, McClain added.

“I don’t think that the intention of the group was to be a hateful place, which doesn’t excuse any hate comments that were said in that space,” McClain said. “My overall feeling of the group is that people were trying to have a discourse and understand everyone’s perspectives.”

There were a couple times, McClain said, when there seemed to be a complete cognitive dissonance coming from older alumnae about the abolish movement. Specifically, she said, there were comments circulating regarding the LGBTQ+ community or mental illness that were indicative of a generational gap.

In one screenshot obtained by The Daily, one alumna said she felt a “twang of reverse racism,” asking if she would be allowed to rush Alpha Kappa Alpha — a historically Black sorority.

“Would being ‘inclusive’ mean rushing a male who suffers from the psychiatric disorder gender dysphoria?” another comment read.

NU’s Panhellenic Association, which governs 11 sororities, has since acknowledged the harmful history of the Greek system, calling on Greek organizations to consider disbanding.

PHA told The Daily that many chapters and leaders had faced pressure from those opposed to abolition to vote a certain way in releasing its statement. The Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life also released a statement supporting calls to address harm in Greek life but opposed PHA’s call for abolition.

In its September statement, PHA cited resistance from national chapters, the University and alumni as obstacles to disbandment. McClain said she’d seen a few posts in which GPhi alumnae were disappointed in the University not explicitly condemning the abolition movement.

“Personally, I did not donate to NU this year, breaking a fairly long streak,” one GPhi alumna wrote in a post, “and I have every intention of letting them know it is because of the (@abolishnugreeklife) Instagram account and their seemingly lack of support for our chapter.”

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