Papandreou: Committing to change in the IFC

Nick Papandreou, Guest Columnist

Dear Members of the Northwestern Community,

I’ve been staring at this header for hours now, and I’m still having trouble finding the best way to start this letter. After all, how does one begin to address the issues related to fraternities that have reached the surface over the years, especially in recent months? All those scarring experiences our peers here at the University and across the US have gone through at the hands of members of fraternities who, instead of staying true to basic human values, have used fraternities to inflict emotional and physical pain on others.

Despite the difficulty of this task, I am reaching out to you to start this conversation. My goal is to be open, honest, and humble with you all. For too long, the Interfraternity Council (IFC) has tried to stay away from the spotlight to avoid the “negative press”, yet this dismissiveness of the voices of our community has resulted in perpetuating the problem further. It is unacceptable for fraternities to expect to be held to a different standard than every other campus group and, due to that, for them to become a space for such abhorrent behaviour.

The lack of accountability and awareness which leads to the issues that plague fraternity life must end. This message is a commitment to you all that we will do whatever it takes to restore the relationship between IFC and the campus community and to make Northwestern a model example for the entire country of how fraternity life can healthily, constructively, and humbly exist and co-exist as merely a part of the large web that forms our Northwestern Community.

This process has to start by acknowledging publicly that very serious problems exist in fraternity life which need to be addressed. Racial discrimination, sexual assault and harassment, hazing, classism, homophobia/transphobia, abuse… the list goes on and on. This executive board and I personally commit that our path forward is the one outlined by logic, our rules, NU Community Standards, as well as local, state, and federal laws. We shall not dismiss the issues that are mentioned in the countless Instagram posts, in dialogues among peers, or among survivors who are brave enough to come out publicly. Instead, we will help those affected by the above problems in any way we can. We acknowledge that these issues are more common than people like to claim, and we own up to the fact that there are chapters in our ranks which, in the past, have been complicit in covering up incidents. And if people in our chapters disagree with this view of things, we will say that we neither want them or need them to be a part of our community.

One of the hardest parts in this process of healing, however, is to rid our community from the unacceptable practices which fraternities have created over the years and to re-create them as spaces offering shared academic and social opportunities for those who seek them. In order to lay the foundation for our work this upcoming year, and to effectively build on the successful initiatives started by our predecessors, we are working hard on five initiatives. Although merely a starting point, these measures are instrumental in letting us carry out our mission successfully:

Last Thursday we unanimously passed a formal ban on all on and off-campus social activities which don’t follow the current guidance by Health and School Authorities and outlined a clear standards process for violators,

 In partnership with Fraternity & Sorority Life (FSL), we are reaching out to various campus partners to form and strengthen relationships as well as collaborate towards addressing many of the problems we have identified above. Such groups include the Abolish IFC/PHA Organizations movement, MGC, PHA, NPHC, CARE, MARS, Office of Community Standards, and the VP of Student Affairs,

 We are overhauling our recruitment process and expanding our scholarship opportunities to make our organizations more diverse and to provide even more opportunities for all students on our campus,

 We are rethinking our standards processes from the ground up and revisiting our bylaws in order to better hold fraternities accountable for violations of our code of conduct, starting with the launch of a form where community members can report violations of our social event ban to us and, by extension, to the Office of Community Standards. We want the community to finally feel that we are listening and that any sort of deviation from our rules will be properly addressed.

Lastly, and most importantly, we are beginning our restructuring with this communication to you. We want to listen to, engage with, and improve our Council and community by using the feedback that you, as members of the greater NU community, provide us. To that end, we will be hosting a series of Community Dialogues and Panels throughout this year, finally opening a channel for dialogue between IFC and the Community. I encourage you to be a part of this process and, most importantly, I call on you to keep us accountable, to reach out, and to demand that we stay committed to our goals. If this is something that interests you, you can find our upcoming events on this Linktree.

In closing, I will reiterate the promise I made previously: we will do whatever is in our power as an IFC Executive Board, and without reservations, to respond to any and all concerns raised about the negative impacts of the fraternity experience. In celebration of 200 years of my country’s independence, we Greeks are making 2021 a year which will be focused on reflection, acknowledging our problems, and developing the plan for a better future. In doing the same for fraternity life at NU, I ask that you join us in our effort to make the Northwestern community even better. Please use my email, our anonymous feedback form, or our Community Dialogues to reach out if you want to offer feedback, concerns, and even criticism.

Nick Papandreou
President, Interfraternity Council
[email protected]

If you would like to respond publicly to this op-ed, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected]. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.