Nevo: This campus needs nuance

Lily Nevo, Assistant Opinion Editor

In this era of information overload and slacktivism, people commodify opinions. Since Twitter clout is currency, nuance is inefficient and the most inflammatory take wins. But rarely does such banal discourse go further than merely stating a problem. Even less frequently do people acknowledge that their argument is not absolute.

Take the Abolish Greek Life movement at Northwestern, for example. It’s important to note that abolition does not mean destruction, and rather emphasizes the construction of community support systems. But NU’s Abolish Greek Life movement has almost exclusively advocated for ending the presence of Interfraternity Council fraternities and Panhellenic Association sororities on campus. A common critique of the movement is that banning fraternities will not stop sexual assault on campus. While that is true, it does not change the fact that sexual assault currently happens in those spaces. It also ignores the countless other problems — racism, homophobia, transphobia, fatphobia, hazing, ableism and classism — that have plagued these organizations. 

Yet, Abolish Greek Life as a movement doesn’t seem to grasp the ways in which Greek life has saved the very people for which it claims to be advocating. For some, Greek life provides a community that is hard to find otherwise on campus. I would not be surprised to hear that some survivors of violence at fraternity houses have found support within their sororities because sorority members are those most exposed to this type of harm. How are you going to tell those survivors that they are perpetuating rape culture by being a part of the very same community that has supported them? Furthermore, chants like “Out of the frats and into the streets” become extremely insensitive when you acknowledge that some may have joined Greek life because of its affordable housing. 

Nuance is necessary in conversations of progress because very rarely does one policy alone change an entire system. Removing Greek life from our campus is a start. But without sufficient replacements like community support, inclusive student organizations and affordable on-campus housing, this change will not be helpful. 

There is also the issue of the individual versus the institution. Some will argue that anyone still associated with Greek life cannot be a good person. But that ignores intersectionality and reduces people to a singular identity. I do believe good people can exist in harmful spaces, and many of them have good reasons to. Some joined to try to change the culture from the inside. Some — such as many in the class of 2024 — were recruited in their first on-campus quarter, after an incredibly isolating start. 

I have written before on how progress is more important than unity when the latter is evoked to circumvent justice. Some will call me a hypocrite for now arguing that absolute arguments are not always the most productive. But nuance does not have to mean compromise. While compromise often waters down a policy to make it more politically palatable, nuance makes us more conscious of the implications of a policy. The former generally prevents the policy from having any effect, while the latter ensures that the policy has its intended effect. 

I believe removing Greek life from this campus is important. I also believe that the current movements advocating for this policy are not doing so in a way that ensures that their impact helps those they claim to be fighting for.

Change is uncomfortable. Removing Greek life from campus will temporarily cause a lot more problems than it will fix. Instead of shying away from a problem seemingly too big to fix, we need to move forward with our impact in mind. We need to acknowledge that even the most well-intentioned or net-benefit actions can cause harm. We need to preserve nuance in campus discourse, because without it, any change will only further polarize us.

Lily Nevo is a Weinberg sophomore. She can be contacted at [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.