Interfraternity Council plans diversity and inclusivity initiative, mental health training for Northwestern chapter members


Madison Bratley/Daily Senior Staffer

The Sigma Phi Epsilon building in the fraternity quad. The Interfraternity Council is working on an inclusivity initiative that will publish a set of resources detailing different barriers to entry and promoting scholarship opportunities to alleviate costs.

Kaavya Butaney, Assistant Campus Editor

Content warning: This story contains mentions of alleged sexual assault, drugging and hazing.

After a quarter of formal recruitment, the Interfraternity Council plans to introduce an unnamed diversity and inclusion initiative and a new men’s mental health training program either late Winter or early Spring Quarter.

According to IFC Vice President for Recruitment and Weinberg sophomore Parker Stava, fraternities are often thought of as exclusive.

“I realized there’s a lot of perceived barriers,” Stava said. “Everything from, you know, fraternities are only looking for one demographic, or you know, (they) need financial aid, (they) don’t know if (they) can afford to join a fraternity.”

Stava said he intends to publish a set of resources for fraternity use with MSA and Student Enrichment Services before the end of the academic year. He said he is currently working with the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life to organize and publish the information.

Stava said he began working on the currently unnamed diversity and inclusion initiative last quarter.

He added that he worked with Multicultural Student Affairs Assistant Director Matthew Abtahi to develop questions for fraternities to check for potential barriers to entry, such as only accepting members assigned male at birth. The resources may also include scholarship opportunities to offset the cost of fraternity membership, Abtahi wrote in an email to The Daily.

Abtahi described himself as a consultant to the program, since he met with Stava twice during Fall Quarter. 

Stava said all nine fraternities at NU allow all “male identifying students” to be eligible for membership, including transgender people. He said that since the resources are in progress, he is unable to comment on whether barring nonbinary students would count as a barrier to entry.

Abtahi said they do not want to promote a fraternity if it may be a “hostile” environment. They added it is important for Greek life organizations to be transparent about their limitations associated with national chapters.

According to Associate Vice President of Communications Jon Yates, fraternities cannot change chapter policies on a local level but can still advocate for change through their national organizations.

While there has been work completed to improve accountability and culture in Greek life, cultural shifts take time, Abtahi wrote.

Nationally, Abtahi wrote that fraternity organizations tend to be “binary spaces,” even as certain organizations push for gender expansiveness. He also wrote in the email that NU data suggests dissatisfaction and harm in Greek life, though some students may need FSL organizations for personal and academic success.

Stava added there are multiple reasons to believe fraternities are not inclusive organizations and that because of those perceived barriers, IFC fraternities do not represent the University. But, he hopes the initiative will encourage people of any background to join Greek life. 

“I don’t think anyone who wants to join Greek life should be inhibited by an identity that they have,” Stava said.

Weinberg and Bienen freshman William Lewis said larger fraternities on campus tend to be run by straight, white men.

“I wouldn’t say there’s strict discrimination,” Lewis said. “However, I will say there is a certain target that frats are looking for … A lot of the time, that happens to be straight white men.”

IFC is also developing a men’s mental health training program, according to the Council’s president and Weinberg sophomore Shaafi Flener.

The Council currently has multiple educational programs and trainings, required either by the national IFC or by the University. The national training, involving alcohol abuse and sexual harassment, is mandatory to join a fraternity, according to Stava. 

Flener said the mental health training will fill some holes in IFC’s current modules.

“New member education is just making sure that people realize that we’re trying to build a culture that’s different,” Flener said, referring to previous incidents of hazing and sexual assault.

While he said the conversation on mental health is difficult, he emphasized its importance.

Flener said trainings are a preventative measure regarding sexual assault and hazing.

More than 2,000 students protested outside the AEPi fraternity house in September 2021 after multiple individuals reported they were drugged at an AEPi house event. An individual also reported being drugged at a Sigma Alpha Epsilon house event that same month.

The NU investigation into the alleged non-consensual druggings closed in May 2022.

Students are punished when they do not attend trainings without valid reasoning, according to IFC Vice President of Standards Javier Fernandez-Ambite. He said social bans are an example of punishment.

Flener said he is trying to show that IFC is working on these problems and trying to open the fraternity community to conversations with the larger NU community

“We’re a different organization than we were last year, we’re a different organization than the year before that, and before that,” Flener said. “We’re really trying to change and grow into a better organization that can be really reflective of the Northwestern student body and reflective of our individual fraternities.”

Abolish Greek Life did not respond to The Daily’s request for comment.

Email: [email protected] 

Twitter: @kaavya_butaney

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