After last year, it shouldn’t be a surprise that UCLA fraternities have been at the center of campus controversy since their early days.
On May 12, 1969, the Daily Bruin published an article outlining how Greek row was responding to campus criticism toward pledging procedures and what fraternities were doing to institute higher standards. The main goal of these changes was to redefine the “stereotyped image of fraternity members” that was receiving criticism from inside and outside the Greek system.
“Several fraternity leaders here are beginning to voice the opinion that their Greek system will die unless fraternity men respond swiftly and sufficiently to a changing social climate on campus,” the article read.
Fraternities planned to solve their campus “image” problems with individualized solutions instituted by each house, with a focus on community service. Harold Moskovits, the Interfraternity Council President at the time, guided Greek Week that year with this theme of outreach in hope that fraternities would take initiative in the effort to change their campus identity.
The then-Interfraternity Council advisor, Steve Davis, indicated that the primary push for these changes came from economic necessity due to low numbers of pledges, discouraged by pledging practices. However, fraternities that were not experiencing financial issues notably instituted changes as well.
Several fraternities that were identified in the article, some of which remain on the row today, outlined steps they would take to make new students feel comfortable joining Greek life.
In the ’60s, Zeta Beta Tau began to implement what they deemed “sensitivity training,” performed as an encounter group, a small group interaction where participants are encouraged to react to statements or situations provided by an unbiased moderator, as a large part of their pledging process. Unfortunately, the specifics of this coaching were left out of the article. The president of the fraternity, Jeff Jens, even went so far as to criticize other fraternities that were not quickly adapting to the new age.
Similarly, Sigma Nu utilized an “honor system” for their pledging procedures. This arrangement allowed new members of the fraternity to discuss behavior and ethics in the evenings during Hell Week – a common term used to describe the week leading up to initiation.
Finally, Bill Sitz, the president of Phi Kappa Sigma, at the time said sensitivity programs may work for some fraternities, but not all of them. However, despite not including tailored trainings, his fraternity planned to treat their pledges better as a whole.
Considering the general political climate of the 1960s in the United States, many of the alterations instituted by fraternities served as legitimate improvements to the fraternity system and may have acted as preliminary guidelines for the increasingly influential Interfraternity Council.
However, the social climate surrounding Greek life has continued to change, and the UCLA student body is taking action once again.
Now dealing with far more complex problems involving sexual assault and harassment, Greek life at UCLA is under fire once again.
The Phi Kappa Psi fraternity is currently facing criticism for their handling of sexual assault allegations. Daphne Sinclaire, a second-year anthropology and geography student, organized a letter writing campaign encouraging college-age women to share their stories and experiences of sexual assault with Phi Kappa Psi.
Sinclaire told the Daily Bruin that she hopes the hundreds of letters sent to Phi Kappa Psi will encourage both the fraternity and the Interfraternity Council to make amends to their policies and develop ways to support survivors better.
Daphne Sinclaire’s letter writing campaign reflects a student reaction to changing times, similar to the actions taken by the fraternities years ago.
Unlike the actions taken in the 1960s, Daphne Sinclaire’s letter writing campaign is calling for accountability and expands the scope of student calls to action, now including the voices of college women. Additionally her choice to take letters from other colleges reflects a greater cultural shift in the way college students are able to discuss topics like sexual assault.
It is clear that students, from the 60s to the centennial, have not hesitated to share their grievances toward their peers or institutions that perpetuate archaic stereotypes and cultural norms. While only time will tell the future of the IFC’s role on campus, we can all be assured that students’ voices are strong enough to tackle convention.