Senior and president of the Interfraternity Council (IFC) Michael Goldstein didn’t hide the frustration in his voice, disheartened by the recurring problems that the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life (FSL) face and the lack of solutions proposed by those involved and not.
He’s heard them all before: Fraternities and sororities aren’t as inclusive and diverse as they should be. Only a handful of members are committed to changing the culture. And not every organization holds itself to as high a standard as others.
So on November 6, throughout SGA’s town hall on FSL’s role at Elon University with the affiliated and unaffiliated trading generalizations back and forth, Goldstein longed for something concrete to move forward with.
“We know what the problems are,” Goldstein said. “No solutions are being offered, or ways to come about them.”
FSL is a prominent part of Elon’s culture, with 41.8 percent of undergraduates involved as of spring 2016, according to the FSL chapter report. Externally, it faces issues of perceptions regarding how those unaffiliated view its existence and operation. Internally, it seeks to unify across the three councils that make up Elon’s FSL.
The IFC, the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC) and Panhellenic Association (PHA) govern the three sectors of Elon’s FSL community, which creates an inherent fragmentation within FSL that leaders recognize as an issue.
So before FSL can begin to bridge the divides between affiliated and unaffiliated members of the Elon community, the three councils expressed that they each saw the need to unify themselves.
“Greek Life is a microcosm of the American dynamic in that people don’t — especially in this country — don’t like being in uncomfortable situations,” said junior Alonzo Cee, president of NPHC. “Having to create different events with different organizations forces you to go into an uncomfortable situation, especially if it’s outside of your council.”
This divide was brought to the forefront during the SGA town hall, which — to the dismay of FSL student leaders — didn’t provide much context on how FSL affects student life on campus and how issues could be solved.
Cee, Goldstein and senior Jordan Lockhart, president of PHA, noted the clear differences within the three councils, particularly with regard to the sheer number of those involved with the organization.
But they’re all a part of FSL and its system, which brings along similar stigmas and perceptions, regardless of affiliation.
Dan Faill, director of FSL, sees the divide differently.
“I would argue that they are dealing with the exact same situations, we just call them different things,” he said. “Everyone struggles with apathy. It might look different in an organization of 200 versus an organization of six, but everyone struggles with commitment, or congruence. They all struggle with those things. We just don’t call it the same things. Therefore, we feel inherently different when, in actuality, we all have the same issues.
“We need to have a facilitated conversation to better understand each other’s terms. But we have to come to the table willing to listen, not just hear, and that’s where some of the divide is currently happening.”
FSL’s values play a part in that. Goldstein, Cee and Lockhart acknowledged that a culture shift needs to happen within FSL, and that older members need to set the tone so that younger members can carry it on.
Lockhart said last year was the first year PHA conducted a values-based recruitment process, which she viewed as a success.
“I won’t say it went perfectly,” she said. “But our retention numbers are way up, and the number of girls who dropped out of recruitment before completing the process is way down.
“I think that everyone in this room is dying for change or for the status quo — like, really just grabbing onto that. Either holding onto that power structure we have now, or tipping the table over. Neither of those things are going to happen.
“Things are going to change. It’s going to be fine. We are going to have to work to make that better, and it’s going to be slow.”
For Goldstein, the town hall left a lot to be desired. More action needs to be taken, and tangible outcomes need to be discussed, he said.
For those changes to happen and for the issues to be resolved, FSL needs more time and greater commitment from all its members and the greater Elon community.
“I think we need a lot of help to get there,” Goldstein said. “We cannot change the culture within our community. We need help from the greater community, which is why I think it was great to do this.”